Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and the rest. Why has black culture become whitewashed?

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(ThyBlackMan.com) No, I didn’t watch the VMA’s, and judging from my Twitter Timeline I am glad I didn’t.

I gave up on the MTV Video (which we never play anymore) Music awards after they publicly humiliated Michael Jackson in the early ‘00’s, but that’s a different story.

Sadly I could not escape this years edition and especially Miley Cyrus’ performance. After I saw the outrage, shock and horror on my timeline, on news sources and blogs my curiosity got the better of me and I played the video.

All I can say is “sweet nibbles”, and regret that I can never unsee this ever again.

Much has been made of the “minstrel” elements in the show, with Miley apparently using black women as nothing more then props. True, that. You have to wonder why black people still sign up to be degraded. But realising how poor some of our black folk still are and adding the fact that it is so difficult for black dancers and models to find work they often have to take on anything might be a big part of understanding it.

Then there is this trade secret *whispers* often immigrants are used to portray some of the more degrading parts *ends whisper*. But you didn’t hear it from me.

So back to Miss Cyrus and her VMA performance. A writer called Jody Rosen made me think when she wrote: “Cyrus has spent a lot of time recently toying with racial imagery. We’ve seen Cyrus twerking her way through the video for her big hit “We Can’t Stop,” professing her love for “hood music,” and claiming spiritual affinity with Lil’ Kim.

Last night, as Miley Cyrus stalked the stage, mugging and twerking, and paused to spank and simulate analingus upon the ass of a thickly set African-American backup dancer, her act tipped over into what we may as well just call racism: a minstrel show routine whose ghoulishness was heightened by Miley Cyrus’s madcap charisma, and by the dark beauty of “We Can’t Stop” — by a good distance, the most powerful pop hit of 2013. Miley Cyrus’s twerk act gives2013-miley-cyrus-robin-thicke-justin-timberlake-n-sync minstrelsy a postmodern careerist spin. Cyrus is annexing working-class black “ratchet” culture, the potent sexual symbolism of black female bodies, to the cause of her reinvention: her transformation from squeaky-clean Disney-pop poster girl to grown-up hipster-provocateur.

Which made me think: why – when white people want to get rid of a “sweet” image and want to be seen as tough and “cool“, do they suddenly try to be “black“? Is it that they think black culture is seen as something “dark” and “dangerous”, that will give them an edge?

Sharon Osbourne certainly thought so when talking about Justin Bieber’s bad behaviour: “he wants to be a mean boy, and he’s about as mean as a f-ckin’ kitten, and he’s trying to act out. It’s like pissing in a bucket. It’s like, “Oh, we’re the bad boys!” F-ck off! You don’t know what bad is. And I think that he’s lost, I really do. I think he doesn’t realize he’s white and not black, that’s a huge problem.”

What is this mysterious “black” white people think exist? This stereotypical “look” and “talk” they take o,n thinking it is how every person of colour talks and looks. The funny thing is these “faux-blacks” can get away with things true black artists can’t get away with.

Miley’s “Twerk” came from black culture (Africa, Jamaica) and when “the educated white” first saw it, they cried “it’s degrading to women!!” Now the young white girls are doing it in the clubs and white pop artists are doing it in their videos. Still, when Rihanna does it, people think it’s too much.So, why is it more acceptable for white woman to be sexualised on stage? When Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Beyonce or any black women go all out sexually they get criticism.

When a Rita Ora  simply imitates Rihanna no-one bats an eyelid. When Lady Gaga wanders round naked it’s art.

Janet Jackson flashes a (still covered) nipple at the Superbowl and gets all but blacklisted for life. Madonna exposes her crotch and gyrates at the same show and not a peep. Talking about Madonna; it is often black women that are accused of having started the sexualisation of women in pop, but it is the Material Girl whom truly started it.

When a black man uses explicit lyrics or makes a questionable video people are up in arms. Not that I am for that, but it is a given that white men can go a lot further and still score hits (yes Blurred Lines, I’m looking at you!!) Don’t forget the sexed up Hip Hop songs were once an answer to the sexually charged (degrading) rock songs that had been around since the 1960’s. If you see what certain white rockers got away with in their videos in the 80’s and 90’s you wonder why they say it started with rap.

So the thing is: white artists can act black, make black music and even “feel” black, but they never have to deal with the true consequences of being black.

Recently it has gone beyond “playing black”, though. It is as if white performers are taking over all parts of black culture in music and leaving us with nothing. At first it was respect or love for black music that made white performers “turn black”, it has become a business now and the record bosses and media are wise to it. Every black performer gets overtaken by a white equivalent, or the media makes the world think this is the case. You only have to see how desperate everyone seems to be to make either of the Justins (Bieber or Timberlake) the new Michael Jackson.

There are so many great black performers waiting to get a look in, but at the moment the industry seems desperate to churn out white copy after white copy.

Judging by the VMA’s the “white black” performer has become so integrated in the music industry that it has made “black black” artists obsolete, again. Remember how in the 50’s white artists performed black songs and made them a hit. The difference was that back then, it made white listeners want to see the true black performers more. This time around it feels different, as if we are getting locked out of our own party. Or as a Huffington Post writer said about the VMA’s: “Everything Was Black, Except The Winners”.

The same writer, Danielle Cadett, adds: “Let’s face it, this isn’t the first time black culture has been popularized by white entertainers–Elvis anyone? But something about it was so obvious last night. It felt like someone took a white bucket of paint and spilled it all over the BET awards. It was messy and offensive, and quite frankly, pretty sad.”

And that is the truth.

Staff Writer; Dannii Cohen

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