In a recent New York Times interview, Miley Cyrus discussed this Sunday’s upcoming VMAs as well as the past controversy surrounding the announcement of the awards show nominees over the summer. While the mainstream media attempted to paint the situation as a petty feud between singer Taylor Swift and rapper Nicki Minaj, their exchange ignited, yet again, a much-needed discussion about white feminism and the continued exclusion of black women from activist circles. “You made it about you,” Cyrus said to Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times about Minaj’s words. Cyrus further attempted to continue the conversation by offering guidance to the rapper by saying, “If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that.”
Miley Cyrus "doesn't respect" Nicki Minaj's statement b/c of Nicki's "anger."
Could you exemplify White Feminism any more, @MileyCyrus?
— Olivia A. Cole (@RantingOwl) August 27, 2015
Of course, Cyrus’s interview embodies the core tenements of white feminism: centering oneself in the middle of the discussion and attempting to police black women’s diction while benefiting from the artistic and activist work they do daily. But her words (or lack thereof) also highlight something deeper and exceedingly common across American culture. Cyrus asserts that she “know[s] the statistics” and “what’s going on in the world,” yet, she remains silent.
Cyrus, like many white liberals, maintain that they are socially conscious despite their complete lack of awareness of racial politics.
Something that’s not discussed as vehemently is the racism and ignorance that exists on the left. So often, white liberals get a pass for their racial illiteracy. They absolve themselves from their part in white supremacy because they do not actively participate in the racism flagrant across Southern politics. Because they tend to vote on major issues with actual logic and facts versus anemic and so-called moral values, white liberals tend to deliberately dislodge themselves from racism. But their somewhat enlightened voting record does not absolve them from their active participation in white supremacy.
After Bernie Sanders was interrupted by activists Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willard, there was a negative reaction from the left. While most denounced their disruptive actions, writing them off as unnecessary and disrespectful, many completely wrote off the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Their actions caused thousands of white liberals to vocally write off a movement born out of years of violence and domestic terrorism. What these phony allies do not understand is that movements like this, movements that are in direct confrontation with a system that America was founded on, require boisterous disruptions. They require holding up a highway during rush hour, to interrupt presidential candidates; because without these excessive intrusions, and due to the fact that white people regularly ignore the voices of black people, we suffer in silence.
Cyrus’s intentional silence on the brutal and rampant killing of black bodies throughout the country reflects her real lack of concern and racial awareness. She can prance on television advocating for female public nudity, but she has nothing to say on the violence against black bodies. But Cyrus’s actions and words reflects the culture wherein she is present most, one that frequently appropriates black culture but remains silent about the violence from the state black people are forced to experience from the cradle to the grave.
Being a white liberal does not automatically make a white person “woke.” It does, however, automatically maintain a white person immune and ostensibly unconscious to the real and violent effects of white supremacy.
white silence is white consent.
For more cultural commentary like this, subscribe to our weekly newsletter below.