The world has gotten through another cavalcade of highly charged animated performances, a celebration of hypersexuality and an overall explosion for the adulation of style and fashion that is the 2013 Video Music Awards. At first, I wasn’t paying any mind to the yearly program that seems to celebrate music on a network where more of its programming is all about “reality”, but after hearing about the performance of one – Miley Cyrus, my curiosity got the better of me.
Most of what was said dealt with her cultural appropriation of ‘black coolness’ using black women as props suitable for objectification and twerking her no-ass off. Seriously, I’ve seen a box of saltine crackers with more curves than her! But I guess she enjoys it as she has gotten Justin Beiber in on the act in a new video called ‘Twerk’. Is this a sign of the apocalypse?
Cyrus’ performance was an eye-sore, to say the least. But watching it, as well as most of the VMAs, I am reminded by something that is totally obvious to anyone watching television. Whiteness in the media, like the name of Cyrus’ song, can’t stop – because it won’t stop. Why? To put it in a few words, it is because the mainstream media is dominated by white people – white males especially – looking for white people for more ideas to sell to white people.
Twerking was going on before Cyrus renounced her Disney innocence in the form of Hannah Montana. It was brought forth to the music scene by Southern rap and hip-hop in the late 1990’s through the help of rappers Juvenile and the Ying Yang Twins. It became more and more popular among Southern folks, especially within black communities. When it entered the mainstream media, it became more well-known. Even some white people were twerking before Cyrus’ cultural appropriation, probably because she wanted that ‘bad girl’ image, and what better way than to associate badness with ‘blackness’?
But of course, the issue goes way beyond just booty dancing and Miley Cyrus. She has made a lot of money and became highly popular due to her video “We Can’t Stop”. It is about her using the elements of black culture, including actual black women, to traffic off her success. The mainstream media media sees her “new” image as a cash cow, and ran with it, going so far as to approve what we witnessed that night at the VMAs.
This idea is nothing new, as other white artists have done similar moves to boost their popularity. Blackness, or rather what is perceived as black to the white owned media, is used as marketing tools to promote white artists who want to break into the music biz using a genre they think will sell. As a result we have white artists taking over genres of music that has traditionally been created by and produced by blacks. It’s no wonder that most of the 2013 VMAs had white artists getting the most shows and recognitions, especially in rap and R&B.
Some people will ask, “What’s the big deal? They are good singers who deserve some props.” The problem is that the media is becoming whiter and whiter. Not only that, it will only accept”other” stories and ideas as long as it fits the white narrative. For example, blacks will likely get a record deal if they have the image of being a thug or gangster because you know, black pathology sells. Not to say that you actually have to be one, but image is everything, probably more important than music itself, the way it appears.
On the other hand, being a white artist will likely get a hookup, especially if they have solid connections. The image of white artists can range from sensitive males to bad girls, and no one will make a big deal about race involved because whiteness is seen as the default. A thick, white female R&B singer with junk in her trunk and knows how to shake it would be picked up by a music agent somewhere, and she would probably be an international sensation if the company promotes her enough. The privilege of being white will boost her image in the industry as opposed to a black female with the same features and talents should the scenario plays out.
Make no mistake. No one is saying that white folks should not rap, sing R&B or twerk. The beef that is being addressed is the recognition and appreciation for traditional black music sung and performed by white folks is part of a troubling trend of further whitewashing the mainstream media until the only color you see is white. Call me racist if you want, but as long as sheltered whites are still at the helm of most of what you see and hear in the mainstream media, you will continue to see more and more whiteness.