On Miley Cyrus and Racism

26 Aug

So this happened last night:

… and the internet (predictably) exploded.

And just to be clear, I agree that what Miley did was frankly disgusting, but not for the reasons that you might think.

Most of the criticism of Miley’s VMA performance has focussed on her attire and dancing style, with people claiming that her dress (or rather, state of undress) and sexual movements were vulgar, degrading and slutty. Quite a few people mentioned that her parents must be ashamed; there was a lot of discussion about how sad it was that sweet, innocent Hannah Montana had come to this. I saw a lot of derisive remarks about how Miley wants attention at any cost; some even went so far to say that Miley is sick and that this behaviour was a cry for help.

Then, this morning, I watched a fuckton of white feminists totally ignore the racist aspects of what Miley did in their rush to defend her from slut-shaming.

Now, let’s be clear: there was definitely a lot of slut-shaming going on, and it was really fucking disgusting. But what was equally disgusting was white feminists’ silence over Miley’s minstrel show.

What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being “ghetto” without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean.

Miley is doing her best to promote herself as a part of rachet culture, which Jody Rosen describes as “the potent sexual symbolism of black female bodies,” while simultaneously treating the black women in her videos and performances as props. She is taking elements of black culture and using them to give her the patina of street cred that she wants so badly. She is playing at being black without even trying to understand what the lived experience of being black really is. She is appropriating cultural elements without taking any time to reflect on her position of privilege and how her use of the term “ratchet” or her twerking are contributing to the oppression of black people.

Even worse, in her performance last night Miley used black women as props – like, literal props – and barely anyone said anything. I saw very few people displaying any outrage over the fact that Miley was, at one point, slapping a faceless black woman on the ass as if she was nothing more than a thing for Miley to dominate and humiliate. I saw barely anyone discussing the fact that Miley’s sexual empowerment, or whatever you want to call it, should not come at the cost of degrading black women. I saw a whole lot of people giving Miley a pass for her behaviour because she’s young and naive and sheltered.

I saw many prominent white feminists use their sizeable platforms to defend Miley’s right to rub her ass on Robin Thicke while wearing flesh-coloured bra and panties.  I watched as those same people remained embarrassingly silent about Miley’s behaviour towards black women and black culture.

And I think that I get it? Sort of, maybe? I think that white feminists are worried that if they’re seen criticizing certain aspects of Miley’s performance, then that will somehow invalidate their defence of her right to express her sexuality however. It’s as if they’re worried that someone will jump in and say, aha so if you admit that there was something wrong with her performance, then you aren’t allowed to decry our criticism of her. That’s not how it works, though. Not by a long shot.

The thing is, it’s not an either-or type situation. We can and should be able to say both that Miley’s sexuality is her own and hers to use in whatever manner she chooses while at the same time acknowledge that Miley’s cultural appropriation and specifically her treatment of her backup dancers is frankly disgusting. We should be able to say that no woman should ever be shamed for how she dresses or expresses her sexuality while at the same time say that white people need to be really fucking careful about how and when they express their enthusiasm for black culture.

Above all, white feminists need to realize that calling out Miley for her racist performance is not somehow detrimental to the feminist cause. They need to wake up and realize that perhaps the black women that she objectified – you know, the women she literally treated as objects – deserve some of their attention, too. Above all, they need to start walking their own fucking talk and begin showing some of that intersectionality that everyone is so fond of discussing.

So yeah. What Miley did last night was gross, but not because it was raunchy or vulgar. It was gross because it was racist, and what’s grosser still is our tacit approval of her racism.

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200 Responses to “On Miley Cyrus and Racism”

  1. haludek August 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    I can’t help but wonder what was the role of those particular black dancers. As much as I understand they signed some kind of a contract to dance on stage in her performances and be paid for it and they’d rather keep their job – but at what cost? I’d like to know if they somehow objected to this during the preparations and were somehow made to swallow their pride and do it anyway, or did they see nothing wrong in this. They participated in this racist performance and should be held responsible as well.

    • Sean August 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      They’re dancers trying to “make it” in the entertainment industry. “And will you swallow your pride and be a black sex object on stage for Miley Cyrus in front of millions of viewers, and then go on to be discussed for weeks on all major social media outlets”? “Yes, The Man, I will.”

