Thursday, February 05, 2009

Miley Cyrus is a Racist and So Are Her Supporters

There, I said it.  Miley Cyrus is a hillbilly racist. In case you missed it, in celebrity gossip news this week, a picture has been circulating featuring Miley Cyrus and friends all making the slanty Asian eyes pose for a picture.  Miley and one guy are even using their fingers to pull their eyes farther across their face.  Another guy is featured putting up the "peace" fingers and using his other hand to cover his mouth in a pretend giggle.  The lone individual in the picture who hasn't posed in a racist way is the Asian guy in the photo.  He has his round eyes wide open.  

A lot of people think that "it's just stupid Miley being a teenager," blah blah.  Many excuses have been made for her because of her age, and because an Asian kid is in the photo too.  Miley herself issued a statement claiming that she was simply making a "goofy face" and not intending to offend any particular ethnicity.  Right.  And I'd just be using a "silly word" if I used the word "n*gg*r" in front of an African-American friend.  Exactly.

The picture speaks for itself, really.  I won't even bother to post it on here since I find it so very offensive.  The fact that nearly all of them have the same "goofy face" pose tells me that the photo isn't just some random "make a silly face" picture.  You've taken those before, right?  Usually, when the person behind the camera says that, someone is bound to stick out their tongue, while someone else crosses their eyes and puckers their lips, and you might even get a few who do weird stuff with their eyebrows and wrinkle their noses.  You don't have a nearly identical pose from almost everyone in the picture.  You certainly don't have the sort of pose where everyone has chosen to squint their eyes in the manner that is traditionally associated with the mocking of Asian people.  

So do I buy her excuse? No.  Can I excuse it because she's 16? No.  I have taught 13 year old students who know better than to do that, and understand the offensiveness of racial slurs and behaviours.  Because any 16 year-old can, even in their possibly drug-induced stupors, understand the difference between right and wrong, age cannot be her excuse.

Some even argue that the presence of the Asian guy justifies their actions, because if he's not offended, nobody else should be.  Well, I would argue that if this particular fellow surrounds himself with the racial ignorance of this calibre day in and day out, he could simply be resigned to their racial attitudes and have become apathetic to them.  That certainly does not make it okay any more than it would be okay for me to use the term "r*dsk*n" around someone from Native Indian descent who happened to be my friend.  The rest of the world who has seen the picture is offended.  The kid in the photo does not represent all people of Asian descent who have now viewed this image with disgust.

So why can't I lighten up on this? It's just a photo, some may be thinking.  I would disagree.  The issue at hand is far deeper than just one picture.  I mean, I am offended not only by the image and by this girl's influence on young teens, but by the multitudes of people who seem to be justifying her actions and who do not feel that this behaviour is offensive.  It indicates the level of tolerance for prejudicial attitudes and racism that still exists in a society that is supposed to be multi-cultural and open-minded.  It suggests to me that in the minds of many, it is still OK to make fun of others because of their race, provided that the behaviour is done in the name of "fun."  

That is not cool to me. That is particularly uncool because I will have children, and I do not want my babies growing up in a world where their skin colour or the shape of their eyes will dictate how people perceive them and treat them.  For all the "enlightenment" that has supposedly come to pass, this photo and the reactions generated suggest that we're a lot more backward than we are forward when it comes to embracing all people equally.

Miley Cyrus may be a self-absorbed, ignorant, hillbilly teenager, but she represents a good number of the population who, despite their claims of being tolerant and open-minded, are still racists at heart.  It troubles me that more have not spoken out against this image.  It bothers me that many are jumping to her defense rather than seeing her actions for what they really are: ethnic insults.  

I truly hope that the many young people who listen to Miley Cyrus's music will not grow up to be like her.  I hope that all the mommies and daddies who are seeing the picture will sit down with their children and discuss why such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  I hope that my children will not ever have to see someone making slant eyes at them, or find out that someone has uttered a racial slur about them behind their back.

I guess I'm hoping that things will change.  But will they?

Not fast enough.


Natalie said...

Rant on! I think it is obscene that people get free passes on offensive behavior because they are young. I mean how hard is it to own up to the fact that what you did is offensive and apologize. Maybe learn a little from it?

Hubbs said...

Agreed. If there are two things I have taken from this it is

a) Miley Cyrus is a racist
b) My wife is a sexy beast!!

Raychel said...

Here is the definition of hillybilly from Wikipedia
Hillbilly is a term referring to people who dwell in remote, rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia and the Ozarks. Due to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term is frequently considered derogatory, and so is usually offensive to those Americans of Ozarkan and Appalachian heritage. However, the term is also used in celebration of their culture by mountain people themselves. Such co-opting and neutralizing use is almost exclusively reserved for Appalachian people themselves.

So even though you didn't know it was derogatory it was. And even though (according to what you said) the pics she made were bad I wonder how much of it was immaturity. I can remember doing really stupid things when I was 16. And I know you don't like that argument, but your argument to me early about using the term hillbilly was that "I take the connotative meaning of hillbilly to mean ignorant and uneducated people who are arrogant and proud to be so." We in America especially the south do not look at it that way it is a very offensive term. I understand you didn't know, but I think you need to think about a 16 year old, that by choice I realize has been thrust into the limelight. I doubt I could hold up such severe scrutinization. So I believe it was wrong what she did, but I'm not sure she and those supporting her need to be judged so harshly. I think we need to think about Jesus' words Mat 7:5-6"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." I think someone needs to talk to her and hopefully she has some authority figure in her life that will. But I personally don't see the edification as believers in using derogatory terms such as hillbilly, and ignorant to describe her. I work really hard at teaching my daughter to not use terms like stupid and ignorant, because I view them as offensive. Just my thoughts

Mrs. Loquacious said...

That is a good verse, best applied to self before being offered to others, I think.

Age is no excuse, and I believe there is still a distinct difference between "stupid" actions and racist ones; stupid might be snowboarding without a helmet or taking illegal drug cocktails and mixing them with alcohol. Racist would be beating up a boy because his skin is dark or calling someone a terrorist because their middle name is Hussein.

That hate crimes adults commit often stem from ignorant (aka uninformed) opinions about others formed in childhood and young adulthood gives me cause for concern. You found the term "hillbilly" incredibly offensive, and the term doesn't even refer to you! Imagine how someone who is a visible Asian minority must feel to see some spoiled rich brat mock their race, especially when these are people who had to fight for their rights and work hard through the decades to even be considered an equal citizen.

The truth is, you cannot possibly understand or feel the same offense as one who belongs to a minority group and who has felt the pain of racism. Unless you have felt this, you would not understand why my reaction is so strong and deep-seated and extreme.

Andrew said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've said, but I'm not sure about this bit:

"Another guy is featured putting up the "peace" fingers and using his other hand to cover his mouth in a pretend giggle."

If I'm not mistaken, the 'peace fingers' comes from US troops during WWII, and many Japanese people have since adopted it. That being said, this hand gesture is hardly exclusive to (or even predominant in) any one race. Covering one's mouth whilst giggling is certainly not racially specific either; in fact, one could argue that it mocks heterosexual women and homosexual men if anything.

I may even go so far as to say that associating such things with Asians specifically is helping to reinforce a new stereotype.