The word “twerk” has been added to the Oxford dictionary.
The word “twerk” is not new. The act of twerking is not new. But the dance that finds its origins deep in African culture has recently been snapped up by mainstream media; gobbled up by white suburban kids; paraded on morning talk shows as “the new hot craze”….and, of course, appropriated and mutilated by the infamous Miley Cyrus. The word “twerk” has been in non-white vocabularies for ages; the act of twerking has been in non-white communities for even longer. So why is it being reported as new?
Because in the mind of a white-dominated culture, nothing truly exists until it has been acknowledged by white people.
“Twerk” could have been added to the Oxford dictionary years ago: it’s been used enough—maybe not by white English speakers, but plenty by black English speakers. Yet it takes Miley Cyrus’s pale, boney, rhythmless gyrations to validate a word whose roots stretch extensively beyond the years she has even existed on this planet. Miley Cyrus did not invent twerking, contrary to morning talk show hosts’ beliefs. White suburban girls did not invent twerking. Yet black girls and women—the true progenitors—have not only been roundly criticized as whorish and scandalous for doing at clubs, parties, etc. what Miley Cyrus has done on a stage in front of millions, they have also been robbed: the true inventors of what has become a part of mainstream culture, obscured.
Just as America had not truly been discovered until Columbus set his chalky, aimless foot on it, nothing truly has been done until its been done by white people. No ass has truly twerked until that ass is a Caucasian one.
It is a matter of ownership, but also one of identity. The Oxford Dictionary defines twerking as follows:
[no object] informal
- dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance:
just wait till they catch their daughters twerking to this song
twerk it girl, work it girl
1990s: probably an alteration of work
To say nothing of the sexist implications in the usage example, look at the origin. “1990s.” Not who, not how, not where. “Probably an alteration of work.” Probably?
It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that mainstream exposure means just that: exposure. Of the truth, of history, of origins. Don’t be fooled. It can just as easily mean deletion—of truth, of history, of people.
Twerking exists whether the Oxford Dictionary acknowledges it or not, just as it existed before Miley Cyrus got her hands on it. A word does not need to be spoken by white lips before that word is real. Colonization is constantly mutating. I hope you’re paying attention.