Because there’s no escaping it, and in the interest of staying abreast of current events, I made myself watch a 2 minute clip of the Miley Cyrus VMA video. I dismissed it by saying something like, “She looked like she was having the time of her life. Good for her.” And then I got back to the many more important things in life, like watching Schmoyoho videos on Youtube.
A friend of mine responded that it was racist because she slapped a black woman’s ass and was “using black people as accessories to be ghetto.” I didn’t think she needed any help being ghetto, but I replied that as she is an accessory herself I didn’t see the big deal so long as the backup dancers were paid well.
Later on I saw my gorgeous black neighbour taking out the garbage without his shirt on. I admit, I gawked. Then the conversation I related above crossed my mind and I had a sudden stab of guilt for objectifying a black man. I thought about this for a moment then said to myself, “Don’t be such a goddamn racist!”
This was not because I had been objectifying a black man, but because I suddenly felt guilty about it because he was black, which is frankly ridiculous.
Let me be clear. I’m an equal-opportunity pervert. Black men are attractive in a quite different way than white men. And when I am ogling a guy I’m not thinking about his personality traits or intelligence, his value as a human being, how much money he makes or whether or not he would be a good father or political candidate. There is no human quality judgement going on there.
I’m not going to tell you what do I think about because it may change your perception of your favourite blogger.
I think there comes a point, a very awkward point, where sensitivity to issues of race can become racist in itself. and there can be a fine line between caring about protecting people from exploitation and simply being patronizing.
What if the woman whose ass got slapped liked it? What if they planned it out beforehand giggling all the while? What if maybe she didn’t enjoy it particularly but the pay cheque was high enough that she didn’t care? It was clearly planned and the woman didn’t appear surprised by it, so what’s the big deal?
All of these possibilities are equally valid but I don’t see anyone asking the lady who got slapped how she felt about it. Instead we are using her too.
We are judging the situation based on the skin colour of the people involved and shamelessly using both of them to make our point. That is racism and exploitation right there, my politically correct friends, and it’s just as wrong.
We must acknowledge that if Miley was on that stage by choice, so was everyone else. To imply that the black person was a victim rather than a willing participant (an assumption based on her blackness?) is to fail to give her credit for intelligence, equality and the capacity to choose. We hold Miley responsible for her actions on stage, so why not the others?
As a member of a historically oppressed group (women) who is all too aware that the time when I could have been considered property isn’t long past, it really chaps my ass when it’s implied that every woman making a pay cheque off her sex appeal is a hapless dupe being exploited by the patriarchy. This assumes a lesser intelligence in women making these choices, a sense that we cannot be trusted with our own sexual expression. And though possibly well-meaning, it’s sexist as fuck.
As a burlesque artist I’ve done some extremely risqué stuff. Each time I walk onstage I’m there by choice. As a feminist I demand that choice be acknowledged and respected. Many women making a living as strippers or porn stars would say the same. Many of us do this because we like it, because it pays well and because we don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about that. So if a woman chooses to have her ass slapped on stage, why are people who weren’t part of that decision crying racism?
As for white people “stealing black culture” I’d like to point out that black urban culture is as heavily influenced by European culture as it is by ancestral African heritage. If you don’t believe me please take off those blue jeans.
Stylistic fusion is how humanity develops culturally. I don’t get mad at drag queens for “stealing” my feminine culture, even when they look better in heels than me. Similarly I am not being racist when I:
Sing the blues
Wear a shirt with a Mandarin collar
Eat bannock and salmon
Wish I could play sitar
Twerk (lying. I can’t twerk)
Slap a consenting human adult of any colour on the ass.
And feeling as though I am is as silly as it would be if I got mad at a black guy for wearing a plaid shirt because he’s “stealing my Scottish culture.”
I feel that one of the most important human rights is freedom of choice. Too often in trying to stand up for oppressed minorities we treat them like children and oppress them further. If we fail to respect a human being’s capacity for informed and intelligent decision making based on their skin colour, exactly who is the racist here?