It’s been almost two weeks since the video of a twerking diner and a reactionary owner went viral on social media. The now-viral footage betrayed a crucial divide in the black community and a harmful preoccupation with what lies on the surface. Some viewers contended that the twerking diner had no respect for black men, and a consensus sided with the indignant manager.
I couldn’t help but think that those reluctant to castigate domestic terrorism engendered by the African-adjacent took an immediate and overt stance against this black woman’s behavior. It proved quite upsetting how quickly many reprimanded the black woman claiming that she deserved to be ejected from the establishment. This scenario deemed twerking as on par with sagging pants which became grounds for ejecting black men from spaces, and hoodies and loud music became a “reason” to murder black people. Twerking will soon, if it has not already, become a means to villainize black people or at least serve as grounds for conceptualizing black degeneracy and vindicating suspicion against black people, black women in particular.
Moreover, what is most troublesome about this scenario, and what has largely gone unsaid, is a seemingly undetected pseudo elitism. What I mean here, is that the issue is not the twerker herself, but she who twerks. So when the owner spoke of wanting a “nice” establishment for “his” people, he meant an establishment of black folks autonomous from the twerking aesthetic.
To provide an analogy, let us consider what many cannot stop talking about: the election. Many are still elated about Kamala Harris’s upcoming vice-presidency. Notably, many remain blissful that she is the first “black” woman elected to the position. Harris is a woman of mixed race, with a professional degree, and a white husband. She paints a white ideal of blackness that conveys and engenders a culture of elitism. This level of elitism is perhaps most overt in considering Mary J Blige, who provided the voice for Harris’s entry but would not be seen to bear the necessary politics of respectability to in fact “be” vice president. I provide this analogy to illuminate the exclusionary politics often disguised as “respectability” that become the gatekeeper for spaces that delineate a firm line of demarcation between those of the black collective yet remain anchored in superficiality.
Moreover, the restaurant owner’s tirade was not about maintaining black politics of respectability, it was about setting a firm notice about the type of exclusionary ambiance he wished to establish amongst his own people. This line of demarcation mirrors the Harris-Blige optic where Harris gains entry and Blige provides the entertainment, present only in the auditory feature of her talent. Similarly, this restaurant plays “twerk” music, but those who twerk are not to dine in the establishment. My words do not suggest that twerking is what anyone should warrant in an establishment, but I do wish to note that the dismemberment of blacks seen to personify what an anti-black world deems degeneracy is simply another form of cultural dehumanization. In countless spaces, the black sound or other components of black culture remain far more welcome than black people themselves. From blackface parties to several series on streaming black forms the black dismemberment functions as a normalized feature of “high art.” Black spaces should not mirror this form of dehumanization amongst our own.
Additionally, I wish to highlight the double standards that many black gatekeepers or aspiring black elitists have for those within their culture but would easily pardon the African-adjacent for on the account of their non-blackness. To be specific, I highly doubt this owner would have conducted himself as he did if Miley Cyrus or one of her white female counterparts twerked in his establishment. Even if they were given a warning, it is doubtful that he would have addressed the rest of the diners abrasively to mark his territory of pseudo elitism.
Nevertheless, standards are a formidable way to proceed in life, but not at the expense of exclusionary practices that level black people according to hegemonic ideals. By making a reservation and being granted entry in a gate kept space, True Kitchen and Kocktails became synonymous with a plethora of other spaces that vet blacks based on proximity to white ideology. Therefore, the largest issue here is that what (to some) looked like a black man “taking his respect,” was intra-cultural policing which acts as a platform to vindicate domestic terrorism from external sources.
To those questioning my perspective, consider why this scenario, out of all that occurs daily to black people and within black communities, made the news. Considering the trajectory of black media coverage, the footage went viral on white media platforms due to its work to elucidate the myth of meritocracy. Specifically, that the merit of “inherent white goodness” and respectability, not systemic favor, grants the African-adjacent nice things, and the dissent from said goodness or respectability merits the detriment of facilities that inundate the black communities. This misconceptualization serves as an undercurrent for American elitism and affords yet another form to the ideology that says blacks are best murdered, caged in jails, their diversified abjection the sountrack to global white supremacy.