Jezebel had a nice piece on Miley’s twerking and cultural appropriation: On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the idea is that Cyrus’s new video and general new ‘tude are a disrespectful appropriation of black southern culture, a move rooted in Cyrus’s privilege to “accessorise” with minority accoutrements but still move in privileged spaces with money and clout.
There are some connections here, some inverse relatedness, with the media and audience treatment/mistreatment of Rachel Jeantel last week. I won’t make tons of connections myself (got things to DO today!!) but I’ll leave you some links. But I’m leaving it to you to apply the lens of white skinny girl privilege to the spaces between media treatment of Miley Cyrus and Rachel Jeantel. Cyrus can pay black women to smile while she twerks, and can admit to drug use on TV without being criminalized for it, while Jeantel gets positioned as a non-citizen for testifying in court about the wrongful death of her friend.
Regina Bradley’s “To Sir, with Ratchety Love: Listening to the (Dis)Respectability Politics of Rachel Jeantel” for Sounding Out!
Time Magazine’s mediocre “Rachel Jeantel Explained, Linguistically”
The Atlantic’s “My Star Witness is Black”
Crunk Feminist Collective’s “To Rachel Jeantel, With Love”
Kevin Browne’s “Rhetoric and the Stoning of Rachel Jeantel”
John Rickford’s “Rachel Jeantel’s Language in the Zimmerman Trial”
To lay it out, for a second: the Jezebel piece quotes Tamara Winfrey Harris on Racialicious:
It matters who is doing the appropriating. If a dominant culture fancies some random element (a mode of dress, a manner of speaking, a style of music) of my culture interesting or exotic, but otherwise disdains my being and seeks to marginalize me, it is surely an insult.
And then adds:
But it’s important to understand that Miley is very privileged to be able to play dress up and adorn herself with the trappings of an oppressed/minority culture. She can play at blackness without being burdened by the reality of it.
The reality of it: like, Miley Cyrus can go on Kimmel in her underpants and an LA varsity jacket and point out that she really, really likes to smoke weed – it’s what she and Snoop have in common, etc. Compare that privilege with Rachel Jeantel being demonized and degraded on the stand, with the hounds accusing Trayvon of having trace amounts of THC in his body. Cyrus can step out of her “ratchetness” and go sit on the couch at The View. If she wants to. Jeantel, her carriage and her tri-lingual vernacular, are not optional outfits but her actual self.
do not even get me started on miley’s video. her twerking made me cringe and her depressing perversion of ghetto fab (in the whitest environment ever) legitimately made me angry. i could not even finish it!
The lack of critical thinking here is astounding. Miley is a goof but she’s not illiterate, and she didn’t lie in a murder trial. Jeantel is an absolute scumbag and should be in prison.