      • Drea August 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

        Except nobody is really discussing them… Do you know any of their names? I don’t so they are just relagated to being seen as the women who let their people (race and gender) down in an epic way

      • BUNZA August 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        YUPP!!!! I DON’T GET WHY PEOPLE ARE MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL OUT OV WHAT SHE DID THO! WHO REALLY GIVES A SH!T, JUSS LIKE JANETS TITTY AT THE SUPER BOWL, MADONNA, BRITNEY & CHRISTINAS KISS ON VMA THAT ONE YEAR… SH!T LIKE THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS!!!

  2. Jason August 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    This article is actually racist. I thought Miley’s performance was as disgusting as the next person, but to suggest she was being racist? Its articles like this that promote a division between races in this country.

    To suggest racism when there isn’t racism is sad. Its like you WANT there to be racism so you have something to talk about. JEASE! I bet right now you think I am racist for having this opinion, and for eating this apple that I’m eating right now. Sooooo racist.

    It’s also funny how you blame Miley for everything (which yes, she deserves much of the blame for dancing like an idiot and being a terrible role model), and do not even mention that MTV was the station it was airing on. Don’t forget, they have to approve what she does beforehand…

    • White girl August 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      I agree. Everything must have a racial spin nowadays. God forbid it’s just a slut with a terrible choreographer.

      • Drea August 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

        Eh….. But there is the whole part about the fact that her background dancers were all black women with big butts.. You don’t think that meant something?

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      hmmm yes some powerful insights here hmmm good god yes this jease kid has solved racism wow ok thank goodness.

      • Stokely Carmichael August 27, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

        What a condescending fat fuck you are, and appropriator of black culture to boot; “independent rap legend.” You even accessorize with a token black dude, so racist.

    • Billy Grant August 28, 2013 at 1:42 am #

      Why is it that every time someone explains how something could be taken as “racism” that people try to downplay it by calling that person racist? Noticing that Miley has taken something that is predominantly done by black people and using it to promote herself isn’t racist. That is what happened. Sadly though, I don’t understand why so many child star try so hard to get out of the wholesome image just to achieve a thug or slut one.

    • Lucien Sias August 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

      I agree with Jason. The writer actually demeans all Black women by stating that Miley’s cultural appropriation “n short, she can imagine that she is being “ghetto” without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean. All Black women do not live in the ghetto and all Black women do not dance provacative.

      • Arianna August 30, 2013 at 1:57 am #

        The issue is not whether or not all Black women live in the “ghetto” the issue is that that performance was a modern day Black face minstrel show. The issue is she took one aspect of Black culture as it is perceived by mainstream media and portrayed it in order to perpetuate stereotypes. The issue is that the only women on the stage with her were Black women that she was using as props rather than people. The issue is that the performance is going to give many people wrongful ideas about what Blackness is and what it means to be Black

      • Siera September 13, 2013 at 5:59 am #

        Seconded.

  3. Amber August 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    That was not representative of “black culture” and it was ignorant for you to say it was.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      I think you need to take that up with the thousands of African-American women who have expressed that they feel some ownership over twerking and the representation of their bodies in popular media. It probably makes more sense to read their blogs than to contradict a white Canadian blogger who takes them at their word.

      • Tina August 27, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

        Thank you! As she said it is an ‘element’ of black culture– it is PART of it– and then whether one wants to get into the class issue of it is something else… but twerking or all the OTHER names it has is something that definitely came out and from the motherland into the diaspora and right from Black Americans.. whether one is ashamed of it or not- proud or not.

  4. Courtney August 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    I sincerely doubt Miley was degrading those women — more likely, she surrounded herself with black women on stage because she wants to BE a black woman. A popular stereotype that African-Americans are excellent dancers, and Caucasians all dance like Carlton from Fresh Prince. Current culture also suggests that those with darker skin tones have more “swag” or street cred, than their pale counterparts.

    Miley’s got everything the White Life has to offer, now she wants to see what else she can master.

