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Romantic racism is a form of racism in which members of a dominant group project their fantasies onto members of oppressed groups. Feminist scholars[which?] have accused Norman Mailer,[1][2][3] Jack Kerouac, and other Beatnik authors of the 1950s of romantic racism. They maintain that the dominant mainstream culture of the 1950s in the United States stressed conformity and held up middle-class suburban families as the cultural ideal, and that it was indifferent to art and literature, upheld racial segregation, and despised or ignored black achievements, such as jazz.[1] Those, like the novelist Norman Mailer, who felt limited by or alienated from mainstream culture, sought out influences from other cultures as a form of rebellion.

Mailer, a great fan of jazz music, created his concept of what it meant to be "hip", or a member of the white urban counterculture, largely on his perception of the culture of urban African-Americans (with whom the expression "hip", meaning "in the know", originated) and articulated his vision in his essay "The White Negro". Mailer, who considered himself an opponent of Victorian sexual repression and regimentation, idealized what he saw as the sexual and other freedoms of minority and other countercultural groups, overlooking the fact that in these groups sexual exploitation of women sometimes occurred.[citation needed]

Critics consider Mailer's depictions of what he imagines African-American life to be like as an instance of what they call "romantic racism", contending that he implies that life in urban ghettoes—depicted as filled with sex, drugs, and violence—is somehow enriched, rather than hurt, by poverty and crime. Mailer's essay has also been criticized for spreading the stereotype of African-American men as hypermasculine and hypersexual.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b Breines, Wini (1992). Young, White, and Miserable: Growing up Female in the Fifties. Chicago: University of Chicago Press[page needed]
  2. ^ Hoberek, Andrew (2005). "Liberal Antiliberalism: Mailer, O'Connor, and The Gender Politics of Middle-Class Ressentiment". Women's Studies Quarterly. 33 (3/4): 24–47. JSTOR 40004417.
  3. ^ a b Wallace, Michele ([1979]1990) Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. London: Verso[page needed]