The real reason Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance was inappropriate

Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance has been making headlines lately, being deemed controversial because of how hypersexualized it was.

Cyrus’s performance and music video for “We Can’t Stop” are both extremely sexual, and that’s the main thing people seem to be taking an issue with.

But really, it’s all so much worse than that. It’s all so much more racist than that.

Throughout much of the music video for “We Can’t Stop,” for example, she is surrounded by white actors, presumably people she is partying with. But in other shots, she is suddenly surrounded by three black women. Miley stands in the middle of them wearing all white, the limelight of the video. These black women only appear in these shots, acting as props to highlight Cyrus, staring in awe at Cyrus’s twerking skills as she fondles them.

The problem here isn’t that Cyrus is a white woman who is twerking. The problem here is Cyrus is doing a disgusting impression of what she believes black women are and reducing black women to sexual props.

Here’s the thing, for years, black women have been stereotyped as being hypersexualized. Of being “welfare queens” who have too much sex and too many children.

President Ronald Reagan created the idea of the “welfare queen” in the 70s, by describing a black woman who drives a Cadillac and has too many children. “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”

The “welfare queen” was presented to white Americans as being hypersexualized, as being someone who corrupted men sexually just to mooch off of white American taxpayers.

The idea of the “welfare queen” still exists. Racial stereotyping still exists.

So when you have Cyrus, a white woman who has been wealthy all her life, recreating these stereotypes of black women on stage and in music videos, it’s troubling.

Now of course when you’re remembered for who you were at 14 years old, reclaiming yourself as a sexual being is an understandable reaction. She wants to rebel and seek independence.

But when trying to find a single for her album, Cyrus also reportedly told her songwriters she wanted “something that just feels black.” So the songwriters gave her a song they had originally written for Rihanna, according to an article in the music and entertainment magazine Vibe.

So, she went into “We Can’t Stop” wanting to personify black women. But apparently the way Cyrus sees black women is through the lens of harmful stereotypes.

So while people are complaining that dancing around with a foam finger in a nude-colored, rubber bikini is harmful to young girls because it teaches them to be “slutty,” I really don’t think that’s something that needs to be worried about.

Remember that Britney Spears and others have performed on the VMA stage in outfits that were just as suggestive as Cyrus’s and at their 2003 VMA performance, Spears and Madonna  kissed, shocking the audience.

I was about 10 years old when Spears was on the VMA stage and ripped off her outfit to reveal the nude, jewel-studded jumpsuit underneath. Yet this didn’t change the way I dressed and certainly didn’t make me want to rip off my clothes in public. And believe me when I say 10-year-old me was a big fan of Spears, and probably would have been a huge “Hannah Montana” fan, too.

Instead of mimicking the way my favorite singers dressed, 10-year-old me was more likely to absorb and recreate their opinions and favorite things.

So when you have a celebrity admired by young girls and women who wants to be “more black,”  who is telling young women that to be “more black” you just need to be sexier and naughtier, it only reinforces harmful stereotypes.

Instead of reinforcing these stereotypes and teaching them to a new generation, musicians with as much celebrity as Cyrus have a platform to teach others that stereotyping is bad.

She’s trying to break away even further from her past as a Disney princess, and that’s understandable. I don’t think anyone wants to be remembered for how they were at the age of 14. However, she does so by imitating her idea of what black culture is and mocking it.

It makes sense that she would perform with Robin Thicke at the VMAs, because both of their videos use women as props who “want it.”

So while Miley might be singing “we can’t stop,” her cultural appropriation really, really needs to.