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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Harlem Shake is Racist

The Problematics of the Fake Harlem Shake » Sociological Images

"The irony of an African-American cultural relic being white-washed to the point where other people of color perform its bastardized version is not lost, and this takes on a whole new level as teams with majority African-American members such as the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets add to the fake Shake canon...

A major problematic of this meme is that it takes an already marginalized group in America, one whose history and culture has often been appropriated and co-opted in fetishistic ways by the white majority, and makes a mockery of not just them, but an entire dance tradition. This is not lost on residents of Harlem, many of whom recognize cultural appropriation and malrepresentation when they see it...

This literal erasure of black culture and its replacement with an absurdist movement and meme needs to be considered in light of African-American oppression and institutionalized racism in the United States. Supplanting the sinuous artistry of the Harlem Shake with frenetic styleless arm flailing and hip thrusting is yet another brick in a grand wall of symbolic and structural violence that further relegates an entire culture to the margins, both on and offline."


THE (fake) HARLEM SHAKE IS RACIST!!!
CULTURE IS STATIC!!!
MINORITY CULTURE CAN'T BE PARODIED (even unknowingly)!!!


Comments:

"If the Harlem Shake meme videos strike you as "parody" of the classic NYC dance, that says more about you than anything else."

"was Jimi Hendrix erasing and appropriating Indian, or Greek culture? Where do you think the guitar came from? Or the Pentatonic scale? The "original" Harlem Shake had its inspiration in dances and music that most of the people doing it probably never knew, just like every other bit of folk culture in history"

"So you're saying all of this hyperbole about cultural erasing and white oppression comes down to the presence of a name appropriated from the Dutch representing a neighborhood appropriated from the Lenape?"

"Nothing in culture is "fake". And it seems its only problematic if you problematize it. Next you can complain that image macros take the image out of the original creators context and re-purpose it."

"No true Scotsman would do the fake Harlem dance."

"Cultural appropriation is not the equivalent of anthropology's 'cultural borrowing'. Cultural borrowing occurs when two cultures interact and share cultural traits, thus disseminating cultural traditions and rituals between two groups which otherwise maintain their diversity. Cultural appropriation occurs in the context of racial or ethnic oppression, in which the dominant group creates real consequences for the subordinate group practicing their cultural traits, and yet when members of the dominant group practice those traits they are not harassed and may often receive social benefits. The dominant groups use of cultural appropriation frequently results in the erasure of the subordinate group's cultural practices, whereas cultural borrowing and exchange allows both groups to remain autonomous."

"If I'm following your definition of "cultural appropriation," then we'd have to be able to show that there have been negative consequences enacted on blacks by whites when blacks do the "Harlem Shake," and then show whites turning around, taking the same dance and adopting it for their own and getting benefits for it.
But while we certainly see people who aren't black enjoying something called the "Harlem Shake" - what we don't see is any history of blacks being persecuted for doing the dance themselves. So following your definition this example doesn't seem to bear up.
I would also add that for quite a while now - around 50 years at least - African-American dance in this country has been extremely popular, beloved, praised, exalted, admired, and is incredibly pervasive throughout the media. So the notion that blacks have been persecuted or stigmatised for their forms of dance only to have them stolen doesn't sound right. The notion of "cultural appropriation" just doesn't seem applicable in the case of contemporary black-invented dancing."

"So... how is the case of the two dances called 'Harlem Shake' either, unless the name itself qualifies as a cultural trait? And how do either of them differ from cultural evolution?"

"The fact of the matter is, cultures change over time and whether that process respects our subjective ideas of "value" or morality, is irrelevant; it happens. You, however, seem very fixated on the idea of violent cultural appropriation, even though notions of what is borrowed and what is appropriated are highly relative. By your logic, the original Harlem Shake was forcibly appropriated out of existence, yet you conveniently forget that it was simply NOT POPULAR among its original cultural owners, however you splice it. Your trying to forcibly bridge the gap through the lens of cultural imperialism (how ironic!) seems a bit too contrived. Furthermore, where is your proof? Other than what they share in name, where is the relationship between one phenomenon and the other? The fact of the matter is, popular (however you define it) media has brought back attention to the "original” Harlem Shake, and may have in fact saved it. The Shake lives on in spite, not because, of people like you, and in that sense you may truly be irrelevant."

"What does "problematic" mean? "All of which I am offended by"? "All of which I find reveals you to be less cultured and refined than I"? What?"

"Tell you what, you can have the phrase "Harlem Shake" back, when I can put the words "queer", and "gay" back into general use with their original definitions."

"Some of those who appear to be making a mockery of the dance may simply be making a badly-executed tribute imitation."

"I did something I called The Harlem Shake in the 70's. It was cute, I was in elementary school and it involved flowers and a dance. Therefore anything called Harlem Shake but my little dance is culture appropriation and wrong wrong wrong and "stop that shit".
No?
Well damn. I guess culture DOES evolve and you can't own it."
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