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Ernest Owens Headshot

Miley Cyrus, Stop Disrespecting What 'Feels Black'

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Dear Ms. Miley Cyrus,

Growing up, I was a huge fan of your hit television show Hannah Montana and some of the catchy songs you performed on the Disney Channel. Most of the themes reflected in your music revealed the life you lived as a teen in Hollywood with privilege and excess.

Being then a young black middle-class teenager, I never found the dichotomy to be a barrier between me as the fan and you as the celebrity. I found your personality to be entertaining and respected that you were being yourself and singing about situations that you can relate to.

This is not the case anymore.

Given that we have both grown up now (you: age 20, I'm 21), the squeaky clean youthful image we all want to let go of in our twenties is normal. It makes perfect sense. With all things in life, we want to show our maturation and express rebellion to picture-perfect perceptions. But perhaps your recent direction is not only disrespectful and ignorant, but also racially insensitive.

Lately, I can't help but hear about your recent fetish for "twerking" and your new-found interest in showcasing it for the likes of rapper Juicy J while performing his street rap anthem entitled "Bandz Will Make Her Dance."

Has Miley Cyrus gone hip-hop? I first wondered. But perhaps you took it too far.

"I want urban, I just want something that just feels black," you were said to have told hit songwriting brothers Timothy and Theron Thomas for your new racy song "We Can't Stop." And to take it a step further, you express what "feels black" in the music video to the song as a portrayal of you "twerking" (rather badly if you are actually trying to master the craft) with a group of black women enticing you on.

So I guess you were referring to the "homegirls with the big butts, shaking it like we're at a strip club" during that clip. I also take it that in addition to the tatted black guy with the gold chain in the back with you wearing your custom made grill... you now feel a temporary sense of blackness from that as well?

Go take a seat, or better yet, take a course on race, Ms. Cyrus.

In case you were not aware, artists like you continue to contribute to an ever growing problem in the entertainment industry that I like to call "manufacturing race." Often low-key and subtle, but never appropriate, individuals such as you consider using racial stereotypes as a way of accessorizing a new look or change in self image. Don't believe me, just ask Ke$ha.

It is one of the most microaggressive and disrespectful ways of implying, "Hey, I want to act out of character... let's mimic the perception of this group of people." To you, feeling "black" is a way to act like the white girl that you feel you obviously can't be which is problematic within itself.

Your totally off-putting interpretation of what "feels black" is very narrow-minded in scope. In your case, shaking your backside like a stripper makes you feel like you have embraced what it feels like to be black in America. Or did you feel that the gold grill in your mouth and the gangsta like posture at the end of your music video make you feel somewhat connected to a specific "urban" feel you were trying to portray?

Ms. Cyrus, if you have infatuations with acting like a thug or dancing like a stripper that is fine... but with all due respect, don't make such a correlation of it to any race.

Stop associating your fixation for "twerking" as a chance to feel black to your millions of white, Asian, and other non-black fans that don't have the luxury to hide under the veil of your wealthy privilege and bigotry. Stop capitalizing off of racial stereotypes as a way to shape your image, how about just be your own damn self and embrace that. And stop perpetuating the constant industrial disgust of black exploitation in the sake of entertainment.

You never have been nor ever will be about that life, Ms. Cyrus.

What "feels black" is as versatile and subjective as the number of outfits, hairstyles, and jewels you use to cover up your identity, Miley Cyrus. It ranges in the empowerment that comes from overcoming many racial minstrel based stunts that is stigmatized in your banter of twerking and gold chains, to the pain that is felt when watching your music video in 2013 continue it.

Blackness is not a trend or a fad; it is the connection between a group of people bounded by a heritage that your ancestry has had a historical role in negatively impacting. You won't ever desire what that "feels" like, nor would I encourage you to.

At the end of the day, being young and artistically rebellious is understandable. No one wants to hold on to the same image forever, but that doesn't mean offensively perpetuating stereotypes about a particular race of people.

I know that in your lead single to this new album of yours (that I won't be buying, obviously) you declare "we can't stop... and we won't stop." But in matters related to the disrespect of my culture and race, I'm going to request that you do so immediately.

Sincerely,

Ernest Owens

Someone who is no longer a fan of Miley (trying to feel black) Cyrus