The White Negro (Fall, 1957)
Norman Mailer ran in the Democratic primaries for mayor of New York City in 1969 with journalist Jimmy Breslin as his running mate (Breslin sought the nomination for President of the City Council). Their program called for New York City to secede from the state of New York. Political power was to devolve to the city’s neighborhoods. The Mailer-Breslin slogan was “The Other Guys are the Joke.” Dissent published many of his controversial articles, including “The White Negro” (Fall, 1957), which is reprinted below, and Mailer served on Dissent’s editorial board for more than three decades. The photograph above was taken by a 17-year-old campaign worker who had then never heard of Dissent, Mitchell Cohen, who now co-edits Dissent. Mailer died November 10th at the age of 84. Our search for the rebels of the generation led us to the hipster. The hipster is an enfant terrible turned inside out. In character with his time,
he is trying to get back at the conformists by lying tow… You can’t interview a hipster because his main goal is to keep out of a society which, he thinks, trying to make everyone over in its own image. He takes marijuana because it supplies him with experiences that can’t be shared with “squares.” He may affect a broad-brimmed hat or a zoot suit, but usually he prefers to skulk unmarked. The hipster may be a jazz musician; he is rarely an artist, almost never a writer. He may earn his living as a petty criminal, a hobo, a carnival roustabout or a free-lance moving man in Greenwich Village, but some hipsters have found a safe refuge in the upper income brackets as television comics or movie actors. (The late James Dean, for one, was a hipster hero.)… it is tempting to describe the hipster in psychiatric terms as infantile, but the style of his infantilism is a sign of the times, lie does not try to enforce his will on others, Napoleon-fashion, but contents himself with a magical omnipotence never disproved because never tested. … . As the only extreme nonconformist of his generation, he exercises a powerful if underground appeal for conformists, through newspaper accounts of his delinquencies, his structureless jazz, and his emotive grunt words.
– “Born 1930: The Unlost Generation” by Caroline Bird Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1957
PROBABLY, WE WILL never be able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years.