Cedric Burrows

Cedric Burrows is assistant professor of English at Marquette University. His interests include African American rhetoric, cultural rhetorics, and social movements.

Rhetorical Crossover

The Black Presence in White Culture

In music, crossover means that a song has moved beyond its original genre and audience into the general social consciousness. Rhetorical Crossover uses the same concept to theorize how the black rhetorical presence has moved in mainstream spaces in an era where African Americans were becoming more visible in white culture. Cedric Burrows argues that when black rhetoric moves into the dominant culture, white audiences appear welcoming to African Americans as long as they present an acceptable form of blackness for white tastes. The predominant culture has always constructed coded narratives on how the black rhetorical presence should appear and behave when in majority spaces. In response, African Americans developed their own narratives that revise and reinvent mainstream narratives while also reaffirming their humanity. Using an interdisciplinary model built from music, education, film, and social movement studies, Rhetorical Crossover details the dueling narratives about African Americans that percolate throughout the United States.