On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People

For Jezebel’s 10 th anniversary, we’re reviewing some timeless posts from our archive. Here’s to the next 10.

A lesson from Miley Cyrus’s brand-new video: If you wish to look “cool” and “edgy” and “tough,” simply take the designs and dance relocations of black individuals.

The brand-new pseudo-thugged out Miley has actually been percolating for a while; from her twerking unicorn match video to her look on phase at a Juicy J program, the previous Disney beloved appears drawn to particular aspects of a particular kind of hip-hop. Not socially-conscious hip-hop. Filthy South/crunk hip-hop connected with strip clubs, pimps and drug dealerships. Juicy J is previously of Three 6 Mafia, a group who increased to popularity with hits like “Slob On My Knob” and “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” The track Miley popped her ass to at his program, “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” is particularly about hanging out in the business of strippers. Some crucial lyrics:

Start twerking when she hear her tune, stripper pole her earnings

We get trippy and after that some, so nasty when she rollin’

She put that ass up in my hands, I push-button control it


You state no to ratchet pussy; Juicy J cannot

Racks er’ where, they showin’ racks, I’m tossing racks

In the VIP, rubber on I’m extending that

Rich niggas tippin, broke niggas lookin

If they ain’t showin pussy


And it ain’t a strip club.


She make that ass clap, dancin’ like she on a penis

Bring it back I tossed a stack, that’s one fortunate bitch

Up and down she’s going she’s moving on that pole

Making cash, stacking them honey, shawty go

Miley appears to enjoy dancing just like these strippers do: Twerking, popping the ass, flexing at the waist and shaking her rump in the air. Enjoyable. Generally, she, as an abundant white lady, is “playing” at being a minority particularly from a lower socio-economic level. In addition to the gold grill and some hand gestures, Miley straight-up appropriates the accoutrements connected with specific black individuals on the fringes of society. (See: “Ratchet Girl Anthem.”)

In the video, Miley is seen with her “friends”: Mostly slim white kids and ladies who seem designs. In a couple of scenes, she’s seen twerking with 3 black ladies. Are they likewise her pals? Or is she simply expecting street cred? Keep in mind that she is using white, in the spotlight, the star of the video– and they are dealt with as props, a background for her to shine in front of. We’ve taken on using individuals of color in the background prior to; it’s a style that continues, however stays incorrect. In a white-centric world, putting white ladies rather actually in the center of the frame while ladies of color are off to the side is an effective, rude visual message, and it truly should be stated: Human beings are not devices These ladies may be her pals, however the basic vibrant produced is that she supervises and they remain in service to her. Not up until now off from Paula Deen’s dream supper celebration. Keep In Mind when Gwen Stefani surrounded herself with Harajuku ladies? Margaret Cho, at the time, identified it a minstrel program. A truly on-the-nose option of words, given that white individuals have actually been imitating black individuals for enjoyable and make money from Al Jolson to Amos n’ Andy to Elvis. Now we have Ke$ ha (seen listed below) and Miley dressing up like they reside in the hood. (Do not forget that thanks to her daddy being a substantial star and her time at Disney, Miley has actually been rich for her whole life)

There was a time, simply over a years back, that “ghetto” removed: Everyone was utilizing the word “ghetto,” speaking about being “ghetto fabulous,” as well as Carrie on Sex And The City was using gold nameplate pendants and earrings of the sort made popular by black ladies. Now we’re seeing the word “ratchet” get considered the very same method, and the equipment connected with “ratchet culture”– gold grills, extensions, long, complex fingernails, twisting fingers into gang indications– is hip and edgy and cool. (Here is a great piece discussing how “ratchet” went from an insult to a compliment.)

Let’s not get it twisted: The exchange and circulation of concepts in between cultures can be a lovely thing. I think in cross-pollination and being influenced by those whose experience is not like your very own. That’s not an issue if Miley is influenced by gold teeth and bounce music and has pals who are rap artists. When she utilizes these things to re-style her own image, she drifts into unsafe area. If she didn’t have the grill, if the black ladies were incorporated throughout the video rather of being segregated to one odd scene, if she had not used that headband … This clip may not have actually been so troublesome.

As Tamara Winfrey Harris of What Tami Said when composed:

A Japanese teenager using a tee shirt emblazoned with the logo design of a huge American business is not the like Madonna sporting a bindi as part of her newest reinvention. The distinction is history and power. Colonization has actually made Western Anglo culture supreme– desired and effective. It is comprehended in its variety and subtlety as other cultures can just wish to be. Lack of knowledge of culture that is a problem to Asians, African and native individuals, is unidentified to the majority of European descendants or a minimum of does not have the very same unfavorable effect.

It matters who is doing the appropriating. If a dominant culture fancies some random component (a mode of gown, a way of speaking, a design of music) of my culture unique or fascinating, however otherwise disdains my being and looks for to marginalize me, it is definitely an insult.

Think of Derelicte, or of dressing kids up as “homeless” for Halloween. Unsuitable. Using a gold chain isn’t really blackface, similar to purchasing a blue-green ring in Arizona is not offending like calling your panties “Navajo” or modeling underwear in a Native American headdress. It’s essential to comprehend that Miley is extremely fortunate to be able to play gown up and embellish herself with the features of an oppressed/minority culture. She can dip into blackness without being strained by the truth of it. A brand-new piece for Newsweek reports:

there are more African-Americans in the corrections system today– in jail or on probation or parole– than there were shackled in 1850.

Miley and her ilk have to be advised that the things they believe is cool, the accoutrements they’re obtaining, have actually been birthed in an environment where individuals are impoverished, undereducated, oppressed, underrepresented, disenfranchised, systemically victimized and having a hard time in a system established to guarantee that they stop working. As Sesali Bowen composed for Feministing in March:

But being cog is just cool when you do it for enjoyable, not if those stand practices from your lived experiences […] Folks with specific opportunity are able and ready to drift in and out of cog at will […]

… Pop culture patterns like twerking, “aint nobody got time for that,” and even simply utilizing the word cog to specify the wild things that occurred at last night’s celebration are all rooted in somebody’s lived experience. Often it’s your lived experience, however if it’s not, please pick up a minute to think about your opportunity and exactly what function you might be playing in the appropriation of somebody else’s exploitation.

It’s worth noting this track– which is mainly about the delights of dancing like a stripper and doing lines in the restroom– was composed by 2 guys, manufacturers Rock City and Mike WiLL Made It and initially meant for Rihanna. (True story: Miley stated to them: ” I simply desire something that simply feels Black“) Blackness is not a piece of fashion jewelry you can slip on when you desire a self-confidence booster or a cool appearance. And dipping into being bad– while making an earnings by doing so– is simply horrible.

Related youtube video: (not from post)

More Like This