Banseka Kayembe 

Editor in Chief Naked Politics 

I’m not one for applauding animosity and fighting between women. I like to see women supporting and understanding each other, as we have much more in common than in difference. However, in this instance Nicki Minaj was right to call out Miley Cyrus publicly (with the already infamous mic-drop worthy statement “Miley, what’s good?”) at the MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards) last weekend.

Perhaps you’re wondering why a row between two incredibly rich and famous pop stars, who collectively have more Instagram followers than a small nation, merits any kind of serious social commentary, or any attention beyond the usual empty celebrity-based gossip columns and YouTube channels. Which is why I brushed aside the seemingly non-story after a few seconds of thought on it. However, when I came across the root of the argument, I realised there was something important behind this spat.

A few weeks ago Nicki Minaj had publicly stated her disapproval that her “Anaconda” video and “Feelin’ Myself” video (featuring Beyonce) was not nominated for Video of the Year, claiming it was because it featured curvy women of colour, a sight rarely portrayed in music videos, or by the media in general. To which Cyrus later commented in an interview with The New York Times: “What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love.” Which is a more diplomatic way of saying: “quit being an angry black woman”.

Cyrus reduces Minaj down to someone aggressively complaining and pushes the stereotype of “the angry black woman,” entirely missing the point Minaj was trying to make about racial barriers black women face and in turn, doing her bit to facilitate racial stereotypes, many of which were echoed within the media. This is something I always struggle to stomach; it’s OK for Miley to be all for black culture when it comes to appropriating black music and twerking and grinding against inanimate objects to sell albums, but when it comes to actually caring about the discrimination and under-representation we face, she’s quick to tell us to hush up and stop being so angry.

And so what if Minaj is angry? Is there a “polite” way to expose the racism so heavily threaded into American culture? African-Americans, even the very privileged ones, have a right to be angry right now. It’s not long ago that nine black churchgoers were shot to death in a church in a racially motivated terrorist attack. We hear news almost daily of unarmed black men being shot by police. Yet blacks are constantly told to be “more understanding,” criticised and branded as thugs for protesting (Fox News recently branded the #BlackLivesMatter movement as a “hate group”) and were told by the judge of white supremacist killer Dylan Roof to be forgiving of his actions only a few weeks after the shooting. I don’t recall anyone calling for immediate forgiveness in the aftermath of a Muslim extremist attack that killed lots of white Americans.

So, no matter how liberal Miley likes to be in terms of LGBT rights (which is of course, always welcome) she still has a lot of schooling to do in terms of racial stereotypes and listening to and understanding the experiences of black women. If she’s not interested in that, perhaps she should have stuck to making country music.

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Last Update: May 13, 2018