  5. mottlecat August 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Thanks for the interesting post. It and the comments have made me wonder – is all sexuality in contemporary pop music conflated with some aspect of black American culture? I am struggling to think of a single white performer that is overtly sexual in their persona / performances that doesn’t appropriate some aspects of “ratchet culture” – a term I just encountered. Certainly Thicke is just as guilty as Cyrus if only more subtle about it. It seems like when white performers want to get their “freak on” they do it under the cover of come aspects of black American culture – allows them to be naughty, hip and relevant- talk about efficient. I am also struggling to think of a black pop performer who doesn’t exist in the hyper sexual – how did we get here?

    • andrewsss August 28, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      What would a “white womans” portrayal of her own sexuality look like? cause it seems to me like the only thing she could do that you guys would cry racism at would be wear daisy dukes, or go ballroom dancing.

      • andrewsss August 28, 2013 at 1:33 am #

        wouldnt**

  6. Ashley August 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I agree with many of the statements made in this post, but as Black people we exhibit this behavior quite frequently in music videos! Now we want to get mad when a white woman does it. We need to focus our efforts on improving the way we as Black people treat other Black people within our community. We should have been this outraged about the last 20 years of rap videos! We have to improve our communities from within and have higher expectations and standards for our own behaviors!

    • ceebee August 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      I agree 100% with you.

  7. White girl August 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    I don’t understand the point this article is trying to make. How does Miley Cyrus dancing like a slut on crack in a bear outfit demean black women? What’s funny is you look at Miley’s horrific attempt at “twerking” and think of a black woman… really? If I were black, I would be very offended that the first thing that comes to your mind after seeing a young girl dance like that, is “black culture”.

    • Arianna August 30, 2013 at 2:04 am #

      The fact that your “name” is white girl thus proving that you have never lived the Black experience nor do you have any idea how it feels to experience racism kind of invalidates what you are saying to be completely honest I mean unless you have spent extensive amounts of time doing research or taking Ethnic Studies courses… Or even read a book about racism that wasn’t written for a high school reading level.

      • whosthereplease August 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

        Totally with you on that Arianna. Miley is a total racist whether she realizes it or not and whether or not any black people were actually offended by it. I used to have alot of respect for Amy Winehouse but after seeing her live performance I was disgusted for similar reasons. ALL of her backup singers were black. And I realized that shes using all those black singers as props to make herself look more segregated and versatile. Also, shes trying to sing like a black woman, which is totally racist. I bet shes never taken a course on how to be PC about minorities like I have. Way to exploit black singers and dancers by hiring them because theyre good at what they do.
        Honestly, like, black people were exploited and you should just observe their culture from a far without getting involved in it because chances are, at some point your white ancestors were racist to them.
        If youre white, just stick to being white. Dont appropriate anything from other cultures, just do what everyone else is doing so theres not an odd chance that some white feminist activists will get offended somewhere.
        Her performance really changed the way black people are now perceived in the world and I’m sure that in a year from now everyone will still remember it so its good that we give this article so much time and attention.

    • Killingdanse September 12, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      It seems to me that you don’t understand how Miley Cyrus abusing a black woman on stage is wrong the same way you don’t see how “abusing a woman” any woman on stage is wrong. This is something that I don’t think anyone has mentioned. Slapping, grabbing, or touching a person’s butt unless you have permission is wrong. I do have to qualify this with although she probably does have permission (they had to have rehearsed) portraying it on stage is not a particularly good thing to do. It reminds me of the sexual harassment that women endure because they happen to be women regardless of race. To me it is extremely degrading and Miley’s performance encourages. The problem with all of the aspects of her performance is not her particularly but all of the people who will emulate her because she’s famous.

  8. Chris August 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Is it okay for black people to use black women as props? Happens all the time. Miley seems to be acknowledging her whiteness by twerking right next to them. I don’t think her performance actually oppresses anyone. I think you’re taking this too far. This is disrespectful of women, period, whatever their race.

  9. Sean August 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    My only problem with the criticism of Miley Cyrus is that we shouldn’t be critiquing the pop-star. It’s not like she directs her stage performance. It’s not like she writes her own lyrics. We’re mad that the show uses black women as sex object props, rightly so, but we’re targeting the icon – not the engine that steers it.

