What’s in a Name?

One of the main issues of cuteness has to do with a notion called infantile citizenship as theorized by Lauren Berlant. She has been chief among other very interesting interlocutors who have grappled with this issue. The idea is that the people we consider  “minorities” are really not that at all. And this is obvious, especially if you think about it in terms of global demographics. In fact, the people we refer to as minorities here in America actually make up the majority of the world’s people. We can start counting China and India and continue from there. This is to say nothing of the youth bulge all across the rest of Asia, Africa, Latin America and, of course, the Middle East. The anxieties surrounding the “browning” of Europe and America as evidenced by the recent proliferation of reactionary anti-immigration policies speak to this reality quite profoundly.

Kanye West is not a cute teddybear, but he sometimes plays one on television.

If thought about in these terms, we can clearly see that the term minority is really meant to imply something quite different and is really only a play on the notion of minors. You know, like little kids.

Basically, decades following the Civil Rights Movement (as evidenced by the Obama/Trump birth certificate fiasco)  there’s the idea that America’s non-white folk are never truly capable of realizing a fully responsible citizenship, which justifies the reason for having to limit (or at least heavily scrutinize) their rights.

This remains a sad but true fact of life, even today in the 21st century. There are a gazillion permutations of this problematic, all of which I will attempt to catalogue exhaustively in my dissertation. The most obvious example of this is the slew of such hip-hop aliases. Even many white artists appropriate this tactic as a sign of their street creds. Examples of this include some pretty cool customers in their 20s, 30s and 40s whose professional monikers are the following:

  • Lil’ Kim
  • Lil’ Wayne
  • Lil’ Jon
  • Lil’ Bow-Wow
  • Lil’ Romeo
  • Lil’ Skeet
  • Da Brat
  • Big Boi
  • Souljah Boy
  • Young Jeezy
  • The Beastie Boys
  • Kid Rock
  • That Subliminal Kid

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but there’s got to be some deeper explanation as to why so many hip-hop figures feel so compelled to traffic in this rhetoric of cuteness. I think this list is strangely long — almost a little spooky. Can you think of some others?

June 4, 2011. African Americans, age, babies, children, cute, hip-hop, politics, rhetorics.

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