Before you continue reading this post. Pause. Take a deep breathe. You are probably suffering from #mileyfatigue already. Or, you just read the words “race” associated with Miley, and now you are glaring at your screen. You’re frustrated, you’re mad, at yet another POC blogger who is about to talk about racism and Miley’s twerking performance, and you just don’t get it. Miley is free to dance and dress the way she wants. She’s not in charge, the producers of the show are. Robin Thicke is innocent, and not responsible for bumping and grinding a girl over a decade his junior. He’s a man, he can’t help it, right? She took him by surprise.
There? Feel better? Okay, let’s begin shall we? I have been keeping this post on the backburner because it (Mily/ThickeGate) had been talked about far too much. However, while I agree with all of the posts on Miley Ray Cyrus and racial appropriation are excellent, I wanted to add to the conversation, and make it plain just exactly why ripping off “Ratchet culture” by Miley is a white supremacist practice.
As I have argued in my series on White Supremacy (which I plan to finish this week; it’s no accident), white supremacy depends on this great expanding mythology that colludes with ever-evolving racist practices. For example (and not that New York is the only city that has a practice like stop and frisk, but it is the most familiar, impacting a large population of people), Stop and Frisk is based on the premise that people dark skin are naturally criminal. This is the legacy of white supremacy. Another white supremacist myth is the natural sexual transgressions of black women; black women’s sexuality is distorted as Evil Jezebels, temptresses who invite rape and other forms of male domination over their bodies. Their bodies exist solely for the pleasure of men. The stereotype of the Jezebel has had a long life and yet racism keep resurrecting it. Today, you can hear and see the image of the Jezebel in the public square with the idea of the Welfare Queen, its updated counterpart as Kelly Brown Douglas has pointed out.
Ratchet culture is a movement by working class black women who want to reclaim their bodies as their own. It is this aim of self-possession that Ratchet culture exists. Ratchet culture, therefore, as a practice that strives for decolonization, is a form of resistance AGAINST white ownership of black bodies, particular women. Therefore, to claim Miley Cyrus’ cultural appropriation is racist is not a commentary on her PERSONAL feelings; it is what she is practicing, knowing the anti-black and racist history of her former employer Disney Entertainment, Miley Cyrus is using what she considers to be the meaning of “blackness” (the racial stereotype of the Jezebel Temptress) to “resurrect” her career into relevance with a more mature audience. Black people, in this instance, are props, and their culture is a costume. The new, improved twerking Miley is the white supremacist face of white liberal pop culture.
There is more. Miley is not the only person guilty of this. In fact, the entire Video Music Awards was an example of white persons appropriating black culture, yet there were hardly any Persons of Color who performed or won any awards. In fact, it was Macklemore, a white rapper, who won hip hop artist of the year. Because when whites do hip hop, it’s acceptable. The VMA’s 2013 was a case of MTV’s nihilism finding life in destroying the livelihoods of people of color. As Blogger Toy Adams rightly suggested, we men need to have a radical responsible to hold to account Robin Thicke and others who treat women as objects.
The other fact is, black culture is presented in a negative light, except whenever white people do it; take another white hip hop artist example, Iggy Azalea, who also uses Indian culture as a costume in one of her music videos, as my friend Shane pointed out. Not only is Azalea apt at practicing progressive forms of white supremacy by way of cultural appropriation, but she also makes racial slurs, and derogatory comments about the bodies of Women of Color, but that’s the point isn’t it? That’s really what cultural appropriation is about: it serves of the constant reminder from whites to People of Color that they once owned our bodies, and as members of the majority, they can do so once more. Robin Thicke’s song, Blurred Lines, contrary to his claim that it is feminist, is more so about men owning women’s bodies and sexuality, and its downright misogyny in the name of art.
MTV’s racial and sexual minstrelsy have replaced the actual music videos it plays. It all started when MTV began to air “reality” television with token racial and sexual minorities all so that these groups can entertain its audience out of its own boredom. As I argued in another post about Robin Thicke, Asian Girlz, Race, and Minstrelsy, “The presence of People of Color are only acceptable if they do not threaten white supremacist culture. You see, as long as POC producers, creators, writers, song artists (yes this includes hip hop artists too), and actors submit to white supremacist patriarchy (ala Pharrel & Levy Tran), white supremacy as a system will continue to go unnamed, and therefore, unchallenged.” The presence of Black Jezebels are non-threatening negros to Miley Cyrus and her fans, because the fact of them being there affirms white supremacist presuppositions about black women and their sexuality. To be black in the United States is to be a sexual deviant, and that’s exactly the racist message that minstrel shows such as Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke are sending.