The Harlem Shake and The Trans-Racial Nature of the Internet Meme

As I observed the latest viral video meme sweeping the internet, the Harlem Shake, I realized how unique this phenomenon is. In case you don’t know, an internet meme is something so popular that it is honored by being copied by others across the globe. Think of last year’s Gangnam Style:



Sometimes the internet meme becomes so popular that the original creator comes back and mocks themselves:

I particularly love how simple the Harlem Shake meme is to duplicate with just a few friends in a room:

But what strikes me more than anything is how these internet memes transcend race and place. You will find white military guys in Norway, Japanese teen girls in a bedroom, black college kids in Atlanta, mixed groups in an office in London, all fully participating in their version of the meme. Has this ever happened before? The only thing similar is how hip-hop has been embraced and adapted across the globe. But even that is acknowledged as a traditionally Black music form. The internet meme seems to belong to no one. Or said better, it seems to belong to the world. Engaging in the meme doesn’t make you less Black or less authentic it would appear. It’s odd to say, but the internet meme through such services as Youtube might be the ultimate representation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a trans-racial open society.


1 Comment

Filed under Trends

One response to “The Harlem Shake and The Trans-Racial Nature of the Internet Meme

  1. Earnest Harris

    Excellent post. My son just the other day came home and had me watch the “Harlem Shuffle” video, saying it is the rage at his high school. And you are right, it crosses cultural lines as his school is very mixed. Another real popular one right now is “Thrift Store” by Macklemore.

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