  10. sisisodapop702 August 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Soooo… Should “black people need to be really fucking careful about how and when they express their enthusiasm for white culture?” No???? THAT’S racist. This article is more offensive than a white girl twerking on stage.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      ah thanks for the correction, racism expert.

    • Angelina La Salle August 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

      You seem to not understand what racism is. It’s the systematic oppression and dehumanization of people based on their race; it requires systemic power. This reverse racist crap is ridiculous. The reason that white people need to be careful about how and when they express their enthusiasm for black culture is because “white culture” is the social default. White people do not experience the “otherness” that POC do; they do not have to create their own culture in defiance of the social norm, as a response to oppression. For wealthy white performers to decide that they like some facet of black culture, and then use their privileges to profit off of it, while having black women in the background – as props – is gross. While Miley can easily make millions off of her dalliance with broadcasting ratchet culture, the women that created and live in that culture, can at most only hope to potentially become the sexualized background for privileged performers such as Miley. Or, because of the intersectionality, as sexualized backgrounds for black male performers. White people who want to “express their enthusiasm for black culture” need to realize that if they’re not extremely careful, then they’re likely to benefit from their privilege – inserting their social and economic powers and privileges, and only taking from it things that will further exacerbate their powers and privileges. It betrays a severe lack of critical thinking and respect.

  11. Allie August 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    This article is so much more racist and oppressive to black people than any white girl twerking could ever be. I would write more, but I’m off to go eat my breakfast burrito with some sushi and frybread. Wow, I’m a multi-cultural appropriating racist!

    • adhesiveslipper August 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      Yep. People are just like burritos. Oh wait, no, the things you’re saying don’t make sense.

  12. toni m. August 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I agree with this article, but calling Miley ‘racist’ is a long stretch. I think Miley just embraces our culture…just not the good parts of our culture. And I don’t understand why anyone would want to be “ratchet” its not cute and and its really ignorant.

  13. Mitch Henson August 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    You saw it as racist!?!? I saw it as Miley playing together with black entertainers and giving them jobs. The entertainers chose to be there too and will have a good line on their résumé from it. # racesplayingtogether Also, Miley is a woman now. She showed some empowerment in her performance. Let her progress.

  14. Jason August 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    This is asinine. The author’s mindset is clearly more racist than anything done on stage at the VMAs. Honestly, anyone who actually believes “her use of the term ‘ratchet’ or her twerking are contributing to the oppression of black people” has lost all touch with reality. Being able to pick apart such mundane activities and sincerely see cultural oppression in them belies an obsession with race befitting the most redneck good-old-boy.

  15. aprincessinprocess August 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Interesting perspective

  16. David Joseph August 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Everyone does realize and did the research that showed them that this “style of dance” is not black culture? and that it in fact came from Brazil which would be Spanish, that the Black community embraced or as you want to put it here with White Miley that the black community stole from the Spanish girls style of dance?? Soooo now about that racism???

    • Arianna August 30, 2013 at 2:09 am #

      Actually Africans brought that style of dance with them to the Americas when the were enslaved. The style of music became very infused into Latin American culture and VERY infused into Brazilian culture. The style that originated in Africa slowly transformed in different ways dependent on the country the slaves were taken to.

      • David Joseph August 31, 2013 at 10:12 am #

        Thanks for that info, I will use it to google better ;) and I mean that sincerely, I am going to look it up now..

    • blackgirl September 17, 2013 at 4:17 am #

      You wrong its not Spanish it is a old African dance .

  17. mc$ August 27, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    that shit was not racist – it was epic. get over it.

  18. rachael August 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Okay, seriously? It’s so ironic how disgustingly racist this blog post is. These black girls (who have probably danced much more provocatively in rap videos) were wearing teddy bears on their backs, not eating watermelon and fried chicken. If Miley were a different race or a black male/rapper would it still be comparable to a “minstrel show”? Hip hop is a huge part of black culture (it sure as hell didn’t originate from white people) and Miley’s current persona is heavily influenced by hip hop. This song is actually dedicated to Rihanna who, surprise, is a black female hip hop artist!

