Borrowed Culture

There is a phenomenon that is sweeping the Interweb. It is seemingly inexplicable. No one knows why it becomes pervasive so quickly. But the evidence is right there for everyone to see. White people borrowing Black Culture. There is a level of coolness that comes from being that one White dude who can hit the club that plays hip hop. He knows all the songs. He can rap along to “Rigamortus” by Kendrick Lamar without missing a syllable and stands on a chair and raps to the Heavens when Pimp C’s verse in “Big Pimpin'” comes on. But just what is it that those of other races find ‘cool’ about being steeped in Black culture?

I would argue that that is the not the appropriate question. The better question is what do we as Black people find either so hilarious or so offensive about non-Blacks for lack of a better term, appropriating our music and tropes? Some illustrative examples would make the question a bit clearer. Let’s begin with what I think is one of the first discrete examples that became a phenomenon on the Internet: Cue Kate Upton video

Now no one is saying her Dougie skills are technically ptich-perfect. In fact, she is about at the level First Lady Michelle Obama was when she “did the Dougie” at a DC middle school. Which is about the same level as my mom would be if she were told to Dougie. However, that video has over 2 MILLION views and it was the first time I began to see curiosity by the lighter denizens of this great country of ours about Miss Upton performing an “urban” dance and see Black people find some entertainment from her antics. But it didn’t stop there: Cue second Kate Upton video

I really could Google Kate Upton videos and .gifs all day but I won’t. I already lost about 36 hours doing that last week and I don’t wanna go back to that level of unproductivity. Besides, there are entire tumblr pages dedicates to Katie and her breas. . . dancing skills. Anyways, again, she aint the best dancer in the world. But the phenomenon of White people getting pleasure about being “hip” and performing urban dances is interesting. I personally see it as a greater acceptance of a culture that has long been subordinated in America. You know the deal about how long it took the Grammy’s to recognize rap as a music genre popular enough to give it its own category. The best rap performance Grammy was first given in 1989 to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It may surprise you to know however, that the best rap album award wasn’t given until 1996 to Naughty by Nature. Another fun fact, of the 18 times that award has been given out, it has gone to Eminem 5 times. Next is Kanye West at 4 times and no one else has won it more than once. Not even Jay-Z. makes you think, don’t it?

But is Black culture really being fully integrated into the mainstream? Can our music, our language, and even our dances be fully diffused into a society that still largely sees us as the “other?” Well, I don’t really know. But something happened recently that has gained national media attention: Cue Miley Cyrus video

Yeah. That just happened. It was on Worldstar Hiphop, which is where old rappers go to die and new rappers are dead on arrival, yesterday. Then it hit Good Morning America today. And needless to say the term “twerking” has been spoken by more White folk today than it ever has. I’ve known the term for years. I moved to Atlanta in 2000 and that was what the dancing was called. I got to college, and then I was introduced to the “Twerkteam.” Miley’s moves are rather tame in comparison but no doubt when she squats down and “pops dat” many parents viewing it were shocked. Even though in my view she isn’t doing anything more provocative that we see in professional cheerleaders at sporting events. She aint got nothing on these women. Cue Twerkteam video

Anatomically speaking twerking is more effective when the woman has a bit more junk in the trunk. It’s also more effective when the woman isn’t wearing what appears to be a Unicorn onesie, but beggars shouldn’t be choosers, right? Miley Cyrus, however, was a Disney child icon for millions in her role as Hannah Montana. Now she seems to have enough “fuck you money” to do what she wants. She cut her hair, has videos grabbing strippers asses, and her twitter bio line is quite charming.


Top of the line indeed Miley.

The story and her dancing has made it to Twitter and CNN. Will it signal the wholesale adoption of twerking by White teen girls in middle America? Honestly, they probably were already twerking before this video hit, now their parents will just know about it. I’ve seen White chicks stand on the bar and attempt to “back dat ass up” with spectacular failure in the past. Yawns all around.

The deeper point here, though, is whether our culture is respected by the majority. And I’m not talking about them respecting twerking as a form of interpretive dance. What I really mean is whether the majority population feels free to jokingly adopt Black trends for a brief moment, and then shelve them away again as just more nonsense? Only time will tell.

In the words of the great Paul Mooney:

Everybody wants be a nigga, but NOBODY wants to be a nigga.

Continue to Question the World Around You.

2 Responses to “Borrowed Culture”
  1. I think your last point is what concerns me. A lot of these imitations strike me as “making fun” of black people and don’t really sit well with me. Perhaps I’m being sensitive, but I can’t shake the feeling we’re being laughed at and not with.

  2. Hassan_Fvckry (@DLYDJ) says:

    I don’t think that it’s respected by those who adopt the culture. I feel as if it just another part of the entitlement trophy awarded to those able to get away with this stuff. But in the words of Leon as David Ruffin, “I got somethin’ fo’ yo’ asses!”

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