I was introduced to this feature on WaPo through an assigned reading for MCO 494. It has since become one of my favorite weekly reads. The Intersect is also worth adding to your RSS feed.
Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth.
— Ludwig Borne, 19th Century German political writer
What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being “ghetto” without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean.
Miley is doing her best to promote herself as a part of rachet culture, which Jody Rosen describes as “the potent sexual symbolism of black female bodies,” while simultaneously treating the black women in her videos and performances as props. She is taking elements of black culture and using them to give her the patina of street cred that she wants so badly. She is playing at being black without even trying to understand what the lived experience of being black really is. She is appropriating cultural elements without taking any time to reflect on her position of privilege and how her use of the term “ratchet” or her twerking are contributing to the oppression of black people.
A brilliant take on this topic; both the post and the discussion taking place in the comment section are worth a read.
I am still trying to compose my thoughts on this, but I want to reference this post when I do, because we always attribute our sources.