    What “white feminists need” to do is stop perpetuating the victimization of black women. There is nothing to be “embarrassingly silent” about except say, your underlying superiority complex. Feminism isn’t about race and yet you make it out to be that way. How incredibly insulting and old fashion to assume that a black person is helpless without their “white superiors”. White people are the ones who enslaved black people (and many other races) and you are continuing that with a mindset that implies they can only be saved by the same people who abused those powers to enslave them to begin with.

    And further more, I will NEVER choose to create the unsolicited tension that you’ve made by “being really fucking careful” and tip toeing around people’s feelings. If someone is offended because I enjoy different cultures that is not my problem. By expressing my “enthusiasm” carefully (as if to say, I’m at a zoo looking an endangered species that is black culture) I am choosing to segregate myself mentally, thus, once again, perpetuating the cycle of racism and our inevitable differences.

    This article was offensive and I really hope that you take a different perspective after reading comments similar to mine. There was nothing racist about what Miley did. It was completely mild compared to anything else that was a part of her performance. I’m a white girl myself but I feel I have no place to talk about the offensiveness of exploiting black culture and it’s women. They are strong people and there is nothing white people could do that they couldn’t themselves. Your wimpy blog posts just shows that ultimately it is not the ass slapping or twerking that exploits them, but the white people who continue to find racism in things where it doesn’t even exist.

    ps-
    Why don’t you lay down some statistics or other credible sources nex time? This was way to easy to nit pick when it’s all opinion based debating… What a lousy, and pretentious blog.

    • Black Girl August 28, 2013 at 1:56 am #

      ” Your wimpy blog posts just shows that ultimately it is not the ass slapping or twerking that exploits them, but the white people who continue to find racism in things where it doesn’t even exist.” –well said. What a ridiculous stretch this article is.

    • Arianna August 30, 2013 at 2:11 am #

      “If someone is offended because I enjoy different cultures that is not my problem. By expressing my “enthusiasm” carefully (as if to say, I’m at a zoo looking an endangered species that is black culture) I am choosing to segregate myself mentally, thus, once again, perpetuating the cycle of racism and our inevitable differences.” I really hope you’re a troll and that this isn’t real life.

  19. Nikole August 27, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    So the back up dancers are victims???
    I don’t think so I’m sure they were told what there role on stage was going 2 be. If they didn’t let it or Miley or her video which is out. They shouldn’t have been on that stage.
    Miley is playing herself in so many ways. She will either learn from the backlash or it will make her more popular.

    • White girl August 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      LOL, those back up dancers are certainly not “victims”. I’m sure they were well compensated for that performance, and if an all white crew was hired, she would be even more racist. It’s a lose/lose situation I guess. It’s impossible to not be racist these days.

  20. Kamili August 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    It all about the money and power. Sex sale in America! Certain people don’t care if you are Black, White or blue.

  21. Laura B. August 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    I don’t know why everyone takes this so seriously. Indeed her performance was horrible beyond words . I don’t think she meant it to be racist in any way and the fact that she din’t mean it , means it’s not racist. Not everything is about black people and not everything is about the white people either , just learn to watch something without so much judgement.

  22. JDP August 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    There is a lot more to black culture than dear Miley thinks. Generation after generation of repression is seen through dancing, singing, expression, art. This expression is ingrained in the very survival of their culture. Did you not see Will Smith clapping and yet the expression on his face? Most black people got that expression, they saw just the slightly slower way he clapped, the frozen smile/smirk on his face. They saw that because many have had to express their discernment much in the same way all of their lives. Miley cheated and pretended she could identify with struggles that she knows nothing about, and that just makes her rude. She has her Disney world to express, not the inner lives of black women. She may have had her struggles, but they aren’t shit compared to the asses of the black women she carelessly slapped, and she was not the voice of strength her lyrics were claiming to be to them. What Miley did, like so many others before her have tried to do, is piggy back off of a culture who has had real struggle. And obviously, certain people did not see that her Disney journey made her the powerful diva she was so desperately trying to portray. Instead she ended up looking like a little spoiled brat, clearly stuck in a identity crisis.

