When opinion writers from The NY Times decide to write about “twerking,” in a satirical essay riddled with a few questionable one liners, Black people get angry. Not just regular angry, but the type of angry that boldly @’s you on Twitter, demanding an explanation of words strung together for a powerfully painful sentence like this one:
“Explain that twerking is a dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women that involves the rapid gyration of the hips in a fashion that prominently exhibits the elasticity of the gluteal musculature.”
While I am still giggling at many of these tweets, I can’t help but feel that Black people, specifically Black Twitter, cannot wait to be offended by something, causing an uproar, or rather a hilarious hashtag to take the internet by storm. While Teddy Wayne’s words about lower-income Black women are ignorant, they’re partly true and SATIRICAL!
Case in point–you will never in your life see Michelle Obama, Oprah or Ursula Burns twerking. But you will see Amber Rose, Tayquisha or the the like doing it all over social media. Miley Cyrus’ sudden interest in [bad] twerking is perplexing. While she’s in the tax bracket closer to Michelle Obama’s than Amber Rose’s, she’s chosen to engage in Black culture in a way that many Black people find offensive, myself included. According to xoJane, “Miley picks the parts of Black culture that suit her agenda and tickle her taste buds.”
But here’s the thing. Twerking is a dance. Better yet, it’s a trend or a fad with an abnormally long shelf life and the chameleon-like ability to change names. It’s been around way before Josephine Baker put on a banana skirt and a smile to shake her beautiful body all over France. Dancing is a part of Black culture that stretches over centuries and through many of our vast cultures. It’s our expression. So what if the name changes and mainstream media catches on? It will never take away our rich culture. You know what does take away from the richness of our culture? Miley’s perverse rendition of the dance for sh*ts, giggles and shock value.
One thing Teddy Wayne has a point with is this opinion, “…why Miley Cyrus, who is white and wealthy, does it at every opportunity. Patiently respond that, for Ms. Cyrus, twerking is a brazenly cynical act of cultural appropriation being passed off as a rebellious reclamation of her sexuality after a childhood in the Disneyfied spotlight…” In short, Miley is twerking for attention, desire to be a part of a culture she’s not a part of and well…rich boredom.
The Nation’s Aura Bogado responded to Teddy Wayne, saying,
“Wayne’s twerk talk is one that’s likely based on white parents who want to understand Miley Cyrus’s cannibalizing Video Music Awards performance, Wayne goes on to construe that Cyrus should get a pass for exploiting black culture (albeit for no good reason). In a couple of short paragraphs, Wayne not only ridicules Black women, who survive despite the apparatus of systemic racism that continues to deprive equal access to education, housing and wealth, but also establishes that Cyrus’ brazen “cynical act of cultural appropriation” is perfectly warranted.”
I can agree with Bogado’s thoughts on Wayne ridiculing Black women. However, I don’t think he’s taking it upon himself to reduce the heavy conversation about race into a short satirical piece about the “twerk talk.” I am not defending this man by any means. If anything, please Black Twitter, keep roasting him, so that him and people like him are aware of the harsh realities of racism and White privilege.
This may be the only part of Wayne’s piece that succeeds at satire:
“They may ask if you twerk with your significant other. Tell them that when a young man and young woman love each other very much and are in a packed, sweaty nightclub playing commercial hip-hop, yes, they sometimes twerk to express their affections.”
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