Cultural Appropriation and the VMA’s: A Guest Commentary

Editors Note:  Cultural appropriation is a real thing, and it should be discussed whenever possible. The following is a guest post from J. Nicole of Urban Expressive on Miley Cyrus and her behavior at the MTV Video Music Awards last night. Enjoy. -M.P.

Like many, I’m opposed to what gentrification is doing to our neighborhoods. But one good thing about the recent obsession with Brooklyn is being able to attend great events with just the swipe of a MetroCard or a brisk walk. This weekend, while many were rightfully commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Brooklyn was popping with two events; AfroPunkand the MTV Video Music Awards. I attended AfroPunk and had the pleasure of being invited to a VMA viewing party at the NU Hotel in Brooklyn. I’m not a VMA type of person, in fact, I wasn’t even paying attention to the show. But once my Twitter and Facebook time lines starting blowing up about Miley Cyrus, I dreadfully tuned in.
I try to limit my blogging about celebrities and visiting sites that are dedicated to them. But every so often you need some mindless entertainment, and I’ve noticed Miley Cyrus has been showing up quite frequently on urban sites with a large Black audience. After mainstream media labeled her hair cut “edgy” and “controversial” (the very same hair cut that’s been worn by T-BozMary J. Blige and countless of other Black women around the way), her twerking and raunchy behavior has been embraced by some of us; yet she still maintains her privilege of teetering between the two cultures. As she stuck her tongue out and twerked on a married man in front of a stunned crowd (If Rihanna looks shocked, it has to be bad), I couldn’t help but think of all the Black women who are vilified for doing the same thing, for a much smaller venue, most likely to keep a roof over her head. Originally, I wasn’t going to post anything about her. I didn’t want to give this child anymore attention, but the truth is, the issue is bigger than a Disney star gone Black bad. It shows yet another example of white privilege. It shows how yet again, a small piece of our culture is being manipulated and marketed by the mainstream, repackaged with a White face then sold back to us! Miley Cyrus at any given time can hang up this act, but there are many women- mostly of color, who do not have that type of immunity.

The Bill O’Reilly’s of the world want you to think it’s fatherless Black girls who display “ratchet” behavior for attention, yet we have an example of someone from a two parent, wealthy household gyrating for millions of viewers. Media will chime in to dissect her performance; some will see it as a cry for help, others as rebellious streak or a woman being proud of her sexuality. But we aren’t afforded that complexity. We’re just Black women who look for any opportunity to twerk when our favorite song comes on…

J. Nicole


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  1. Wow J. Nicole…..well flipping said. And there it is. Nothing more needs to be written about this, as you smashed all the important nails on their heads that needed to be smashed the fcuk in. Well done.

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