I am ashamed to say that I was amused & entertained by the faux harlem shake* craze that swept the world wide web recently. I am ashamed that I recommended videos for people to watch, I am ashamed that I even considered doing a video myself. I am ashamed & deeply sorry. It’s not like I don’t know the original Shake. In fact, it was one of the first dance moves I thought I could do (I was wrong), needless to say whenever an opportunity to dance arose (which, in my life, is often) I would move my shoulders vigorously from side to side and stiffening when I thought was necessary. Granted, what I used to do in school wasn’t the Harlem Shake & when I realised I couldn’t Shake I stopped calling it the Harlem Shake.
From the renaissance, to an adoptive home of hip-hop, all the in between & all the after – Harlem has been oozing with Black culture & history. But as with most things/cultures/people belonging to Blacks, they get stolen &/or distorted. So people get their lobes stretched not understanding the significance tribes like the Mursi attach to such traditions, people remember the Cotton Club for it’s good Jazz but forget it was a racist institution, and people will only remember that Malcolm was anti-white but forget that after he came back from Mecca he became far more racially inclusive. Black & PoC identities have for a long time been stripped, remodelled & white-washed & this new craze is just another example. The harlem shake craze is (maybe not so) obviously offensive. It takes something that belongs to a group of people, mocks it, then encourages the world to mock it too. It removes the seriousness, or rather, delegitimises something that is part of real Harlem culture, real Black culture. It is not a joke.
Thankfully, the craze is coming to an end now, however we all need to learn from this. Cultural appropriation is alive & galavanting across cyberspace but it needs to stop. We need to sit up, be watchful & mindful of the things we promote & are entertained by. Thank you to those who weren’t for a minute taking the crap, who woke the rest of us up. And again, sorry Harlem for even giving this thing time of day.
p.s. *lower case for the fake stuff.