Memo To Miley: How To Not Be A Racist Twerk

by Solange Castellar

At Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, Miley Cyrus took the stage and showed off her so-called twerking skills. For the past few days, the starlet’s performance has been getting A LOT of media attention. Some have complained that her performance was too sexy and scandalous, but others have addressed another issue—of Cyrus’ appropriation of black culture, and using African-American women as props. Ok Miley, we’ve had this discussion before. It needed to happen, all for good reason. But let’s make the picture a bit clearer for you, and show you why there’s such a kerfuffle.

First let’s give some background to how Miley took the stage. While Cyrus performed her single, “We Can’t Stop,” she was accompanied by a million dancing teddy bears, and a twerk team. She basically just did the same thing she did in her video: she twerked with African-American women, and grabbed/slapped their asses while sticking out her tongue (btw did anyone else feel just as uncomfortable with Miley sticking out her tongue every five seconds?). While Cyrus performed her song, the camera cut to the very un-amused Rhianna.

Rhi Rhi is clearly not having it.

Cyrus then continued her twerk-journey, joining Robin Thicke in the performance of his song, “Blurred Lines.” While Miley twerked and shook her butt on Thicke during his controversial song, I kept cringing. 

Miley getting her twerk on Robin Thicke

The issue at hand here is that Miley clearly did not go about her performance the way that people expected her to. 

But what’s even more upsetting to me, is that the media acts like she’s the first female ever to work a twerk. Nope, it’s been done long before her, so let’s get that straight people. I understand that twerking is a new dance that everyone’s trying out. I attempted to do it myself, and I suck at it, so I’m just throwing in my twerking towel. (I know, we’re all crying about this, but it’s ok guys.) But we can’t hate on every woman who wants to twerk in the world, because that would just be plain ol’ stupid. 

The real reason Miley’s twerking has been getting so much negative attention is because of the fair complexion she has, and the way that she danced with her black back-up dancers. While Miley twerked and pretended to be as “ratchet” as ever, some viewed her as being inconsiderate to Black culture. It’s not fair that she can just put on this persona for about a minute, while POCs/WOCs have to live with these negative stereotypes their entire lives. Honestly, do you think ANYONE wants to be known as “ratchet?”

Not only that, but treating her black back-up dancers as “props,” was very offensive. They were simply present to make Miley seem like she can actually twerk. These women were in Miley’s performance to make her look good, and they weren’t showcased for their skills at all. As Big Freedia recently said in an interview with Fuse TV, Miley’s dancers weren’t professional twerkers like her own dancers are, and Miley’s were merely “trying to twerk.”

Miley and her dancers during her “We Can’t Stop” performance

But of course, none of this is anything new in the music world; thousands of Rock ‘N Roll songs from white artists were primarily taken from black artists. But we don’t talk about that because we’ve all moved past it, right? Why weren’t any POCs acknowledged for the music they damn well produced? Instead of trying to make a commodity out of Black culture, why don’t you show some appreciation for it, by acknowledging the people who started it all. It’s the unjust never-ending cycle.

So, is there anything Miley could have done to have made her performance less offensive? Should she really just stay away from twerking altogether? I thought about this for a while, and here are a couple of ideas for Miley:


  1. Instead of solely using black women, Miley, you should’ve incorporated women of a variety of ethnicities. Black, White, Latina, Asian, Indian, just to name a few. Having women of different ethnicities, who can actually twerk well, would depict the image that the dance isn’t only centered on one ethnicity. You would’ve been dancing with a group of women, instead of singling out one culture.
  2. It would’ve been AMAZING if you brought the Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, onto the VMA stage. Freedia performed at AfroPunk this past weekend (which simultaneously happened in BK), and it would’ve been awesome to see a twerk-off between you two. This way you’re crediting the creator of the dance craze that’s sweeping the nation, instead of having people view you as racist.
  3. Not to slap your back-up dancers behinds. It’s just poor fashion, and a white woman slapping around a black woman is something I wouldn’t even tolerate seeing in The Help.
  4. Maybe you shouldn’t have twerked at all Miley, or should’ve taken a Bounce class to actually make your twerking seem legit, and not poseur-ish. I mean you’re practically been doing it everywhere. From a Juicy J concert, to this weird video where you’re dressed up in a unicorn suit. I don’t understand how your butt isn’t tired.
  5. You should’ve gotten rid of those teddy bears. I know this is completely different from twerking, but those things were freaky looking, amirite?


The truth is Miley, I know that you’re not going to stop twerking because you can twerk if you want to. Just please realize that you have a thing called “white privilege,” and people will judge your actions based on that. 

Thanks to Time, Fuse.TV, and Big Freedia

Images via Spin, IB Times, and ABC News

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