Exhibit A: Jezebel doesn’t want Miley to wear a handkerchief in her hair?/Via Jezebel

The internet is not the most nuanced place. The flashier your title, the simpler your concept, the more pageviews, likes and shares your post will get. I’m not above it, just see my “Macklemore is a Feminist Who Proves Conclusively That Irony Should Be Dead” post. This was shared on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, everywhere. The headline alone said enough so anyone who shared it managed to be saying something about themselves that they thought reflected something cool. It’s a bit “behind the curtain” of me to say this, but I also I think it is something everyone knows. The problem is, sometimes this desire for likes, pageviews and shares encourages otherwise great blogs to post something that is just shocking or reactionary, with no real purpose, that ends up being harmful. Earlier this week Linda Holmes over on Monkey See wrote about the problem of the Vice fashion spread which used models to depict female writers who had committed suicide. In her piece, she acknowledged that Vice was probably baiting her, and all of us, with this overtly horrifying spread and yet, she was going to take the bait, and respond, because it was worth it to her.

Recently one of my favorite blogs, Jezebel, the blog that actually called out Vice on the suicide spread in the first place, has gotten very involved in their own sort of baiting: the cultural appropriation gambit. It’s disappointing in a way because Jezebel has long been a feminist blog with an interesting and alternative perspective that seeks to raise the level of discussion around complicated issues of gender and race. But yesterday they posted this: “On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People.” The article basically calls Miley Cyrus a racist for using things associated with black culture in her recent music video. Now, this isn’t the first time that Jezebel has jumped on a young woman for supposed cultural appropriation. The last time we wrote about it, it was Michelle Williams the racist, because she was dressing in a fashion spread in a way that was reminiscent of Native American style.

In Dodai Stewart’s piece in Jezebel, she calls Miley out for the way she dresses, the way she dances and for having black back-up dancers because she is using people as props, saying: “In a white-centric world, putting white women quite literally in the center of the frame while women of color are off to the side is a powerful, disrespectful visual message, and it really must be said: Human beings are not accessories.”

Here’s my issue, with this whole thing (most of which I wrote in the comments section of the piece by the way, due to getting fired up):

First: I think it’s ridiculous to call out a 20-year-old girl for experimenting with her identity and trying on different ways of being, even if her song is terrible. Twerking is a dance move that doesn’t belong to anyone (even I like to do it!) and if the only people who are allowed certain moves are the exact race of the person who invented them then I guess every single ballroom dancer, salsa dancer, white person at Carnival, etc, is a racist.

Second, the idea that back-up dancers in a video should NOT be props, ever, is nonsense. Miley’s allowed back-up people in her video, because everyone is allowed back-up people in their videos. The singer is always center stage. That’s how music videos work. That girl has been a prop her whole life, for Disney and for her dad and for us, to be whatever we want. Yesterday, she was Jezebel‘s prop for “Big Bad Racist.” There are real, serious race issues in this country and Miley Cyrus is not one of them. Honestly, this feels to me like piling on the most obvious target because it’s easier than looking at the deep misogyny in hip hop or exploring the complexity of the exchange of ideas and race relations in this country. Yes, this story got a ton of pageviews, but did it really elevate the conversation? Personally, I think it just gave white people who aren’t twerking with black people in their video (all other white people besides Miley and like two others) another thing to pat themselves on the back about when they say, “Look! I’m not racist!” and then go back to their lives, glad they aren’t young black men getting unfairly jailed, getting killed or beat up by police or each other. This sort of rhetoric doesn’t change anything. In my opinion, it only makes things worse.

So what do you think? Should we let Miley twerk or not?

Let Miley Dance: Jezebel and Their Cultural Appropriation Problem 18 July,2013Lizzy Acker

  • Genesis Garcia

    Though is only some of what’s on my mind, if there is anythng that oh should know is that what is wrong about Miley’s video is not the twerkin itself, but as the Jezebel blog said, the appropriation of the culture that is associated with it. Miley is literally using Black culture to display her “Bad Girl” image. It is cultural appropriation not only because it is not her culture, but also because she can use it when she wants and walk away from it when she doesn’t; when Miley does it cool and rebellious, but no one praises Black people when they participate in it right? When Black people do it

    • Julia

      This. The writer of the article is completely missing the point.