    • Black Girl August 28, 2013 at 2:29 am #

      What the fuck are you fucking talking about?? This article is the worst article I’ve ever read, and this comment is even more enraging. Dancing is not an insight into past or current black culture struggles. Are you seriously trying to say that because Miley had a show on Disney and was born into a white family, she’s not allowed bend over and shake her ass?? The idea of Darius Rucker being a country star must blow your mind. Oh my god, Eminem, how could you?! YOU’RE WHITE, EMINEM. YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO ACT LIKE ANYTHING BUT. Jesus Christ how closed-minded can you be? Blurring the lines of race by imitating a style of dance you admire should be a welcome invitation for a country that has fought hard to eliminate segregation. And if by identity crisis you mean she’s a 20 year old trying to find herself, uh, yeah. She’s having an identity crisis. Just like every single 20 year old trying to find a sense of self. How perfectly normal. Be a damn adult and stop talking shit about every move she makes.

    • White girl August 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      LOL, why are you selling your “culture”, and “people” short. You look at that trashy performance, a young girl shaking her ass like a hoe on crack, and this “black culture”. I don’t know what to say. She piggy backed off “black culture”? Well, after seeing that terrible performance I don’t think anyone will want to claim that as their own. You can have it, lol.

  23. whosthereplease August 27, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Anne,
    I found my way here through The Huffington Post, where your article “What Miley Cyrus Did Was Disgusting — But Not For the Reasons You Think” was posted. I noticed at the top of your entry, there’s a little blurb about you, which mentions that you teach yoga.
    Well, according to your own stream of logic, I guess you are racist for appropriating an oppressed culture’s sacred ritual in order to have a hot mom bod. Yoga is a religious experience for many cultures, probably more sacred then twerking, and you, being a white, self righteous, privileged white woman appropriate it without taking the time to reflect on the struggles Eastern cultures have experienced.

    P.S. You need to be really fucking careful, your privilege is showing.

  24. Michelle August 28, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    1. Miley often does not even know what the choreographer, set designer or stage manager have in store for her on stage. She does not pick the theme, costumes & does not hand select the dancers. It’s laughable that everyone gives her so much credit for all this. She is taught certain moves by a separate choreographer (it was a black choreographer that taught her the Twerk) and spends much of her time practicing the songs. Her costume design does have to be oked by her, and she’s shown pictures of the costumes used by other dancers in the show. Her new shocking image was put together by a team of image consultants, and the tongue thing…well, one must put SOMETHING of their own in their performance. While it was pretty gross, the consultants were right, weren’t they? Any publicity is good publicity.

  25. AnniePerkins August 28, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    What an educated response.
    I told my partner tonight that it made me feel weird that the whole thing bothered me a bit. Maybe Im getting old, but I felt offended. Thats weird, especially for me being so open with my sexuality.
    I REALLY liked this response.
    I believe Rhiannas face described it all…

  26. drv August 28, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    One thing people commenting on this article seem to be forgetting is that there is a difference between racist behavior and attention-seeking behavior. It may be true that the…remarkably disgusting antics of Miley Cyrus on this program are to some degree a part of African American culture, but who’s to say that any other culture does not do this? I say that we need to realize the truth in things and forget the “buzzwords” so common in our descriptive language, such as racism. The definition of racism is, in actuality, the hate of one particular ethnic group or culture being expressed though words or actions. It is too broad of a term to use in this case. There may be racist acts going on, but they may not be intentionally racist in nature. One cannot accuse another of such an act without the full set of facts surrounding the issue. Bottom line: too bad, Miley. From Americas sweetheart to the next Britney spears and/or anyone else like that. Lets grow up, shall we?

  27. Angel August 28, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    You are the one sounding racist. Seriously. I’m a black woman in the ghetto and her performance was not racist. Stop looking for attention.

  28. Candie August 28, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    Why does it have to be about racism? You state that M.C. Knows nothing about being black. What do you know about bring black, better yet black American? Let racism die by not placing the race card down at all. I agree M. C. performance was disgusting go for so many reasons. Her outfit was not one of them. Also she has grown up like we all do, she is no longer Hannah Montana. Lets address real issues; her performance disgraced herself, women, and has set a bad example for her young fans. Society has excepted this behavior and our young children, teens, and 20’s have fully embraced this new attitude about open sexuality. These are the issues we should face with old morals and respect.

