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Twerking Miley Cyrus and ‘acting black’

When Miley Cyrus appeared writhing around the VMA stage one of the main criticisms levelled at her was that she was stealing from black culture. I argued that culture is there to be shared and appropriated but lamented that Miley chose to mimic a 2D stereotyped form of black culture and that she didn’t even do it well.

miley guardian

Former Hannah Montana sweetheart Miley Cyrus’s gyrating bikini-clad performance at last night’s MTV VMA awards left watching celebrities open-mouthed and set Twitter ablaze.

Miley, the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, the wholesome country and western singer with the ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, has been raising eyebrows for the last four years  as she moves further and further away from the teenage Disney channel character that set her on the way to becoming a $150m star at just 20.

Her hyper-sexualised set, which included rubbing her butt into Robin Thicke’s crotch and getting extremely personal with an oversized foam finger, drew criticism from feminists for degrading her sex and from some pundits for ‘picking the pocket of black culture’… (more…)

Oprah Winfrey and travelling while black

Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s richest women but it didn’t stop a Zurich shop assistant from assuming she couldn’t afford the bag she wanted to buy. I talk about the real risks of travelling when black and sadly, they are more troublesome than having trouble buying a £24,000 bag.

Oprah Guardian

Oprah Guardian

 

There was a depressing familiarity to Oprah Winfrey’s tale of racism in an upmarket Swiss boutique.

Billionaire TV presenter Oprah is a household name around the world but this didn’t stop the staff in an Zurich handbag shop from assuming she couldn’t afford the expensive bag she wanted to buy.

In Oprah’s case, she decided not to make a scene or to play the ‘do you know who I am?’ card, instead choosing to leave the shop and spend her money elsewhere.

Oprah knew just mentioning her experience would be pay back enough and already the owner of the boutique has apologised and tried to explain away the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’.

While £25k handbags are not normally on my shopping list, being made acutely aware of your race when you leave the safety of home is all too familiar…

Read the Guardian article

This article was originally published in the Guardian with thanks to Writers of Colour

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Dark girls and slavery’s lingering fingerprints

When my beautiful daughter was just eight, she corrected me when I described her to a friend as ‘black’.

“Dad, I’m brown”, she explained. “You’re black, mum’s white and I’m brown”.

While I couldn’t fault her logic, her words caused a strong emotional reaction in me.
It was a mini panic, unexpected and violent. I caught my breath and tried to explain that:

“Although races don’t really exist, the world we live in has conjured them up and the shared life experience you will have with your darker skinned cousins and friends defines you all as black, regardless of skin tone.”

Good luck explaining that to an eight year old.

No argument I came up with, would convince her she was anything other than brown and so I gave up.

Jess and I

Now she’s 22 and would define herself as mixed-race. (more…)

Thinly veiled threat to freedom

The French Government has introduced plans to ban women from wearing Muslim veils in public buildings and parks.

The new laws could be in place by the summer and are causing a stir in Muslim communities world wide even though many Muslim women don’t wear veils.

Only around 2,000 French women wear veils in public out of a Muslim population of 5 million, but to many the move must feel like an attack on all of Islam.

President Nicolas Sarkozy brought in the change because he sees the burqa and niqab as signs of women’s oppression rather than religious garments.

Niqab

Secularism

Ever since the forming of the republic in 1789, France has been keen to keep religion and state separate. (more…)