Katy Perry’s Seppuku
Katy Perry performed at the American Music Awards in a Japanese costume and had a Japanese-themed performance with white backup dancers made to look Japanese and doing some movement in stereotypical Japanese fashion with the fast shuffling that Japanese women are reported to do. Totally not offensive and Katy didn’t mean any harm. I’m sure she just liked the costumes and thought the shuffling choreography was just amusing because “they’re so cute with their quick feet and accents!” (Like cute lapdogs, you know? Cute. Adorable. Not human.)
A French friend of mine wrote that he didn’t understand why Americans don’t get the difference between racist and racial and it exasperates him. I have friends from other countries who admit that they don’t “get” the problem with racism in America and why it’s such a large issue. (I explain to them that it largely stems from the notion of white supremacy that was a foundation upon which this nation was built and that notion was never corrected even though slavery ended in 1865 and Jim Crow ended in 1964. “Just because Civil Rights is law doesn’t mean that we all abide.” – MeShell Ndegeocello.)
People took great aims to explain why it was NOT racist. (These were mostly the people who want to…let me move on…but they don’t want to ruin any chances with said…let me stop.) White people got called out for always defending people like Katy Perry, Lily Allen (“Don’t need to shake my ass for you cuz I’ve got a brain.” Uh, I shake mine and have a brain, Lily), and Miley Cyrus, when “cultural appropriation is unavoidable as we become a global society.” Ugh. Why is it that white people drove Native Americans off of their land; owned slaves (and treated them like dogs); forcibly killed anyone who wouldn’t convert to Catholicism in the Middle East; and committed genocidal atrocities around the world then rest comfortably in the “that was a different time then and that was normal for the day,” excuse? Now Miley, Lily, and Katy are making money off of black and Japanese stereotypes without paying homage to those people or even presenting them in a flattering manner (or hiring people from those groups to perform those activities in an inoffensive manner), and there’s a new excuse of “we’re becoming more global, so it’s inevitable, and everyone just needs to calm down (and let us have our own way and do what we want to do, because that’s how we’ve always operated).” They told those of us who were offended directly or indirectly that we were hypersensitive and don’t understand what racism toward a minority group is. I presume because they would know after centuries of feeling oppression.
It’s offensive to have white dancers in makeup that makes them look Asian shuffle around like stereotypical submissive Asian housewives (or Asian women who are nothing more than the caricatures presented in Broadway musicals) and have that be the extent of the “appreciation.” It’s offensive to constantly deride twerking or shaking your butt/popping your butt for years to only come along and make money off of a poor attempt at doing it, and then write a song saying that people who do that aren’t smart. It’s offensive to turn a deaf ear to a community who tells you all the time that names like Redskins and Braves are offensive to them. It comes from a place of valuing your race or culture as higher than anyone else’s. It’s a stance of viewing anyone else as beneath you whether you recognize it or not. There’s appreciation, then there’s appropriation. Madonna voguing in the “Vogue” video is appreciation and appropriation with credit given because she credits Jose and Luis Xtravaganza from the Harlem Ball Scene with teaching her how to vogue and included one of them in the video.
That’s how you do it. If Miley had consulted Big Freedia or if Katy had consulted…Ken Watanabe(?)…(I don’t know who’s hot and/or a creative genius in the Japanese music industry), things probably would have gone over more smoothly. Basically, when it’s done in a way that uses the culture or race as a prop more than letting the people be people, that’s when you’re wrong and need to take a seat and hear about how you’re wrong. We can’t have this conversation when you’re accused of being wrong and you yell your way out of the room telling everyone how hypersensitive they are.
If you’re offended, speak out. Speak out until you’re hoarse. Call out racism and cultural insensitivity in all its forms. Shame them into change if need be. Something has to be done to change the culture here because I’m sick of it. Yes, hypersensitivity exists, but right now, it can’t all be fun and games if you’re making money off of people without giving credit and decrying anyone who would dare speak against you because they’re ruining your fun. If we don’t speak out, we’re left with what happened during Halloween 2013 and someone being beaten badly and ruining their costume when someone’s had enough. That day is coming if we don’t change. There are consequences to this. Miley’s Bangerz album isn’t selling like they thought it would. Katy’s press for this might dent Prism just a bit. And Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here is like #100-something. (I actually like the song, just not the video…and that one line.)