|Yes, let's give her even more attention!|
What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being "ghetto" without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean.Ms. Theriault finds particular offense in Miley's use of "black women as props...Miley was, at one point, slapping a faceless black woman on the ass as if she was nothing more than a thing for Miley to dominate and humiliate."
My reaction to this post was disbelief and frustration. Is everything ultimately about race? Haven't white performers (musicians in particular) "culturally appropriated" elements of black culture for decades? Isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? Do African Americans really want to claim sexual vulgarity as their own? Would it have been okay if the woman Miley slapped was white? Would it be acceptable if a black woman slapped a white woman? Would the message have been different if Robin Thicke was black? Or what if Miley was a black woman rubbing up against a white man? Dear God, is this really about race?!
That was my initial response to Ms. Theriault's piece, when I assumed she was an African American woman. I confess to being surprised when I read her bio and saw her picture. Anne is white and this is her life:
Anne lives in Toronto with her husband and young son. She spends her days teaching yoga, reading in cafés, and trying to figure out how to negotiate in toddler-ese. She regularly blogs about books, nostalgia and feminism.Clearly, deep breathing in yoga studios and hanging out in cafes qualifies this woman to write about Miley's misuse of the black experience. She can identify with what black women live with every day. Seriously?
The issue of race in this country is challenging enough without bringing a Miley Cyrus performance into the conversation. We're at a place where "black America" takes up the Trayvon Martin case as a rallying cry, and later, when three black youth kill a white man for fun, "white America" responds by asking where the hoodies are for Chris Lane. Is someone keeping score of the violent attacks one race perpetrates on another? We want to be sure things are fair. Well, guess what? They're not. And once again we're failing to ask the questions that really matter. Imagine if we spent as much time debating and addressing the real issues as we spend engrossed in the nonsense of pop culture.
We're living through one of the most challenging and disturbing times in our country's recent history. From the economy and issues of social justice, to our under-resourced educational system and involvement in foreign affairs, it's time to put our priorities in order. Let's not add the fuel of a Miley Cyrus performance to fires that have been steadily burning without her help.