    • lizzyacker

      I totally agree that Miley is trying to be a “bad girl” in a variety of ways. I also think that black people and all people should be able to express themselves through fashion, dance, music, however they want if they aren’t hurting anyone, and not be vilified for it. Since I put Miley in the category of “all people” and I don’t see how she is hurting anyone, I think she should be allowed to express herself. There are a lot of problems with how black people are perceived but I don’t think silo-ing off art created by them and telling everyone it’s off-limits will solve this problem at all. Miley isn’t the enemy. Hatred, fear, misunderstanding and institutionalized inequality are the enemy and they are a lot harder to pin down.

      • Sigivald

        Ding! You win the prize.

        If we accept “only black people get to do X” or “people who aren’t poor can’t dress like that”, we also accept “people who are poor must dress like that, because we are also inherently assuming “people who aren’t rich can’t dress like the rich”. And we also end up with “Whites Only” cultural entities.

        Separate But Equal? No.

        Group-identity is purest poison to everyone.

        • donalda

          I wouldn’t say that, but I would say the source needs to be acknowledged and credit given where credit is due.

        • UrbanWhim

          Poverty can be eliminated. Skin color can’t.

    • Fallon Bleich

      My problem with this type of thinking is that it fuels stereotypes. Being ratchet or ghetto is not inherently black, though that might be Miley’s intention. This “culture” is one of class, not of race. White people, Asian people, Hispanic people…all of them live in the lower class neighborhoods. All can and do wear grills. The only requirement to twerk is to have a big ass and muscle control, neither of which Miley has. I am not offended by the video because of the racial implications; I’m offended because this rich, white girl is trying to appear poor and lower class, in order to gain street cred. However, it’s something that male artists do all of the time. Did ANYONE shit on Beiber for trying to be Usher? How about Timberlake for trying to be Usher/Michael Jackson/Jay Z?

      • Genesis Garcia

        I respect that you are more offended by the classism in this video; it is very real and valid that that may be the case for you, however racial implications along with sexuality ones are not nonexistent and certainly not justified just because you personally do not feel offended in those why by this video. I also disagree that my way of thinking fuels stereotypes as me pointing out the way dominant culture

    • howwedoit

      RITE!! Great point….

  • Genesis Garcia

    It’s I’d ratchet but when White people do it it’s acceptable and even praiseworthy?

  • troyinparticular

    Everyone should be allowed to twerk

  • Melanie

    Riiight. The problem here is those harpies at jezebel who dare to bully this poor (20yo) child omg!11! Let’s ignore all the black people and other poc who are personally and rightfully upset by this. Who cares about making a mockery of people, Miley wants to ‘experiment’. If you, author, can’t understand the problem with her trying on parts of a culture that a) is often ridiculed when presented by the black people who live it and b) one that she’s privileged over, like it is a shirt on sale, then you are just as bad as her. Please, tell me how you can defend a white girl who last year, denounced rap and the faces of it as not real music that she doesn’t listen to, now literally telling her producer she wants to sound ‘more black’ and telling folks she listens to ‘hood music’. Please defend that, I dare you.

    et: I somehow missed the sentence where you tried that terrible argument that ballroom is equal to twerking (which apparently we didn’t create, even though we did, but so says you) and now I know that you are light years away from the point.

    • Bla’mie Bling

      There is nothing wrong with changing her mind about rap music, starting to appreciate it and wanting to sound more like that. there is literally nothing to defend.

    • Salix Productions

      I think the ballroom argument was that if we only let people who invented a type of dance be the people who performed it, then a white person doing salsa would be racist which clearly we as a culture do not believe.

    • howwedoit

      Thank You.

    • Charles Ray

      But what are they upset about? If she didn’t have any blacks people would still call her racist.

  • kitnco

    You are an ignorant fool, girl.

    “deep misogyny in hip hop or exploring the complexity of the exchange of ideas and race relations in this country”

    I think you mean “deep misogyny in *music.” By calling out hip hop, you’re already assuming that it’s got a more notable problem than say, country or pop, both of which are pretty misogynistic but aren’t analysed as publicly because they aren’t associated with big, scary black men who’ve been demonized by White America for hundreds of years.

