A couple of days ago, Miley Cyrus sent an ignorant, entitled, privileged and White supremacist tweet. Really, who do you think are the “other bitches” in this tweet? Which White women is she speaking to? None. It’s clearly Black women that she’s speaking to. The tweet was in response to her name mentioned in “Somewhereinamerica” on Jay-Z’s new album Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Call it what you want. But I don’t see Mr. Carter shoutin any of you bitches out. #twerkmileytwerk ✌— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus)
I saw many responses to the tweet, including applause from other White women, some Black women and of course some Black men, as expected. However the Black man below wasn’t having it, just as many people (like me) weren’t.
On Somewhereinamerica Jay basically said “Cops were sweating me for profiting off drugs but white America is profiting off our culture”— D’Brickashaw (@DragonflyJonez)
Then Miley Cyrus got on twitter and was like “OMG! Yall see that? Jay called me a culture vulture! Take that! HOLLLAAA”— D’Brickashaw (@DragonflyJonez)
Obviously Miley and her supporters do not regularly listen to Jay-Z’s music—forget that. Clearly they did not listen to this specific song. This is not surprising; very few Whites actually LISTEN to hip hop music (despite being the largest group of consumers for it). For the Black men who think the song was praise of Miley, they may certainly listen to hip hop but are also projecting their own internalized White supremacist views onto the lyrics. Because they worship White women in general, but especially ones who appropriate Black culture while disrespecting Black women at the same time—the same Black women who are insulted, attacked, shamed and even fired from jobs/denied opportunities etc. for exhibiting our own culture ourselves—they can view the lyrics as a compliment.
White supremacy is why this occurs. White privilege is why many Whites can’t understand why their cycle of cultural appropriation is a weapon of the oppressor and more than just “copying” Black people. It’s not a compliment to steal, alter, profit from without punishment and disrespect those the art comes from in the first place. It’s White supremacy. It’s meant to dehumanize and some of those who dehumanize actually laugh while doing it, as Miley reveals. As for the Black women applauding her, it connects to similar internalized White supremacist thought as Black men, with a different manifestation; White appropriation of Black culture is viewed as a “compliment” to some Black women who think appropriation is approval through the White Gaze. Sadly, some view her doing this as "proof" of their worth as Black women.
Even so, I still saw many Black people respond who 1) do not view the lyrics as a compliment, as the tweets above clarify and 2) are not flattered by Whites who appropriate Black culture.
There’s also something else occurring here. Recently in a post where I replied to a White woman who tried to convince me that experiences of people of colour are invalid and racism is solely the exchange of insults where race is mentioned between “anyone,” I reminded her of Louis CK’s joke that alluded to the fact that you can’t even hurt his feelings let alone oppress him as a White male. I’m reminded of this because not only is Miley’s response a typical superficial White response to Black art ("He said my name! That’s all that matters! Fuck context, even from a rapper with a strong command for literary devices! Fuck listening to what someone said who has an entire body of work and a book Decoded explaining how he is a master manipulator and equivocator when it comes to context and language! I’m White! I don’t have to actually listen, interpret or care about anything beyond the realms of my White privilege!") but it also reveals that even as an insult it alters nothing for Miley Cyrus. Even as an ironic criticism of White consumption of Black culture by Jay-Z, her White privilege (as well as class privilege) protects her from any real repercussions, unlike for Black women. This entire situation only reveals the accuracy in what I wrote in Black Women and Twerking: Why Its Creators Face Bigotry That Miley Cyrus Never Will.
This also should be further evidence of the fact that “racism against Whites” is just a White delusion based on their unwillingness to be critiqued about the manifestations of White supremacy. Not even insulting or critiquing them but simply rejecting White supremacy makes them call Blacks “racist.” They have been taught (as well as people of colour, actually, sadly) that Whiteness is “universal” and “normal” so naturally rejecting White supremacy is processed as hatred for individual Whites. I’ve had plenty of White women (the primary trolls for Gradient Lair are White women, by far) suggest that my blog is “racist” since it does not cater to White women. This belief of theirs connects to this all.
Of all the responses, the responses by other Black men who don’t share DragonflyJonez’s view have perplexed me the most. They’re pretty much ignoring all they know about Jay-Z’s work (unlike many Whites who aren’t actually critically listening in the first place) and deciding that his words are a compliment to Miley…since they like White women. Um…but look at Jay-Z’s work. This is the guy who critiques White supremacy and how despite his wealth he is always an outsider. Now if he wants inclusion in White supremacist power, that is internalized White supremacy, so I don’t suggest that he never proliferates it. He is clearly critiquing White consumption of Black culture and White disdain for Black wealth yet most who worship Miley or White women in general are ignoring the entire song and can only hear “twerk Miley Miley twerk.” This is amazing to me.
I expect this from Whites because even Black art that they claim to value like our finest literature from the likes of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin and more, they often respond to with a superficiality that rivals a toddler. I wouldn’t expect them to critically think about Black art like hip hop that is often placed “lower” than traditional literature then, since their thinking is so hierarchical in the first place. But for some of the Black listeners of his music who claim to know his music, and seem to when they discuss his other songs, it’s funny that their interpretation is “yay Miley!” I am both irritated and humored by this. Jay-Z has primarily dated women of colour in his lifetime and has been with a Black woman for over a decade. He has lyrics like "I only love her if her eyes brown" and "I only love her if her weave new" and "girl, why you never ready, for as long as took, you better look like Halle Berry. Or Beyoncé. Shit, then we gettin’ married." Whether negatively or positively, he’s usually addressing Black women. He is not quite the same as Kanye who explicitly worships White women. Now one can critique quite a bit in Jay-Z’s music and even consider how he talks about Black women reflective of internalized colourism in his thinking. But the idea that he’s just like some of the Black men who fill Twitter with worship of White women to the point that his song that is explicitly critiquing White supremacy in several ways is genuinely applauding Miley is beyond comical to me.
Black people have to move beyond the idea that exploitation is flattery as long as it occurs when/where we want it to. (This is no different from the recent “you can touch my hair” experiment.) As for Whites, I doubt that many of them are actually going to understand anything beyond the boundaries they’ve erected with White supremacy. If they can only respond to the epic work of art that is Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple with "wow that is so sad!" I can’t say that I expect much in terms of interpretation of hip hop music. Once again, this reminds me of what I said just the other day and what James Baldwin wrote about so eloquently decades ago, they don’t know who we are.