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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…)

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…)