    You ignore the complexity of the exchange of ideas and race relations by using that phrase in the same piece condemning a piece that concerns legitimate cultural appropriation. I can see you are white, and coupled with what you just wrote I can also tell you’re unaware of cultural appropriation or how it negatively impacts minorities and disenfranchised people. I would break it down nicely, but when someone does you ignore it so I’ll be brief: black women doing the same thing Miley is doing in those videos are trashed for being “ratchet” (in every negative aspect of the word, which you probably hadn’t heard until it became cool and mainstream). White people think that these black “ratchet” folk are “hood”, “ghetto” and classless, but when Miley does it it’s funny and cute and quirky? She is a white girl from a very privileged background, rather than educating herself on and being influenced by hip hop she put on the clothes and decided that wearing a grill and shaking her pancake ass was enough. She isn’t even twerking right, further evidence that she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She’s just swaying her hips quickly by shifting weight from one foot to another, that’s not twerking.

    I have two final pieces of advice; one will be said nicely and one will not.

    1.) You shoud educate yourself on cultural appropriation, institutional racism and stereotypes. Learn about how racism, power, and stereotypes influence culture and cause much of the racism we see today – your little note about “black men being unfairly jailed”? They are unfairly jailed because of perpetuated stereotypes, and acceptable implicit biases. They’re acceptable because they happen, so obviously nobody gives a shit.

    2.) As a black woman, I am deeply offended by Miley’s video. The things she is hopping around Hollywood pretending to be into and about are things that black people have been aware of for years, and rather than informing herself in the “black” culture that she clearly desires to be part of, she chose some of the most trashy artists to idolize. I haven’t heard this b**** mention Tupac ONCE. Pharrell and Mike Will Made don’t speak for black people. And YOU, privileged white woman, will never understand what it’s like to see aspects of your culture adopted by the very people who criminalize and punish it. When minorities “act white”, they become part of “American” society; when Miley and white girls like you “acts black” it’s cute? That doesn’t make any damn sense, dummy.

    • Bla’mie Bling

      sooooo…. your solution to this is that only black people should be allowed to twerk?

      • kitnco

        No, I never said that. Where did I even say that? I won’t validate this wannabe-troll with a legitimate response because the kind of willfull ignorance of people like you and the writer of this article is the reason racism thrives so healthily in a post-racial society. Your ignorance is impacting society, stupid.

        • Bla’mie Bling

          So is your racism, stupid.

          • donalda

            What did he say that was remotely racist? LOL.

    • Salix Productions

      I like your point here…I think its easy for us to say “hip hop culture is sooo misogynistic,” as though hip hop culture came first and all the others take its cue from it. In what context was hip hop formed and what supports its misogyny. Aren’t the big record labels and execs pushing its imagery?

    • Mel

      You really do have very thought out points here that should be acknowledged. However, I think your approach is ineffective. Your first line,”you are an ignorant fool, girl” made me incredibly resistant to even reading your retort. As well as your response to Bla’mie Bling below…specifically your last line. Online bullying isn’t going to make anyone listen. I’m definitely with you when you say that ignorance is impacting and LIMITING societal progress but I strongly encourage you to look at new and more inviting ways of sharing opinions and new ways of thinking with others.

      • kitnco

        Let me explain to you why I don’t care about anything you just said:

        The “thought out points” that I had have been said before. They’ve been said by people who are calmer, happier, more educated, more eloquent, smarter – they’ve been said many times before. These things have been taught in school. And people still don’t listen. No matter how nicely people say these things, idiots like Lizzie still don’t understand cultural appropriation and she obviously didn’t even try. These things shouldn’t need to be mentioned in the comments section of silly articles written by bad bloggers with no background in sociology. These are not opinions – these are facts. Cultural appropriation is a legitimate problem. Racial stereotyping is a legitimate problem. They are not opinions to be shared and exchanged. You don’t just think these things up one night – you can learn them in school from intelligent people with degrees in this stuff.

