Culture Vultures: Miley, Manziel, & The Power Of Priviledge

Words by Wesley Grant

I’ll bet you my next paycheck that Johnny Manziel & Miley Cyrus have more in common than most care to admit. No, Johnny’s dad isn’t a famous country singer, and Miley Cyrus DEFINITELY can’t outrun Alabama’s defense. Where do the similarities begin? I PROMISE I’ll get to that.

First we have to go deeper than the flesh-toned patent leather shorts in Miley’s special places. Let’s talk (extremely quickly) about the history of Twerking. We all know Miley’s ass (or lack thereof) has gone viral recently due to her adoption of “Twerking”. In the process she’s managed to popularize the word to the extent of it’s inclusion into the dictionary.

In 72 hours she somewhow took a concept from gutter to penthouse because up until recently, “twerking” was some silly “gyration” that two girls (affectionately known as the Twerk Team) were doing on YouTube. In a room with no furniture. For hundreds of thousands of people. FOR FREE. It was also looked upon as foolish by everyone except the the Twerk Team & guys who needed something to watch once Twitter & Instagram slowed down. Before them, the Yin Yang Twins rapped about it. Mimic the melody of “Whistle While You Work” and while you do (yes, this is going EXACTLY where you think it’s going) mouth the following: “Whistle while you twerk/Go ‘head and start and make that p*ssy fart and whistle while you twerk.” TERRIBLE lyrics, right? Right. But it’s okay, now…because it’s Hannah Montana’s dance! Right? Right.

Now let’s examine the actions of one Johnny Football. America’s FIRST college freshman to win the precious Heisman Memorial Trophy. If you don’t watch college football, pretend you do and imagine the best athlete on the field. That was Johnny Football last year. I won’t bore you with stats because the difference he made couldn’t be explained by listing them anyway. He basically took a team that went 58-56 (2 games above .500 or below marginal at best) in the last 10 years and turned them into a National Championship contender in one season. As a 19 year old kid in a small town of Texas. He is basically the white Mike Vick sans the dog fighting. That’s pretty damned admirable, if you ask me. And America loved him up until the point where he was suspected of taking money for gain, which is outlawed by the NCAA for any scholarship athlete.

After news broke, he was shunned. After a few news cycles, he was given a slap on the wrist and will be playing on Saturday in Texas A & M’s opener. I could list several black athletes who, after making similarly foolish decisions, expedited their collegiate careers (read: had their eligibility terminated and were basically kicked out of college) or at the very least caused their school MAJOR sanctions and losses of scholarships.

What do they have in common, you ask?

They both display the disparate treatment “they” receive in juxtaposition with “us”. Miley is going to make MILLIONS off of something that was seen as laughable and borderline self depricating when it belonged solely to strippers, and what most assume belonged to the “black culture.” While Johnny may not share the same actions that caused attention, he is still benefitting from priveledges that only a few in this country enjoy. Simply put, they are both clearly proving a point that I pray isn’t true (yet have more evidence than needed…). And that point is that America will embrace blackness…as long as your aren’t black.

Words by Wesley Grant


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