WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
Home · Articles · Columns · Kathy Y. Wilson · Wash-Off Color

Wash-Off Color

By Kathy Y. Wilson · September 4th, 2013 · Kathy Y. Wilson
kathy

So it is no accident that the source of Hip is the Negro...

— Norman Mailer


Nigger is a slow death.

— Hilton Als


It has been made obvious by the spectacle, speculation and news cycle of her MTV Video Music Awards show performance why Miley Cyrus is a white nigger or, clearer and stranger still, why she aspires to it.

This is, as you know, what academics and political pundits call “a highly charged” word, “a troublesome word,” according to the black intellectual Randall Kennedy — so much so I don’t know how many more times here I will be editorially allowed to use it, so watch me dance around it — and one that differs exponentially in meaning and intent from its first cousin, -a. 

And that is all OK, the conundrum, shyness and misunderstanding about the word and who gets to say it.

Who cares? By now, let he or she who feels comfortable enough to utter it find the same comfort and confidence to justify or defend its use.

And an occasional discourse on the word and its standing and the ways white people act it out without ever using it is always important and relevant.

Because even as Syria kills its own people, as whites gear up for Oktoberfest, that whitest of all white sales, and as wildfires rage across the West and Southwest, these people are important.

I don’t need to repeatedly say it to talk about Miley and her ilk.

She does not stand alone in a long line of them.

Here, then, is a list, real and realized:

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. A classic example of a white man getting paid off his ability and charisma to get blacks to do harm to one another for sport. 

This can also be interpreted as what the essayist George W.S. Trow called “white euphoria”: white largess in the face of black suffering;

Ke$ha and any other young white woman cherry-picking from black culture ’til she figures out whether she is serious or not about rapping;

Kevin Federline for leaving the black mother of his children to be with Britney Spears, and who’s now married to a princess-looking white woman.

(We will talk more later about washing off certain acquired behaviors to return to your original tribe.)

Justin Timberlake, when he rocked a curly perm and wore matching custom-made denim outfits alongside Britney Spears, but who’s now actually more African-American, what with his proximity to Jay-Z and Beyonce;

Britney Spears, for being one generation out of the trailer park without realizing or completely escaping it. Her black counterpart, without all the money, is Fantasia;

Die Antwoord, the white South African Rap duo who play-acts at it by appropriating South African working-class dialects, mimicking South African gang culture and who, in the video for 2012’s “Fatty Boom Boom,” appeared in blackface and bright red lips;

Eminem, for embodying and infiltrating the misogyny and braggadocio of black Rap culture on behalf of every white frat boy and every middle-management white banker desiring street cred if only for the length of an Eminem concert;

Justin Bieber, for over-correcting on his dreamy image in the most obnoxious and disrespectful ways, always with his flat-bill cocked to the back. Expect him, like Federline, to eventually wash off and return to the tribe;

Elvis Presley, the o.g. of this population.

Since the word is deemed by its very definition as derogatory, as the worst of us, then Miley Cyrus surely is that: the worst singer, dancer, actress, fiancée and twerker.

She now ranks top among a phalanx of other white “entertainers” behaving badly and who equate authenticity, street cred, swagger and rebellion with the worst ghetto versions of black culture that they aren’t just literally aping us, they’re demeaning black culture in the process without adding anything meaningful to it.

By the way, Robin Thicke isn’t one of them; he was duped in his performance with Cyrus, hoodwinked and used as a foil, a backdrop; however, it’s sweet comeuppance for a white soul singer married to a black woman who’s preemptively suing Marvin Gaye’s estate before he can be sued for basing his biggest hit on a sample without prior proper permission. 

This makes Thicke, though beloved by blacks, no better than the white music moguls who stole entire songs from black singers and songwriters and never paid them a dime.

Why do whites veer to the dark side in a quest to “keep it real?” They’re faking the whole thing, casting a collective penumbra with their half selves.

What’s real is when the white rapper Macklemore, despite what you think of his music, not only understands but clearly articulates his white privilege and leverages it to be subversive about the label whoring and homophobia rife within Rap culture. It’s real when he says he knows he can get away with cursing in his songs and still be adored by white soccer moms who probably would be criticizing him as a bad influence if he was black-skinned.

See, this is when the infiltration is good, or at least not offensive.

I’m not saying whites can’t and shouldn’t keep recording Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz, Gospel or they should quit appropriating black African influences.

Please.

Keep it up.

Let’s us know we’re alive and that we were here.

Just stay in your lane.

And if you do switch lanes, just remember you can pop out your gold fronts, pull up your pants, record a new album with a press release saying you’ve come to your senses, found your true self and these new songs are “a reflection of my new path.” 

Apologize for all that foolishness. 

Now back in your original lane, you can begin again speaking the Queen’s English and regain all your old fans who tweeted that you must’ve been ill.

In the entirety of the “white nigger” paradigm, nigger washes off; it’s merely an act.

White, however, is forever.



CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



 
 
 
 

 

 
09.06.2013 at 02:33 Reply

Wow. This article is incredibly stupid. Pop culture doesn't have colors. Grow up and realize it. This isn't the 70's.

 

09.06.2013 at 07:11 Reply

I am so sad to see you water down individuals identities to solely their skin color. While I understand and for the most part agree with what you are trying to say, you cannot make assumptions and present only race as your basis for those assumptions. Racial and cultural identities are are often intertwined, but do not always line up how we expect. I think you should keep that in mind the next time you write a piece where race is factor.

 

09.09.2013 at 03:00 Reply

I'm thinking Kathy is the best thing to happen. To CityBeat and to the readership at large. I've read her for years and she pissed me off and brings things into focus - not in the same article, maybe. Give her time - or not. She doesn't fucking care. I love her.

 

 

09.10.2013 at 12:02 Reply

My question to you, what white artist hasn't blatantly stole music and styles from black artist? Name me one. The Beatles have openly admitted to borrowing from black 50's soul musicians that they idolized. John Mayer has reached epic levels of success playing the blues. The Black Keys are straight up a black music rip off, as are the White Stripes, I mean even Phish rips off funk music, so I don’t understand how any white artist is authentic unless they are playing Mozart. Essentially anything with the label rock and roll can be attributed to black artists to some degree. Not to diminish any of these artist, as a Black person I don’t have a problem with this at all, some of my favorite artist are white people trying really hard to sound black. Good artists steal, great ones steal shamelessly.

 

09.10.2013 at 03:59 Reply

Im not really addressing the focus of this article, being music, b just the idea that people can cross racial lines without intending so or without trying to "keep it real"

The issue lies in your last comment "white people ttmg really hard to sound black" sometimes that is the case, and people are just trying to  something theyre not. But being black has two identities - black in skin color (racial identity) ans black in culture. These two often go hand in hand, just as other races. But there ARE cases where someone is racially white, but culturally black due to their upbringing. Or racially asian but culturally white, any combination. For some reason these people are seen as posers or fakes, when really they are just living what they know. But derogatory terms such as wigger or oreo are created because apparently its not acceptable for someone to be who they are. 

 

 
 
Close
Close
Close