        It is not my responsibility to spoonfeed people like Lizzie or that obvious troll above – they are the ones who are not educated. THEY are the ones who have no clue about how racism and cultural appropriation impact people of color in the US. Lizzie’s article is offensive and dismisses a real problem – am I not allowed to express a natural, justified emotion? Is what I’m saying and less legitimate because I’m not afraid of calling people who behave stupidly stupid?? No. When you change the topic to complaining about how “inviting” my explanation could be, get this: idgaf how you feel about my approach. Because if you wanted it to be inviting, you could read a politely written blog about cultural appropriation or hit up the wikipedia page. Then maybe you would understand why it’s so frustrating and why I’m so angry. Maybe you would be angry, too.

        • Mel

          Allow me to rephrase what I said, because either I didn’t explain myself coherently or you completely didn’t understand my point. There is a difference between “spoon feeding”, as you put it, and treating people like humans. You sound like an educated person (I don’t think you would be talking down upon people who aren’t educated if you weren’t) as am I. Given our education, we BOTH understand these facts that cultural appropriation, racial stereotyping is a legitimate problem, you do NOT need to tell me twice. I never said once that they’re opinions. It took me multiple years of education to fully digest how much of a problem it is, and you’re right: it’s a fucking huge one.

          If you want people like Lizzie to start even caring to learn about these things, you can’t treat her like a sub-human. The whole name calling routine like a high schooler when people aren’t understanding what you want them to understand, that needs to stop. I’m sorry she made you so damn angry, but what are you truly angry about? Are you angry at her or are you angry about the invisiblity to systemic oppression? These are invisible forms of power that are BUILT for people to be blind to. If you want people to fucking care, which I certainly do, STOP badgering them for not being able to see it. You have a vast expansive knowledge as far as I can tell and you could actually stand to teach a few people without smacking them down when they ignorantly say something offensive. It’s people like you who make people resistant to learn about these types of atrocities. No one wants to learn with snobby educated people talking down upon them and calling them ignorant fools. You realize that same systemic oppression we’re talking about here is also the reason that low socioeconomic/minority race don’t get access to the same education as we have? I’m a lower class Puerto Rican woman who got the chance to go to high school and a four year liberal arts university. Now I’m on to grad school. I slipped through the cracks, and now have gained access to this incredibly powerful tool. Now I’m going to use it and teach as many people as I can. Not by spoon feeding, not by talking kindly. I’m a victim of cultural appropriation, of racial discrimination, I’m angry. But I’m not going to speak down upon anyone because of it. That’s not constructive in the least.

          Take a breather and check your privilege.

          • kitnco

            I’m angry at her AND oppression – can’t it be both? Can’t I be angry that a white woman with all the privilege that comes associated with that wouldn’t take the time to educate herself on cultural appropriation before writing about it?

            Look lady, you don’t know me and you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know how many civil conversations I’ve had about race and you aren’t going to tell me about any privilege you can fantasize that I have, because other than the fact that I’m a female of color with a solid education, you don’t really know anything about me. I have every right to be angry by what I see being perpetuated by idiots like Lizzie who, rather than attempting to understand logical arguments when presented to her, tries to fight and ignore the problems. I have a right to call her dumb because there’s a comments section and she seems pretty dumb; I have a right to call that other person a troll when they’re being a troll. If some stupidity comes out, then stupid works too. You can call me a bully or mean, but I’m pretty sure that negates nothing I said and if you try to use it to negate what I said then you’re just changing using an old school racist technique to distract people from the problem by focusing on tone (and I highly doubt you’re a racist). If you actually just think I should be nice and productively spread the word about racial hierarchical systems, then heads-up: I do. In a civil manner. In a calmer, “productive” manner. But I also get angry and frustrated when people like Lizzie ignore that kind of response (like Dodai’s)

            I think if you actually give a c*** about this, you could comment more productively on this bad article rather than trying to argue with one of the only people in the comments section making any damn sense and not jumping to the defense of this privileged ass white girl. You are free to say how you feel and say that you think I’m being too mean in my comment in your own comment. All you’re doing now is pointing at another woman of color and telling her to calm down and suppress the hurt and anger she’s been dealing with her entire life. I’m commenting on a shitty blog, I have no responsibility to be nice. And I AM treating them like humans – I’m just making sure to acknowledge the fact that idiotic people say idiotic things.

