How do they make the transition from wholesome teen to liberated young woman? The current wearer of the Black Cloak is Katy Perry, whose new persona comes complete with uncoordinated dabbing, stripper poles and a perfunctory verse from Migos; laden with food-related innuendo although in the last week she sat down with activist DeRay McKesson to atone for her behaviour.
The real problem is that time after time, these artists use black culture as a metaphor for coming of age but inevitably cast it aside when they return to the mainstream and no longer need it.
Behold, the Five Steps: This is by far the most important element and is non-negotiable. Establish innocence with wholesome pop songs about teenage love and puppies. Blue eyes, purity rings and all-white ensembles. This will become important later. Time to raise a few eyebrows! You want freedom- not too much, mind- but be sure to lay the groundwork for potential rebellion by wearing a crop top.
Release a single featuring an 8-bar cameo by either a non-threatening rapper or Sean Paul bonus points if Sean lets you use a Jamaican accent in the chorus and a club-based music video with a few assorted blacks scattered in the background. Next, a music video replete with signifiers of blackness — house parties, drug references, money stacks, gold jewellery, sportswear, fried chicken and a scene with a swimming pool in it.
Wear midi dresses in neutral colours. Give interviews describing your newfound maturity and coming full circle. Start dating an actor, preferably one from a fringe country like the UK or Australia. That brings us to Miley Cyrus — former child star-cum-appropriator extraordinaire. Ah, the circle of life. Somewhere in the Serengeti, an elderly baboon raises a newborn lion into the air as the animals rejoice, while the tender harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo weave through the desert breeze.
Others will see this statement for the privileged, exploitative, casually race-baiting trash it actually is. Miley was happy to reap the benefits of the most contrived aspects of black culture, using the notoriety it brought her to sell albums, only to discard it with flippancy once she was done. You don't get to give the conveniant parts of our culture a pass and ignore the rest. For Miley to sanitise her sound, and diminish the worth of the culture she until recently exploited, reveals her previous incarnation to be disingenuous at best.
The real question is why we keep falling for it.