  29. Junie August 28, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I did not think she was being racist. Disgusting Yes! As a black woman and mother I have always had to be subjected to such sterotypes. Along with being vigelent to guard myself and protect my daughter from such filth. However,
    I believe what is making people so upset is Miley has been accepted into not black culture but into a sub culture (every race has one just think of Honey Boo Boo)The subculture is saying to young middle class and upper class white girls. We accept Miley. We don’t care if you can’t dance, look goofy, have a flat behind,come from a two parent home and have opportunities. You can be accepted and be considered real cool as long as you behave like a “ratchet porn star stripper”. Buy our music, clothes, and other products. The table seems to be turning. Those that are so upset. Why only cry out and be outraged when such harmful images effect young white girls. They are damaging to all.

  30. David August 28, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    I read your article on HuffPo.

    Your post highlights your belief that black people and white people are separate. You paint a picture of two cultures living together that can never (shouldn’t?) come together and state that Cyrus twerking was appropriation of “black culture”. You then went on to ascribe this an attempt to be “ghetto”. I don’t know what white culture is, but are white people supposed to remain in a cultural vacuum, unable to be influenced by other cultures? That seems discriminatory to me, especially when white people are now a minority in the United States in the under age five category (http://goo.gl/Y3bEfX). If I have described your article correctly, what do you think is “proper” behaviour for white people when it comes to displays of “culture”? And while I disagree with the term, what do you personally feel are the limits of cultural “appropriation” for white people?

  31. iltby August 28, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Why isn’t this credited with the original author?

    • bellejarblog August 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      I am the original author? This is my blog? I’m not sure who you think wrote this.

      • iltby September 5, 2013 at 7:41 am #

        Apologies, I realised that after I posted this…total brain fart.

      • iltby September 5, 2013 at 7:43 am #

        Oh and for what it’s worth, I thought this was a fabulous article. It outlined a lot of the problems I had with the performance and highlighted some new ones I wasn’t aware of.

  32. Conte August 28, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    You do realize that, by suggesting Miley should not have done something because of the colour of her skin, you are exhibiting racist behaviour? You are literally saying that, because Miley is white, she can’t do something that another ethnicity can… Think back through history, sound familiar?

    • bellejarblog August 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      You literally don’t know what the concept of racism is.

      • whosthereplease August 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

        you’re actually the most privileged, ignorant self righteous “author” I’ve encountered in a long time. you’re obviously white and call anything racist because you want to feel politically correct and give yourself a pat on the back. dont go around saying that people literally dont know what racism is. i hope you realize that 95% of your readers disagree with you. Almost all black women who commented on this think you are looking for attention.
        People in the audience looked disgusted because Miley looked like an idiot, not because she was being racist.
        maybe you should go back to exploiting other minority cultures and stop blogging about it

      • Isabella August 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

        “You literally don’t know what the concept of racism is.” Conte, and the rest of those readers who realize how terribly ridiculous this blog is, clearly know more about the concept of racism than you do.

  33. Gruk August 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    What elements of Black Culture can white people appropriate? If white people are able to appropriate elements of black culture – how does one determine which elements are appropriate and which ones are not?

  34. Sarah August 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi Anne, just wanted to let you know that I linked back to this post on my blog (hope that’s okay?). It’s more of a compilation of a few reads on this topic than a post in itself, but if you want to see where it’s posted the link is : http://sarahlibros.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/on-observing-celebrities-post-vma.html

    • bellejarblog August 28, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      Yes! That’s totally fine! And thank you!

  35. Jon August 29, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    This post is so stupid, a simple search of the definition of “racism” on Google proves that what she did was not racist. Seriously, look up the definition of a word before you waste an entire blog post on a topic of which you have no understanding. Face it, Everyone was condemning Miley Cyrus for being a slut before you got a chance to blog it yourself. Distraught over what you had thought was an original idea for a blog, you decided to reach for the stars with an extremely shaky premise, controversial statement, and completely irrelevant “collection” of evidence. It shows, and you failed spectacularly.