          • Sigivald

            Can’t I be angry that a white woman with all the privilege that comes
            associated with that wouldn’t take the time to educate herself on
            cultural appropriation before writing about it?


            Also, you assume she “didn’t educate herself”, because she doesn’t agree with you, or the theories you prefer.

            There’s a big difference here in reality.

          • kitnco

            theories I prefer? I’m glad I didn’t come back here sooner because I would’ve ripped you a new asshole.

          • Cece Duvall

            Yesss, you got me snapping my fingers like a fool lol. I’m actually amazed that you have the patience to even engage in these sort of conversations. I have tried many times over, but I realize no amount of intellect or civility will ever be enough. It amazes me how you can literally draw a map from point A to point B, break it down into layman’s terms and it still gets you nowhere.

          • donalda

            From Abagond post:

            “White Americans often derail an argument about race by making it about their feelings. The feelings of white people, for some strange reason, matter more than the truth.”

          • howwedoit

            Well Said and I totally agree. I tell people this all the time.

          • donalda

            It’s not the job of minorities and people of color to coddle the ignorant.

    • sam stevenson

      This is a very complicated issue, and one that deserves everyones input. I usually don’t agree with notions of cultural appropriation, but in this instance, I think Miley was wrong, wrong wrong, and the reaction to her actions show a very deep double standard in our society. I personally regard “ratchet” culture is gross. I think it demeans women, perpetuates the most negative aspects of hip-hop culture in general, and overall lowers the bar in society. Yet somehow, when a white girl does it, it’s “cute” like you said, and harmless. There is also the nasty whiff of racial exploitation by having those black girls in the background of the music video, only there of course to give Miley “cred” as she shakes her anorexic posterior. It’s also a symptom of a growing tendency to condone upper-middle class white kids acting like hedonistic little retards because they’re “experimenting with their identity”, as many a drug-fueled, pastel-colored polo shirt-clad college party will show, yet if black kids use drugs, they’re thugs or criminals.

      • kitnco


      • howwedoit


    • howwedoit


    • pstaylor

      I realize this post is a million years old, and I’m not about to tell you how you can or cannot feel about cultural appropriation, but I have to comment on “By calling out hip hop, you’re already assuming that it’s got a more notable problem than say, country or pop, both of which are pretty misogynistic but aren’t analyzed as publicly because they aren’t associated with big, scary black men who’ve been demonized by White America for hundreds of years.”

      Yes, black men have been demonized by White America for hundreds of years, and the way in which hip-hop is written about and engaged with by white journalists is often fraught with racist assumptions. But, and I’m saying this as a fan of hip-hop going back to Beat Street, hip-hop has also become cartoonishly misogynistic, materialistic, and violent. I mean, there have been elements of cartoonish violence (NWA), cartoonish sexism (Dre, Snoop, the Beastie Boys) and materialism (the whole jiggy late nineties, early 2000s Southern rap). But lately it has been taken to extreme, ridiculous, and disappointing degrees. What are some of the hot hip-hop songs right now? Ty Dolla $ign’s “Paranoid,” about the two b**ches he’s screwing being at the same club. “Red Nose,” instructing girls to shake their asses like a dog. TeeFlii’s “This D,” about how he wants to give the groupies in the club his d*ck. And that’s just what’s on the radio. When people say they think rap music treats women like b**ches and hoes, they aren’t wrong – The majority of rappers do. And usually in much more explicit terms than you hear in a pop song or a country song. Is there sexism in pop and country? Absolutely. Are women routinely called out of name in those genres, compared to dogs, or treated with contempt and utter disrespect? Not nearly to the same extent. Motely Crue wrote a song about strip clubs. Juicy J made an entire album about having sex with strippers, in graphic detail. Hip-hop has a more notable misogyny problem than pop or country, and to the degree that pop or country is misogynist (I’m thinking Blurred Lines), it’s often because artists are aping hip-hop.

  • Bla’mie Bling

    everybody shut the fuck up about cultural appropriation already! stop trying to segregate us with dance moves only black people are allowed to do and clothing only asians are allowed to wear and food that only hispanics are allowed to eat and words only whites are allowed to use and all this other bullshit.

