This past Sunday, MTV aired its annual Video Music Awards. If you tuned in to the show, you probably witnessed all the foolishness from Rebel Wilson’s police brutality jokes to Kayne West’s presidential aspirations. You also probably witnessed the host of the award show, Miley Cyrus fail to bring the show justice.
Overall, the night was a hot mess.
The most memorable moment of the show was when Nicki Minaj called Cyrus out for her interview comments about Minaj. My eyes grew wide in astonishment as Minaj spouted the words, “Miley, what’s good?” I couldn’t believe that on live television, a white female was called out for her blatant racism by one of the most controversial black female MCs.
Social media blew up that night and all of a sudden, Minaj and Cyrus were “beefing.” However, this “beef” between Minaj and Cyrus is not really beef at all. That fire from Minaj was years of built up frustration from every black artist that had been snubbed and hardly rewarded for their work.
When Minaj called out Cyrus at the show, she was calling out every white woman who speaks negatively about black women raising their voices against racism. She called out the girls who think it is OK to culturally appropriate and disrespect entire races of people; the girls who are quick to paint Black women as “angry” instead of seeing their own participation in racism. Minaj asked “What’s Good?” to all those who like to curtail conversations on race, suppressing the voices of people of color.
Minaj’s issue with MTV failing to nominate her video for her single Anaconda was not because she was jealous. She was pinpointing an underlying issue of misogyny and race in the music industry. Minaj alluded in her Twitter comments that despite all her fame, the millions of views, the radio repetition of her songs and her diehard fans, her success is still overshadowed by artists with no melanin and half the talent she possesses. Her voice is still disregarded by artists like Cyrus and Taylor Swift who are praised for being mediocre and ignorant.
About three weeks ago the New York Times interviewed Cyrus on hosting the upcoming VMAs. When she was asked about her thoughts on Minaj, she refuted Minaj’s comments stating “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.” She continued to say that Minaj was not a very polite person to begin with.
Cyrus then gave advice to people of color saying, “If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t just make it about yourself.”
Really Hannah Montana?
Her comments about Minaj before the VMAs Sunday night proved Minaj’s point. Cyrus’ privilege allows her to talk about race issues (without knowledge) and still be celebrated, but Minaj and everyone who looks like Minaj, is lectured by white women on how to do race “the right way.” For many white people, that “right way” is speaking on race in a way that does not threaten their privilege or hurt their feelings.
People like Cyrus need not to tell people of color how to talk about race. The idea that people of color need to speak on race from a place of “love and openness” is suppressive and undermines an individual’s right to fight against blatant racism. Oppressed people don’t owe anyone courtesy when they have been obviously wronged.
I want to know what’s really good with people like Cyrus.
I want to know how you can appropriate the culture of a group and fail to boost the group’s social status. You can wear your hair in locs and twerk, but where are you when the people you like to copy are shot dead for existing? Where is your voice and “advice” when these same people you use as props to make yourself more appealing are being oppressed? Where are you when they are criticized for raising their voices?
The amount of backlash Minaj has received and the amount of defense Cyrus has received proves another point: the difference between the treatments of black women and white women in 2015 America. Minaj became an angry black woman while Cyrus was the innocent savior, the true feminist for trying to defuse the situation.
Minaj calling out Cyrus was absolutely necessary. She is not apologizing for wanting to be heard. She is tired of white women dismissing women of color’s presence all while appropriating their language and style, their hair and bodies. She is making it known that marking a person’s marginalization as invisible will not stand any longer.
White supremacy ran rampant through the VMAs last Sunday night. I am sure Minaj could care less about a small Video Music Award, but if you fail to see her argument and the injustice so many artists of color find themselves, you are part of the problem.
So tell me, what’s good?