  36. LesYeux Mechants (@LesYeuxMechants) August 29, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    I had no idea that Ontario Shores let patients get online or that Huffington Post was so desperate for bloggers. This rant is of the lowest order, it looks like something written by Lindsay Lohan in a very bad moment. It makes about as much sense as Lindsay Lohan. Ms. Theriault is a very poor example of a feminist or a speaker for racial equality (or anything for that matter), as she wrote this like a bona fide racist herself. I had to read over this 3 times to make sure this wasn’t something from The Onion or The Daily Currant. The Huffington Post should fire her and I’m sure The Onion would love to have her. I truly believe that this must be a publicity stunt on the author’s part, since there is no such thing as bad publicity. She knew this ridiculous rant would go viral.

  37. NORASHIKIN SAHOL HAMID September 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on POLITICS, WAR, RELIGION & SOCIETY.

  38. Marie jude September 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Everyone should read the lyrics to the we can’t stop song which says a shoutout to homegirls with big butts and to let let people put you down because you are beautiful as you are. That is why they were on stage. How is that racist? Where dies appropriation of blk culture begin and end? Is a white person singing a jazz song racist??

  39. nyambol September 2, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    I’m not inclined to take seriously accusations of racism from a white woman in Montreal (9% black population) who does yoga and hangs out in coffee houses. But if she wants to be taken seriously when pontificating on “playing at being black” and racism, she would do well to start with a concrete definition of “racism.” I don’t think she can come up with a definition that will not make her argument here look totally wrongheaded. I could be wrong, of course, but I don’t have the impression from the article that she put a whole lot of thought into what, exactly, racism is.

    It is even possible that a white woman telling black people what is “racist” falls into that category. Most notably, in the aftermath of the VMA performance all the vocal outrage was among whites.

  40. nude amater photo September 2, 2013 at 11:49 am #

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  41. R September 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Racist? Really? It’s so lame how the most idiotic things get the “racist” card. I think you were a little desperate for readership, because to honestly deduce that her performance was racist is, well, a very poor observation. Raunchy? Yes… Of course. But racist? Tone it down. It’s not that serious.

    Perhaps asking a black or minority their opinion.

  42. Glenn September 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    it worked, look at how many of you people posted.. And by you people, I mean you humans. Just in case you thought I was being racist.

  43. takeaswiminmyhead September 4, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    I am new to this site and blogging so I apologize I don’t even really know what I am doing. But I think it is great the the original poster? Blogger? Sorry I don’t know the terminology, gave such an interesting take on why what Miley did was icky. I personally am sick of reading a bunch of comments and postings on social media about how her sexual provocative moves were oh so wrong. As far as her trying to be sexy…she kind of failed but if that is how she wants to be then she should go for it. I remember that one part in the act where she grabbed a larger african american women’s ass. I don’t quite get what statement she is trying to make but it seems she is trying to fit into some kind of culture she knows nothing about

  44. JohnD September 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Interviewer: How are we gonna get rid of racism?
    Morgan Freeman: Stop talking about it.

  45. Walter White September 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    You are the racist. The only reason Miley Cyrus got any attention for being vulgar is because she is white. Vulgarity is accepted and promoted among blacks by the media, and you don’t see the real reason. The people who run the media want to promote the demise of the African race, and you are playing into their hands
    Fathers, be there for your daughters and teach them to respect themselves. They are more than cheap sex toys, but the media doesn’t treat them as such anymore.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Things Amanda Macotte Thinks Are Important | Danielle Paradis - August 27, 2013

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  6. Miley Cyrus | See Me - August 27, 2013

    […] “Even worse, in her performance last night Miley used black women as props – like, literal props – and barely anyone said anything. I saw very few people displaying any outrage over the fact that Miley was, at one point, slapping a faceless black woman on the ass as if she was nothing more than a thing for Miley to dominate and humiliate. I saw barely anyone discussing the fact that Miley’s sexual empowerment, or whatever you want to call it, should not come at the cost of degrading black women. I saw a whole lot of people giving Miley a pass for her behaviour because she’s young and naive and sheltered.”–From http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/on-miley-cyrus-and-racism/ […]

  7. Miley Cyrus’ imitation of black life adds insult to injury | Creatively Brown - August 27, 2013

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  18. 2013 In Review: Part 2 | The Belle Jar - January 6, 2014

    […] also wrote about Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, which resulted in a small internet shitstorm. The piece, when republished in the Huffington […]

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