    And BLACK CULTURE means AMERICAN CULTURE. African Americans are AMERICANS. If they want to get pissed off about other races copying “their style,” well, THAT’S RACIST. Stop supporting segregationist bullshit.

    • Mackenzie Greer

      As a white person you have never experienced racism. Perhaps on a individual level you have experienced prejudice, but never on the cultural and societal level that PoCs face on a daily basis. Because of the fact that you have never experienced racism, you are not allowed to say what is and is not racist.

      • Sigivald


      • Eri

        If your not PoC you don’t have a right to be angry about racism, b/c you haven’t experienced racism; but if you’re not angry about racism you’re racist. Feels like we’re running in circles.

        • Cece Duvall

          It’s not if you are angry at racism, you’re racist. It’s just that you, as someone who has never experienced racism, telling a poc what is and isn’t racist, is absurd. The point that Mackenzie was making is that, when you are talking about cultural appropriation, the opinion of a white person (the appropriator in this case) and the black person (whose culture is being appropriated) are not equal. Does that make sense? In the same thought train, a white person cannot deem for a black person what is and is not racist. Understand?

          • Charles Ray

            No, it doesn’t make sense.

            I don’t find the apparent racism blacks face making them more qualified to over react. The racism they face doesn’t exclude them from logic.

      • Sarah Rowlands

        Hang on… race is the ONLY prejudice that works on a societal rather than personal level? Really?

        Because last time I checked visible poverty, homosexuality, religious apparel and gender are often societal as well. Because people are jerks a lot of the time. I’m not negating the fact that race is probably the number one “ism” out there. But please please please don’t minimize the experience of others.

    • Mel

      I think there is a distinction that you may be missing here between cultural appropriation and sharing of culture. This is a line that is very commonly confused, and a large reason why I hope we begin more and more conversations about this very big and real issue. I encourage you to read more about cultural appropriation, for the topic deserves more attention and time than I feel I could give in one comment.

      The reason you think Black culture is American culture is due to long rooted traditions of cultural appropriation, white assimilation and colonialization. This is very very common and unfortunately an idea ingrained due to systemic oppression. African culture is deep and rich with distinction, a culture that white colonialists abused and have passed on the tradition of appropriating into the present. I encourage you to learn more about this, too.

  • Salix Productions

    Great article! I enjoyed the different angles, honesty and critical thinking. I had never heard of this song or seen the video till reading this article. I am not sure what to make of it. Overall, its very WEIRD to me. I don’t know what she’s trying to say or do. What is her point? There were moments however when I think she was making fun of overt sexism and cliches seen in music videos. The scene when she pretends to make out with a doll – I think she is making a point about the preposterous imagery of women making out with women in videos. In this case, the women are objects, they may as well be dolls. I think I need to find an interview of Miley explaining herself about this video.

  • Mackenzie Greer

    Here is the issue with this article, it’s written by a white women. As a white person, you have no right to say what is and is not racist. It’s actually pretty gross to be that PoCs (the people who experience racism on a daily basis) are telling you that something is racist and offensive to the PoC community and your response is “No, you are wrong, this is not offensive”. Like, really? Check your privilege.

    • lizzyacker

      Thanks for your comments. Personally I think saying white people have no right to talk about racism is like saying men have no right to talk about misogyny. These things affect all of us and and everyone has the right to express their opinions about them and try to make them better. Including me! Including you! We all have vast and varied experiences and just like I have no idea what yours are, you have no idea what mine are. All we can do is try to honestly and openly talk to each other with the common goal of making the world a safer, healthier place.

      • kitnco

        How does racism affect white people? Other than the fact that they miss out on the experience of people of color, whites really don’t know much about racism because they don’t experience it.

        • Sarah Rowlands

          No, but many DO experience prejudice… not necessarily for colour but for a wealth of other reasons. It’s a shitty world.

          More to the point, their (our) opinions on racism should definitely not be put “above” those from oppressed groups. They experience it themselves and have more to say and share about that experience but it DOESN’T mean they shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all. Do you honestly think that saying “Oh, you are not allowed an opinion, because you are not going through it” is EVER going to help an oppressive group (be it “whites”/men/the rich/heterosexuals/westerners) better understand the oppressed? It’s the equivalent of telling a child to sit down and shut up. They’ll do it, but they won’t be listening.

