This particular Twitter conversation was more than just about Miley or VMAs or even cultural appropriation. While White supremacy makes White experiences, aesthetics, opinions and lifestyles be considered “universal" and thereby marginalize other cultures, experiences, aesthetics, opinions and lifestyles, it also involves an element of existential crisis. Only through exploitation via cultural appropriation, travel for the purpose of sexual exploitation and experimentation, "spiritual enlightenment" (via imperialism’s "magical Negros" or assorted brown "gurus") or even going as far as claiming "trans-ethnicity" (not speaking to adoption of children of colour; speaking to Whites who claim that they are secretly another culture or race "inside;" basically White supremacist exploitation of the label "trans*") for the purpose of escaping their perceived burden of Whiteness, can they become “whole” again. These experiences are often used as “learning tools” to where they eventually reclaim Whiteness, but become a “cultured” (ick) White person who is superior to other Whites.Think about some White hippies who appropriated a variety of Eastern cultures only to grow up to be extremely conservative Republicans who value Whiteness greatly, for example.
In reference to the tweet above on White men who seek sexual experiences with Black or other women of colour solely for the purpose of “growth” as men to where they can return to Whiteness and corporateness and suburbaness later, bell hooks has an interesting quote on this:
To these young males and their buddies, fucking was a way to confront the Other, as well as a way to make themselves over, to leave behind white “innocence” and enter the world of “experience.” As is often the case in this society, they were confident that non-white people had more life experience, were more wordly, sensual, and sexual because they were different. Getting a bit of the Other, in this case engaging in sexual encounters with non-white females, was considered a ritual of transcendence, a movement out into a world of difference that would transform, an acceptable rite of passage. The direct objective was not simply to sexually possess the Other; it was to be changed in some way by the encounter. “Naturally,” the presence of the Other, the body of the Other, was seen as existing to serve the ends of white male desires.
I didn’t mean to imply that White men can’t also appropriate when I mentioned the sexual component. Of course they can too and I am glad that someone else pointed that out. But I definitely wanted the use of Black bodies also mentioned here because appropriation and exploitation are not solely about non-tangible things, art and ideas. As Paulo Freire writes:
The oppressor consciousness tends to transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination. The earth, property, production, the creations of people, people themselves, time—everything is reduced to the status of objects at its disposal.
I mentioned the demon possession films because it is a critical metaphor for how White women are portrayed as “purity” when something else “dark” and “evil” corrupts them without their control. This same metaphor applies to those who do not want Miley held accountable for her choices. But the truth is, whether conveyed as a choice or as a possession by “deviant” Black culture or by “evil” spirits (which are always conflated no less; notice the disregard for theisms that are not Eurocentric and monotheistic. Notice the shame placed around Vodou, for example), it’s always deemed as a juxtaposition to the “reality” of “pure” White womanhood.
For more on how womanhood and race involves constructions against each other, where White is deemed “pure” and anything else, especially Black womanhood is deemed “deviant,” see Patricia Hill Collins’ book Black Feminist Thought.