An Open Letter to Melissa Harris-Perry, Who is Very Upset Over the “Harlem Shake”

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry,

Why is everyone so upset over the “Harlem Shake” meme? Why does it have to be a “mislabeled, so-called ‘Harlem Shake’ dance craze?” Why is the immediate, obvious, question people have “why aren’t they doing the harlem shake?” when it comes to this, followed by a long diatribe about what the real harlem shake is, and how Harlem is being robbed? Why speak at all about people not understanding the origin of the harlem shake dance, but then fail to even comprehend that this current meme is based off of Baauer‘s “Harlem Shake” song, which contains a sample of someone saying “and do the harlem shake?”

I ask these questions because these are the questions that get presented to me, unnecessarily. Either I’m not thinking enough, or the world is thinking too much. Sure, the kids don’t understand a dance craze that hasn’t been popular since the early 2000s, maybe because it’s a decade old and like the Goodie Mob said, they don’t dance no mo’. And while I can’t say that you don’t know who Baauer or his “Harlem Shake” song is, I know you didn’t lay mention to it at all, which is poor reporting when you’re trying to present a clear picture, right?

Is this really what we’re worrying about? If kids are dancing on-beat or not? So what if they are? As much as you say they are misunderstanding Harlem culture, you’re completely missing today’s Internet/EDM culture. It’s not about purposefully trying to misdirect anyone from anything – especially if the people you claim are doing this are ignorant to anything you’re speaking about. And if its about appropriation and control over someone’s art, is it also over certain words used? Should no one else be able to use the term “Harlem Shake” because it’s a dance craze that was already out there? Then what is your justification over the Roger Rabbit?

I say all of this to say, why you mad, Melissa? I sincerely hope “bring back the harlem shake” wasn’t on your list of things to report on MSNBC before you retire. I respect what you’re saying, but without bringing forth the full picture, you’re doing no better than those who you say are appropriating the culture in this manner.

And while you may say you’re not hating, you definitely sound like you have a little hate on your heart.

  • Aaron Gary

    The problem with the meme stems from the inherent laziness that comes with it. One person does it, a million people copy it. Then they repost the hell out of it on every medium they can, each replication markedly less funny than before. Not that the original video was ever funny, but at least it was acceptable when it was just that one. It’s the same problem with all memes: most people simply aren’t funny, entertaining or interesting, and yet those same people believe they’re contributing to humor instead of killing it slowly everytime they do the same thing as everyone else.

    • khal

      I definitely agree with that.

  • z0phi3l

    I’d rather watch the “new” Harlem Shake than the “real” thing, always thought it looked like they were having seizures and not really dancing

  • DirtyHarriett

    Everyone is not mad at this one instance. It’s an accumulation of what is called “raping the culture”. I wish would have been said about hip hop years ago but it’s too late.

  • Erm

    It’s worth noting that the ‘someone saying “and do the harlem shake”‘ is suing because his music was used without permission. Appropriation…

  • CoCo

    This is exactly what I’ve been saying! Most people from the outside don’t understand that the dance isn’t the Harlem shake. But instead that these kids are just dancing/getting stupid to Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake”. And that’s pretty much all there is too it! Some people is taking it way to far and getting mad offended for something that will go ways in a few weeks/months.