The Travesty of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Black’: The Homegirls, Strippers, and ‘Gettin’ Turnt Up?’

130619-miley-cyrusI must first take time to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity I have been awaiting for quite some time now. This week, Miley Cyrus, the Disney non-vocalist, Hannah Montana “actress”, and cookie-cutter image of all things American bubbliness decided to go “black”. Well, at least her version of it. And while I have been coming for this young lady for almost half a decade, she and her bang-up up team of sell-outs, opportunists, profiteers, and hapless iconoclasts have finally blessed me with fodder for my deep dislike for Lady Miley.

Her new video for the song “We Can’t Stop” features plenty of half-naked people, young adults who look like they were all extras in a Judd Apatow film or “The Hangover”, and gratuitous shots of her less-than-exciting derriere. But, perhaps the most illusory images in the video are of “black” culture. Black women in the video are shown as “twerking”, booty dropping, stripper wannabes, while Lady Miley flashed her gold press-on nails, bottom grill piece, and over-the-top thug face.  Fail.

Thank you Miley. You have finally shown us what you think of “black” culture. And, shockingly, it aligns identically to what most racially insensitive, non-intended discriminators think.

I must say, when I first heard about this, I thought, “Well, she was cooped up at Disney all those years. Maybe she is just trying to ‘stick it to the man’.” Then, I started watching it, and I was like, “Girl, you hella late. That was black appropriation in like 1995.” Then, I was, like, “Wait, this heffa really just…” So, now, I am sharing with you why this sad little person’s out-of-touch rendition of Amos-n-Andy just left me pretty much speechless.

Dodai Stewart wrote an absolutely stellar piece at Jezebel explaining how cultural appropriation (or mis-appropriation in this case) can go terribly wrong whether intentionally or otherwise. She illuminates in the following.

“It’s worth noting this track — which is chiefly about the joys of dancing like a stripper and doing lines in the bathroom— was written by two men, producers Rock City and Mike WiLL Made It and originally intended for Rihanna. (True story: Miley said to them: “I just want something that just feels Black.”) But blackness is not a piece of jewelry you can slip on when you want a confidence booster or a cool look. And playing at being poor — while earning a profit by doing so — is just distasteful.”

You know when Rihanna turns something down, you probably just shouldn’t touch it. I’m just saying.

But, I think the qualms here actually go a bit deeper. Juxtapose the image of Michelle Obama with those of the black women Lady Miley type-casted to wear sliced black tights, half-shirts, and stripper shoes in her video. Isn’t it a bit eerie that Cyrus’ brigade of black strippers strikes absolutely no resemblance to the most popular and powerful black woman in the world (well, besides Oprah)? These women are THE ONLY identifiable “black” women cast in the video. They don’t get to flop around in the pool with all the white people. They aren’t lying on the pile of white bread with the kid who looks stoned.

No, they are bent over, dropped low, serving up the fresh twerk like us field Negroes are supposed to do. Because why? Because in the minstrel show party which exists in young Miley’s mind, that’s what black girls do, right? They’re just Lady Miley’s “homegirls with the big butts, shaking like [they’re] in the strip club.” You know, where us “homegirls” hangout on the regular.

Stewart touches on this too.

“But in a few scenes, she’s seen twerking with three black women. Are they also her friends? Or is she just hoping for street cred? Note that she is wearing white, in the spotlight, the star of the video — and they are treated as props, a background for her to shine in front of. We’ve tackled the use of people of color in the background before; it’s a theme that persists, but remains wrong. 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. These women might be her friends, but the general dynamic created is that she is in charge and they are in service to her.”

Black women don’t go to work, have couth, or work outside of the porn and male entertainment industries. Our central purpose is hyper-sexualism and amusement for whites. The black males in the video are also props. They parade around eating sandwiches made of white bread and $100 bills, making skull replicas out of French fries, and sticking out their tongues. One special blackish guy gets to stand next to Lady Miley and point to her glorious body as she lip syncs the lukewarm vocals. But these guys never get to occupy a frame with Lady Miley for more than 10 seconds.


“Look Ma! A black guy!”

So what did we learn today from the annals of Lady Miley’s intoxicating light-porn fest video ladies and gents? 1) to be “turnt up”, thou must first doeth a line in the bathroom, 2) to be a trueth homegirl of Lady Miley, ye must droppeth it like it be hot while staring into her stark white anus then praiseth her flat asseth-ness, lastly, 3) thou must never ever expect Lady Miley to pretend like she haseth any understanding of any human being outside of those in her head. Why? Because she “bout that life.” Dope….eth.

