If you’ve been anywhere near social media within the past two months, you’ve seen the circulating “cash me outside” meme. If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid this atrocity, here’s a brief explanation of its context, content, and problematic nature.
The “cash me outside” meme (at 3:28 in the video) originated with a thin, white, thirteen-year-old girl named Danielle Bregoli. Described as a problem child by her mother and featured on an episode of Dr. Phil, Bregoli says to Dr. Phil that the audience should “cash me outside, how bow dah” for laughing at her and her bad attitude.
The meme offers many different kinds of spelling of this absurdly confrontational proclamation, but the spelling is not the main issue here.
The big issue with this popularized meme is that it appropriates black language, culture, and creativity. By saying, “cash me outside, how bow dah,” Bregoli has come into fame through the culturally appropriated use of ebonics, which is defined as “African American vernacular English.”
Cultural appropriation, defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” is a large issue due to the fact that dominant social groups that hold privilege are the ones who appropriate culture from the minority social groups that they regularly oppress.
The damage of white culture “borrowing” from black culture for fashion trends is unmistakable. The white culture we live in subdues black people who practice black culture as a stereotype, yet praises white people who exploit this same black culture as being edgy or fashion-forward.
In the context of cultural appropriation, Bregoli has become famous through the use of ebonics while speaking as a white woman, whereas African Americans who use ebonics are discriminated against and seen in a negative and racist light, depicted as “ghetto” or “ratchet.” Bregoli more than likely has no knowledge of the history of ebonics nor the black culture her social media persona relies on, yet is using this culture as a funny trend to gain fame and fortune.
This meme of Danielle Bregoli is unfortunately just a larger part of an not-so-innocently racist trend among white or light skinned celebrities where black culture is trivialized and monetarily capitalized on while black people are persecuted for following these same cultural markers.
Miley Cyrus is an example of how black culture is appropriated as trendy by white celebrities. Cyrus, at one point, wore her hair in dreadlocks at an award’s show and was seen as being trendy and edgy with her stylistic choices. Zendaya, a black celebrity, also wore her hair in dreadlocks at an awards show, but was publicly criticized for looking like “she smells like … weed” by Entertainment News host Giuliana Rancic.
Kylie Jenner is another major celebrity who heavily profits from the exploitation of black creativity and culture. Jenner regularly wears her hair in cornrows and in other ways that exploit black culture as being a fashion trend, in addition to enhancing her lips to look larger. Black people constantly face racist slurs for the appearance of their lips, while Jenner’s lip jobs have led to her receiving monumental profits and praise in the makeup industry.
With the constant circulation of cultural exploitation in memes featuring Bregoli, Cyrus, Jenner, and countless others, it’s easy to assume that meme culture is nothing more than a harmful perpetuation of stereotypes taken on by the dominant white culture. However, memes can be particularly useful as a form of resistance.
Memes have the power to point out racist double standards towards celebrities adopting black culture as “trendy.” One meme critiquing appropriation surfaced depicting a Cyrus paper dress-up doll, entitled “Cultural Appropriation Edition,” featuring a “bonus” black woman as her accessory. By using meme culture to demonstrate racial double standards, subtle racism is made more obvious.
If you have participated in the circulation of the “cash me outside” meme without realizing the harmful messages it perpetuates and want to correct this mistake, the best way is by spreading education and tolerance. Educating yourself and others about social injustice is the best way to stop the spreading of cultural appropriation and exploitation of black culture.