          I learned the most about racial experience from talking to friends of various ethnicities. They had no problem telling me “no that is NOT how it feels from my perspective” but they also never said that I couldn’t talk about it/ ask questions and have an opinion. That’s not how dialogue works.

        • Charles Ray

          Well they get all this flack anytime they speak about racism. White people have blacks friends, black lovers, and family members, that;s how.

          It’s rather disingenuous to say whites have NO say is what’s racist. Seeing as how the dumbest things these days are called racist.

      • Lstan

        “Personally I think saying white people have no right to talk about racism is like saying men have no right to talk about misogyny. These things affect all of us”-but thats the problem though-they DONT effect all of us. yes of course its ok to express an opinion-however people who are from oppressive groups should not have their opinions put above those from oppressive groups-especially when there has been a history of men telling women what is/what is not sexist and women have been put down for speaking up about it and yet dangerous men get praised for saying the same thing and reaping the rewards that come with it (hugo icantbebotheredtospellhissurname). same thing goes for race which Greer, Kitnco highlighted.

        • UrbanWhim

          How do you as a white person experience systematic racism? Not isolated.

          • Lstan

            where in my comment did i say that?

        • Charles Ray

          Racism may not effect whites directly, but they live in the country too no?

          • Lstan

            well duh where do you think the racism comes from lol.

          • Charles Ray

            What I meant by that is whites are affected indirectly have black friends, loved ones, and family.

            I’m sure most (if not a lot) whites support equality.

      • UrbanWhim

        She didn’t say you have no right to discuss racism. You just don’t have the right to tell a minority what they should consider racist.

        • Charles Ray

          Would it be more valid coming from a minorty? Because I’m black and don’t find it racist.

        • Lstan

          pretty much what i was getting at.

  • Arts & Ideas JCCSF

    I have to say I loved Miley’s new video. My range of emotion went from shocked to confused to “OK, this is a pretty great video.” I completely agree with your point about Miley being a prop her whole life. Also, it’s a fun video. Something to break through the clutter on YouTube.

  • Dana

    I need help in understanding. I know I will sound ignorant, but I need to learn so that I don’t unknowingly contribute more to the problem. I am particularly concerned with clothing and jewelry here:

    I have a master’s degree in cultural studies but have lived in predominantly white cultures for my entire life (United States, Greece, and Belgium). I am applying to the Peace Corps and am hoping to be able to stay in a non-westernized region so that I can finally gain a better understanding of culture and learn from different perspectives (I also think that it will be an important experience to have some idea of what it is like living as a minority, though I know that the experience cannot compare to that of a person of color’s experience living in a white society). I have heard from many people that, while living in a significantly different culture, it is important to immerse yourself in it, wear their clothing, participate in their holidays, etc. However, when I read comments here, I get the impression that it would be offensive for me to do so, and that, as a white person, I should respect other cultures by refraining from taking part and know that it is not mine to take part in.

    To me, it seems disrespectful to NOT want to immerse myself in someone’s culture because I’m white, as if I am implying that their clothing, jewelry, or heritage is somehow inferior. I thought that if it is done in a non-mocking way, cross-cultural exchanges should be encouraged- as long as people are educated about what they are wearing (to me, religious items are off-limits for fashion, and if you are going to be wearing an item with a specific background, it is important that it is not somebody from outside of that culture profiting from its sales).

    So please, somebody please explain what the limitations are- as a white person should I never wear anything outside of my own westernized culture? Or is it OK to wear something that I think is beautiful if it is done in a respectful way and if I am educated about that particular item?

    *I am not trying to argue anything here, by the way, I genuinely want to know, and would especially like to hear the views from people of color*

    • Chase

      I think it’s interesting that no one (so far as I know) has responded to this. I think your openness is good, as is your willingness to learn. My advice: Immerse yourself in the cultures. Learn about them, and the people who live them. Once you’ve reached a place where you can make an educated decision on the appropriateness of wearing a garment, do so.