Sadly, this is what people still believe about blacks. It is no secret. Many folks hold imagery in their minds harkening back to the slave era (enter #PaulasBestDishes). While others, like young Lady Miley, can’t seem to divorce their infatuation with a pseudo-culture (because “black” race and “black” culture are wholly different) to which they don’t belong from their unknowing racialized disregard and disrespect for an entire race of people. She is truly a piece of work. And, so are any of her fans who think this garbage is even remotely artistic, relevant, or musical. Part of me wants to blame BET and Lil’ Wayne for this crap. And, I could potentially make a loose claim for that cause. But really, this one falls squarely on the shoulders of white, powerful America. Come on ya’ll. Haven’t we had enough of this crap already?

Cyrus’ party is not my black. Her song is not my black. Ratchet is not my black. Really. It isn’t. It isn’t most people’s black. We don’t wear our black to parties or other get togethers. We don’t parade our black around so that people will chuckle and be entertained. We don’t use our black to do lines in the bathroom. Our black is not some jocular accoutrement we take out of a hat when we are summoned to do tricks. And, we certainly don’t utilize our black to have dominion over strip clubs. We simply exist. Not for any one particular purpose but to simply exist. Yes, some of us can “twerk” but, astonishingly, dance moves are not restricted by color, race, gender, creed, and orientation, etc.

Frankly, I am just a bit over popular media telling me that this is supposed to be “black.” I categorically reject this mess. And, Miley, girl, I can’t tell you how many seats to go have or whose life to go get. I don’t think there are enough chairs in China for you. I really…just…um…want to pray for you…and your ilk…and your “black.”

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

13 Responses

  1. Superfangirl says:

    This is one of the best critical essays I have ever read. Thank you for speaking up and speaking out against this alarming trend of “Blackness” without Blacks that has been going on for the last couple of years. The minute Blackness went pop all of these fakes start coming around looking for some edge and we (Black artists) are so thirsty for some empty acknowledgement we co-sign and sell ourselves for nothing.

  2. Rashad Hayes says:

    Very well done. This article is absolutely the truth. Also don’t worry, she’ll stop all that nonsense soon enough and then return right back to the arms of Middle America. Just in time to get nominated for Oscars and to pretend like this whole charade never happened. Just like Marky Mark- oh I mean Mark Wahlberg.

  3. MaxSkippy says:

    Wow, that “music video” was absolutely horrendous. I am absolutely disgusted Miley thinks that’s “blackness”. Really Miley, you’re just “classless” and there’s just no place for that kind of racism or degenerative behavior. Fantastic article Jenn, keep up the good work!

  4. Roxy says:

    I couldn’t stop reading this article, I totally share your views and I’m so sick of these talentless young women claiming to know what blackness is.

  5. Guyanesesista says:

    Wonderful article & you’re right about the Rihanna part. Miley can have several friggin seats with this one. That video was pure bullshit and I’m mad at the black people in the video. Only time they got to mingle with whitey was when they were used to bend over and make Miley shine. I didn’t even know the song or video even existed until reading this article. I figured her new ‘blackness’ was going to be a slippery slope to hell.

  6. Smiley Tyrus says:

    What the hell are you talking about?

  7. “The minute Blackness went pop all of these fakes start coming around looking for some edge and we (Black artists) are so thirsty for some empty acknowledgement we co-sign and sell ourselves for nothing.”

    I agree with this 100%. We give our culture away and then we are offended when it gets exploited. It is a terrible cycle but proves that the black identity needs to be further developed socially as a diverse and wide gamut as opposed to these tiny little snippets jokers like Miley choose to latch onto.

  8. Thanks buddy. Classless is definitely the right word.

  9. Not only are they claiming to know what blackness is, they are treating like an accessory primarily used to mock real black people. It is the oddest adaptation of appropriation I have seen in some time. But, this video really does harken back to the images of the mammy and sambo for me.

  10. Da Oracle says:

    I love the the conversation on this blog. Jenn, I know you most likely don’t take suggestions. But I think the discussion that you have started would be great to continue in the realm of film, youtube and other media not just in music and even in pop music in other countries. This article really put the issue of the commodity of “Blackness” into a really interesting place: also when Snoop Dog (Lion) was asked about why we should accept Miley and her need for professional “Blackness” his comments suggested that people from our commnunity would make money and get something from her “wanting to be Black”. Here is the link:

  11. L. Providence says:

    This article was absolutely wonderful. And yes, we can blame people like Lil’ Wayne for this nonsense. After all, it is Lil’ Wayne himself that signs these white females, like Paris Hilton & Chanel Westcoast, on his hip hop label. Smh.


  12. I will look into both of these things. We love feedback here so no worries at all.

  13. Shiner says:

    Kill all the white man – Maurice Garvey