As promised, whenever I make any addition to my Recommended Reading List, I will accompany it by a blog post letting you know. That way you won’t have to constantly keep checking the page fishing through the entries to see if something new has been added or not.
Black Players: The Secret World Of Black Pimps by Richard and Christina Milner
I added this book to the list under “Essentials,” and you don’t have to be remotely interested in hero worshipping or emulating a pimp to find this book fascinating. This book is one I read a while back, when it was still out of print. I had to buy it used via the Internet, and a small, ratty, chewed-up, faded, yellow, torn copy of it ran me $50. And you know what? I still consider it one of the best bargains I ever got, even though I finished it in a single night (mostly because it was so good I couldn’t help reading it in one sitting). The premise of this book is truly insane.
Richard and Christina Milner were husband and wife, and both were students in the graduate program for Anthropology at UC Berkeley. For their doctoral dissertation, they wanted to do something different than the usual. At the time it was all about going to “exotic” locales like New Guinea, East Africa, Southeast Asia, etc. They decided that there was no need to travel so far when the ghetto areas of America’s cities had such a rich, fascinating culture that was just as foreign to a White academic as any of the other, distant, cultures anthropologists typically gravitated to.
So his wife worked as a stripper under the name “Tiger Red” for two years in a seedy, ghetto strip club frequented by pimps, hustlers, and whores, and they did a serious, rigorous, academic paper examining and dissecting the subculture. The result is mindblowing, and it really transcends just the topic of pimps and the streets. The commentary gets deeper and more profound than you’d initially suspect, and the Milners show a real respect for the people they’re interviewing and avoid the need to either excuse, glorify, or morally condemn any lifestyles. This project eventually ends up getting Richard Milner kicked out of the Berkeley’s Anthropology program.
The whole book is great, but the last three chapters especially were mind-blowing to me, and the incredibly brutal and cynical relationship and dating insights from the pimps is really something else to behold, whether you end up agreeing with it or not. The last three chapters are called “Sex, Race, Manhood, and Womanhood,” which is still perhaps the most insightful, most provocative, discussion of race and sex in America that I’ve ever read, “The Pimp Game as a Model of the World,” and “The Secret America.”
Tariq Nasheed a few years back bought the rights to the book and rereleased it, so now you can get it at Amazon for only $27 (in recent years since I bought it and before the rerelease, the price had reached over $300, it was that much in demand). The one downside: I love the original cover so much better and find the new one a little cheesy in comparison (the original cover is the one pictured and the one I own).
You can hear Tariq Nasheed interview Richard Milner about the book here.
You can hear Alan Roger Currie interview Richard Milner about the book here.