This Sunday, MTV aired their annual Video Music Awards (VMA), hosted by the one and only Miley Cyrus. Most of the english speaking world knows who Miley Cyrus is from her hit children’s show “Hannah Montana” and from her crazy antics as of the past 3 years. Cyrus is also known for her philanthropic work and has started a foundation, called the Happy Hippie Foundation. The organization aims to fight against homeless youths, particularly LGTBQ youths. A noble cause indeed Miss Miley; however it does not excuse your insensitive and at times racist behavior.
It’s no secret that white artists have been ripping off non-white artists for years and making millions off of it. Iggy Azalea, Katy Perry (which makes me infinitely sad) and even Elvis Presley have all appropriated other cultures in their acts and music. Miley Cyrus is one of the most blatant offenders of other people’s cultures.
Lets start with an incident that happened a week ago. Miley gave an interview with the New York Times in which she discussed the infamous Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift almost-feud. For those of you unaware, allow me to bring you up to speed. Minaj expressed her unhappiness that her videos “Anaconda” and “Feeling Myself” were snubbed for Video Of The Year nominations at the awards show. She tweeted that “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.” She also went on to say that “Black women influence culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.” Taylor Swift, making everything about her, assumed this was about her and after words were exchanged online, eventually backtracked on her ignorant statements and apologized. Good job, Taylor. Anyway, Miley took to the NYT interview to not only call Nicki a rude person but also said “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it. And it’s not anger like, ‘Guys, I’m frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.’ You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, ‘Eh, I didn’t get my VMA.” White feminism strikes again. Who is Miley, a white privileged woman, to tell Nicki Minaj how to feel? Yes, Nicki (and a lot of other women) are angry. They’re angry that women of color aren’t given the same spotlight that white women are. They’re angry that year after year at every award show, they aren’t celebrated or given proper recognition. And they’re certainly mad that white feminists, like Miley, think they have the right to speak for them. Nicki Minaj has every right to “make it about herself” because it DOES involve her. Glossing over her hurt and her anguish simply because you don’t understand her anger is wrong.
Let’s move forward into last week’s VMA debacle. MTV gave Miss Miley total control over the show, and unlike previous hosts, was very involved with the show all night long. MTV hired Cyrus because they know that in addition to being unpredictable and “edgy”, she’s ratings gold. Love her or hate her, we all tuned in that night to see how crazy she was going to get. We did not, however, anticipate her racist minstrel show. We saw many outfit changes. Miley came out looking like Lady Gaga’s second grade art projects but was noticeably sporting long dreads. For anyone who STILL doesn’t understand why it isn’t okay for white people to sport “trendy” hairstyles like box braids or dreads, allow me to show you the light. Basically, women of color have hairstyles such as (but certainly not limited to) braids or dreads and are looked down or labeled as “ghetto” or “unprofessional”. Some women even find it hard to get jobs that allow that certain hairstyle. Could you imagine being denied a job because of your hairstyle? However, when white women in positions of power such as Kylie Jenner or Miley Cyrus wear their hair in cornrows, they are praised and looked at as “edgy”. It sends a message to the world that black people aren’t of value, but their hairstyles and fashion are. While Miley Cyrus certainly isn’t the only white person guilty of doing this, she is one of the few people who do and happen to be in the public eye.
The final nail in the coffin was when Nicki Minaj accepted her award for her video Anaconda. She took to the stage thanking her fans and her pastor, and also took a moment to call out Miley for having “a lot to say about me in the press. Miley, what’s good?” The crowd cheered on Ms. Minaj for taking a stand against Cyrus, whose flat ass continues to be kissed to audiences everywhere. Miley simply brushed off her comments stating that the press twists words all of the time, and belittled her win by telling Nicki, “congratu-f*cking-lations”, before moving on to whatever topic was planned next. Miley stood there in her fake dreads in all of her culturally appropriated shame, and did what she accused Nicki of doing: making it about herself and how the press twisted her words.
Cultural appropriation isn’t just a series of things that white people cannot do because of x, it’s the reasoning and historical context behind it that makes it not okay. I’m somebody whose all for being yourself and doing that makes you happy; but not at the cost of offending someone else’s culture and background. People, at heart, have good intentions. We would all love to live in a world where everyone, regardless of skin color or race or background, is equal. There have been many movements and leaders that helped contribute to this. But we also can’t pretend that the society we live in is equal. Whose more likely to be a victim of police brutality? Whose more inclined to face violent hate crimes because of the color of their skin? Whose more likely to face any form of discrimination in their lifetimes? The reality of the world we live in is that it isn’t equal, and because it isn’t equal we cannot use the excuse of equality to justify appropriating other cultures. The sooner that celebrities such as Miley Cyrus understand and accept this, the sooner we can begin to really end systematic racism.