Ludacris’s “Rest of My Life” and Neoliberalism
Added 1/15/13: I’ve been thinking more about this song/video recently, and I realized that Guetta is only visible during the peaks of the song’s soars. These peaks are rehearse or perform (because they don’t represent or express, they produce) musical and affective optimization: this is the crest of the wave, its apex, the “edge” on which we’re supposed to be living. So we see the only white guy in the video at the moments that represent living life to its fullest. Does this mean that Guetta’s whiteness/white privilege is a (necessary?) component of a fully-optimized life?
I want to suggest (i.e., it’s my educated guess) that it is. It is because neoliberalism circulates whiteness, or makes it available, in new ways. Several theorists have argued that race works differently in neoliberalism. Jasbir Puar, for example, understands race to always work in concert with other systems of social organization: queerness can intensify racial abnormality, racial normality can de-intensify queerness/intensify homonormativity, and homonormativity can intensify racial normality. Falguni Sheth argues that race works as a how, not just a what, a technology and not just an identity. So if race is a technology that is amplified or diminished by its interactions with other technologies, then even non-whites can have access to some aspects of “technological” whiteness. Let me be clear: this access is always conditional and always incomplete. However, it is now in the interests of white supremacy to conditionally and incompletely give specific types of non-white people access to some of the privileges usually reserved for racially white people (e.g., Sheth’s analysis of blacks as border population). George Zimmerman’s (i.e., Tayvon Martin’s murderer) participation in the neighborhood watch could possibly be read in this way: his role in this institution structurally whitened him, even if it did not phenotypically or ethnically whiten him. It put him in the position of the gun-toting, law-enforcing, panoptically surveilling white patriarch (sort of like the un-queer, reactionary version of VC Davis’s “Terrorist Drag”).
Think also about the literally entrepreneurial subjectivity common in mainstream hip hop for the past 5+ years. Or, think of Stringer Bell (businessman) as contrasted to Avon Barksdale (thug). White hegemony has figured out that it in fact benefits from conditionally and incompletely extending some of the privileges of white heteropatriarchy to specific types of black men. It seems to strike a bargain: if you perform whiteness well enough, we’ll let you actually reap some of its rewards.
All this is to say that I think Guetta’s whiteness–his slightly foreign (French) white masculinity–is part of what Luda and Usher, as members of an elite transnational, entreprenurial class of African-Americans, experience when their lives are fully optimized, lived on the edge, etc.