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Miley's Twerking Does Not Represent Black Culture

There is no single "black" culture. Blogger Anne Theriault crossed the line when she equated Miley's vulgar gyrations with "black" culture. Culture is reflected through language, dress, music, art, cuisine. Vulgarity is not culture.

First, I would like to make it clear that I did not see Miley Cyrus' performance. I read descriptions of it the next day and stumbled across an animated gif with a short segment of her act. That was more than enough for me.

Also, for the sake of transparency, I also need to disclose the fact that I am a professional actress and I have had the pleasure of working with Billy Ray Cyrus. When I played Nurse Royed on the "Complicated" episode of the TV series Doc, I found him to be a gentleman. Other Toronto actors who had the opportunity to work with him have also shared this view. My heart goes out to him at what is, without a doubt, a very challenging time. As a mother, I realize that it is heartbreaking for all parents when their children behave in a manner that does not reflect the values they have tried to instil.

I was very disappointed when I recently read Anne Theriault's blog post entitled "What Miley Cyrus Did Was Disgusting -- But Not For the Reasons You Think." Her comments, including the following, were an insult to every black person who has high standards of morality and decorum. Anne crossed the line when she equated Miley's vulgar gyrations with "black" culture:

"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."

First of all, there is no single "black" culture. Just as white people come from various cultures including French, German and Dutch, black people also come from myriad cultural backgrounds (e.g. African American, Jamaican, Ashanti, Cameroonian). Trenholm & Jenson nailed it when they defined culture as the set of shared values, beliefs, norms, and customs that bind a group of people and give them a sense of commonality. Culture is reflected through language, dress, music, art, cuisine, etc.

Vulgarity is not culture. There are people from all cultures who carry themselves with dignity and others who don't. It's that simple and it has nothing to do with money.

By labelling suggestive movements as "ghetto culture," Anne Theriault also insulted all of the individuals trapped in poverty who carry themselves with self-respect and dignity. (It is a harsh reality of human existence that, despite their hard work, many families are stuck in the world's ghettos.) The majority of individuals who are poor do not demean themselves by displaying behaviour that is coarse or lewd.

Notice that I have not referred to Miley's bawdy display as dancing. Antics like the ones she performed at the VMAs appeal to the lowest common denominator of ANY society. It is a sad commentary on our times when trashy behaviour that was once reserved for strippers and lap dancers is now elevated, glorified as "entertainment" and displayed on TV internationally for public consumption. This applies whether this inappropriate behaviour is exhibited by pop stars, rock and roll singers, hip hop artists, or dancehall reggae performers. Miley is young. She will display better judgement as she matures. Shame on those in the industry who are misguiding her. It is unfortunate that MTV did not kill the feed to her act.

With her blog post, Anne Theriault perpetuated negative racial stereotypes and, in 2013, there is absolutely no excuse for that. Shame on her.

Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. is a Jamaican-born team building facilitator, corporate event planner, professional actress, and blogger. She is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based management consulting firm that has served clients from 16 countries in North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

You can follow her company pages on Facebook and Twitter.

2013 MTV VMAs
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