      I think the thing people most frequently misinterpret about cultural appropriation is that it makes things into a game of exclusivity. It’s not– ‘this is [insert culture], you can’t have it.” It’s that it should be “this is [insert culture], learn about it, if you want to use it.” The issue is adopting a cultures resources (assumed, associated, or inherent), with the sole intention of exploitation, rather that cultural coalition. It’s not that Miley is engaging Black music; it’s that she is using signifiers of stereotypical “Black” culture, only as a means to further her career, without having really taken the time to learn about them. She is doing stereotypically “Black” things to further her career, with no regard to the culture that created, and is sometimes punished for using, them. The reality is, if Miley had really invested time in learning about Black culture, music, the Black American experience, etc. she probably wouldn’t have performed that way.

      • Sarah Rowlands

        People ignored this post (I suspect) because in internet world people don’t want to hear about “good” white people. No, they are far too busy complaining about how screwed up the system is. I love that you answered this clearly and without judgement. Because you know, that’s what will eventually solve the problems… not yelling at people for asking questions.

  • Janetta Osborne

    People people, what is white supremacy?

    It is a system, a structure in which hegemony takes place and oppresses those without voice. It is a system in which there is a pigmentocracy and the lighter your skin tone the more privileged you are.

    Once individuals with lighter skin tones recognize their privilege in this system and the social capital that comes with it, they will be able to understand why Miley’s video was problematic (intentionally or not).

    I honestly feel that when a white person hears someone say white supremacy or racist, most think that we are saying “all white people are racists” we are not saying that. We are saying that white people have navigational capital i.e. PRIVILEGE (of course wealth plays a role).

    Younger individuals may have a hard time with this because they did not create the system. BUTttt that’s what we got so we have to work with it!

    Cultural Appropriation, or in my mind gentrification of the social world.

    Where does Miley’s privilege come in? Politics of media & Psychology

    Let’s walk right past the social and cultural barriers that keep black artists (mostly rappers) away from certain viewers and how Miley’s Privilege alone bridged the gap.

    What’s wrong with bridging the gap? Nothing, however, the imagery and negative representation that crossed the bridge are in fact problematic. (Framing)

    White meets rap, automatically society says black. Miley’s privilege brings black to the forefront, but black in her eyes is “ratchet culture.”

    I am not saying that twerking is “ratchet” I think it is problematic to say that, I am just saying, that is message she is sending.

    Compare the misogynist comments under the ladies from the “twerk teams” video and their exotification to the comments under Miley’s video.

    The Big Sean video fire: Features Miley Cyrus, you hear the young rappers voice in the BACKGROUND (of his own song) and Miley is the star and at the forefront of the video. She is silent but powerful.

    • Charles Ray

      “Where are the black people in the video? ”

      All through out it

      “What are they wearing?”

      Some hates and shirts, others booty shorts

      “What are they doing?”


      “How do they look compared to Miley and the other white people?”

      Pretty much the same

  • kammstheace

    This article unfortunately sounds real ignorant. :O/ I don’t think the author actually understand appropriation or perhaps any of the other issues address. Way off the mark. Missed the point. SMH

    • Charles Ray

      What exactly did she not get?

  • donalda

    “Twerking is a dance move that doesn’t belong to anyone” that’s ludicrous. It originated in the black community and indeed goes back to Africa itself, so yeah, it does belong to someone. Are you sitting here trying to tell me classical music doesn’t belong to someone or opera or ballet? It’s still culture even if it isn’t white culture. And news flash, gospel, jazz, the blues, hip hop and rock and roll belong to someone too, the African Americans who created these forms. Just because you likely never even heard of Twerking before Miley did it, doesn’t mean it was not appropriated. Just saying.

  • Charles Ray

    I find the is whole cultral appropriation shit a load of bull(I say as a young black man).

    She is mimicking a part of a culture she likes, maybe she’s perpetuating stereotypes,but no more so than the people she’s copying.

  • Amanthasay

    I get so sick of people saying (insert any cultural practice/element) doesn’t belong to anyone! Or belongs to everyone. You telling yourself that in order to justify appropriation doesn’t make it true.


Lizzy Acker

Lizzy Acker’s work has been published in Nano Fiction, Fanzine, Joyland, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. She has read with Bang Out, RADAR, Quiet Lightening and others. Her first book, Monster Party, was released in December of 2010 by Small Desk Press.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor