When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland
Post written by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Find the integrality of the text on her blog
This may meander.
Miley Cyrus made news this week with a carnival-like stage performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that included life-size teddy bears, flesh-colored underwear, and plenty of quivering brown buttocks. Almost immediately after the performance many black women challenged Cyrus’ appropriation of black dance (“twerking”). Many white feminists defended Cyrus’ right to be a sexual woman without being slut-shamed. Yet many others wondered why Cyrus’ sad attempt at twerking was news when the U.S. is planning military action in Syria.
I immediately thought of a summer I spent at UNC Chapel Hill. My partner at the time fancied himself a revolutionary born too late for all the good protests. At a Franklin Street pub one night we were the only black couple at a happy hour. It is one of those college places where liquor concoctions of the bar’s finest bottom shelf liquor is served in huge fishbowls for pennies on the alcohol proof dollar. I saw a couple of white couples imbibing and beginning some version of bodily grooving to the DJ. I told my partner that one of them would be offering me free liquor and trying to feel my breasts within the hour.
He balked, thinking I was joking.
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When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland.