Now Miley Cyrus is a Racist? ~ Michelle Marchildon

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Aug 27, 2013
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From the department of, “I can’t make this stuff up,” comes the accusation that as a result of her clearly bizarre performance at the MTV VMA awards, Miley Cyrus is a racist.

Yup. You heard it here first, or um, second. This accusation has been leveled at her from people who apparently know a racist when they see one, especially in her underwear.

I am not going to defend her performance. You can watch it here or in any number of the posts where it’s gone viral. The only thing more viral than her performance is the discussion about it in the media.

Wooo hooo! Those of us who have never made a mistake sure can tell the rest of us what’s up.

Before I get into whether or not Miley Cyrus is a racist and if her performance was racist and if her underwear is racist, I want to say that in my opinion this 20-year-old girl did make a mistake.

However, and let me be clear, there are many of us who have had too much to drink and paraded around in our underwear (or maybe I am projecting?).

I feel sorry for Miley. She is not old enough to drink legally and obviously not old enough to manage her career. Her performance was humiliating and someone should have given her the hook, meaning taken her off stage. But I think this could be an opportunity for her to grow, and for the rest of us to pay more attention to what is being pedaled as entertainment.

There are more people responsible for what happened than just one 20 year old girl.

Now, is she a racist? I know one thing for sure: You can’t tell if she’s a racist from her skin color or her underwear.

Last week, I was called a racist and a bigot because I wrote an opinion that I did not appreciate Al Jazeera advertising that they are the only network with “the other side of the story.”

In the past, their idea of accuracy has been to show the videos of terrorists including Osama Bin Laden. It doesn’t make me a racist or a bigot against Arabs because one was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. I am smarter than that.

I also know that Al Jazeera is made up of very good journalists reporting important news. But that still does not excuse a certain laissez-faire attitude toward the statements and videos of renowned terrorists. Again, I am not “against” Arabs, but I am not a fan of anyone, of any nationality, who claims to be responsible for bombings and killings.

I also am not a fan of Fox News. But that doesn’t make me a liberal. I do love The New York Times. Okay, maybe I am a liberal.

Here’s my point: We do not know anything about Miley Cyrus and her politics because she danced around in her underwear. And by claiming this makes her a racist, diminishes the power of the accusation.

Racism and bigotry are important topics. This week is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I have a dream.” If we are going to live together in peace and harmony, we must look at these critical issues to continue to raise our collective consciousness.

I have a dream too, that one day, we are judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. I learned that from Dr. King.

Miley Cyrus has been called a racist because of the color of her skin.

If she was black or African American, would her performance have been called racist?

I didn’t think so.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at And you can take her classes on


32 Responses to “Now Miley Cyrus is a Racist? ~ Michelle Marchildon”

  1. Dave says:

    I'll allow that the debate whether Miley Cyrus' performance was racist isn't a completely open and shut case. However, the accusation isn't based on the fact that she is in her underwear, but on the fact that she is clearly appropriating dance moves from black culture while simultaneously using actual black women (who by the way are rendered faceless with masks), as something more akin to props then human beings. Whether she's "a racist" or not, doesn't that at least seem a little problematic?

  2. olivia b says:

    I would just say that while I don't believe that Miley is a racist, her actions (on the other hand) were questionable – and I'm not talking her underwear.

  3. kimberlylowriter says:

    She may be a lot of things, but I sorely doubt a racist is one of them. She appears to have several friends of various races and sexual orientations.

    I am not a fan of this young woman's. I thought her routine was trashy and poorly-performed, but some people are acting like she killed someone!

  4. Jilly says:

    Here is an explanation of why some feel that Miley's cultural appropriation is inappropriate. It is a little more complex than skin color alone.

  5. Ariel says:

    What was racist about it to me is her ignorance. We don't live in a vacuum. There is a clear objectification of black women…I don't think it is as simple as teenage rebellion.

  6. Anon says:

    My understanding is that in wanting the song that she eventually twerked to, Miley wanted some that "sounds black." It could also be the execution of black women as props in the scene with twerking in "We can't stop." Racist? Perhaps not, but there's still something to say about either appropriating culture and naivete.

  7. DaveTelf says:

    For more sophisticated discussion of why this performance was racially charged, see here:

    The mistake everyone makes is in assuming that she had any influence on the nature of that performance, from concept to production. Miley is just as much a commodity in this scenario as any of the black women running around wearing teddy bears.

    As for Al-Jazeera, in my experience they (along with Russia Today) represent a far more realistic viewpoint on world events than most any corporate media available in the United States.

    As for invoking Bin Laden and (I think I read this correctly) implying that he had any connection to a certain major terrorist attack on US soil, I'd like to hope that you are, indeed, "smarter than that."

    By now anyone with an internet connection knows that the official story is only one of many competing narratives as to what happened that September day in 2001. However, the Bin Laden connection has long since been debunked and it is disappointing to see it so mindlessly repeated as a reference point, as if it were obvious fact.

    Also, in other race-based news, today marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of WEB DuBois, who played a major role in preparing the ground for a person such as MLK to even exist.

  8. Chloe says:

    I can't believe I even clicked the link to read this… I am so sick of hearing about Mylie Cirus.

  9. Amie Newman says:

    I don't think the writer of this post understands the charge leveled against Miley Cyrus. And, sadly, neither she – nor Elephant Journal – did the research and internal exploration needed to understand. For a "yogi muse" and someone who purports to be a journalist, this is sadly one-sided and completely misses the mark. It's actually not for a white person to say whether or not Miley Cyrus' performance was racist; and in some cases it's important that white people keep our "opinions' to ourselves and LISTEN.

  10. @amaaanda says:

    I can't help but feel like a whole bunch of white people calling something racist just points out skin color. How about, a bunch of women chose to get up on that stage and twerk their little hearts out?

  11. Jill says:

    The author doesn’t want an actual conversation about race or cultural appropriation. She’s jumping on the latest controversy, per usual.

  12. Anon says:

    Having friends of different races or sexual orientation means nothing. I’ve heard this defense before – “I’m not racist. I have a friend who’s black.”

  13. Natural-I says:

    Anyone interested in this racism topic, please read this article which has very good points.

  14. fractalshift says:

    Uhh, I don't think she's a racist I do think that she needs a few more years to grow up and learn to make better choices. I think whoever accused her may have confused the terminology…Poor judgement does not equal racist….

  15. masmuss says:

    How is this any different than other artists who have used black women as back up dancers? Or women of any other race? Or women in general for that matter? Is it because she is a white woman? Whoever decided to bring this up as an issue and even saw these connections is the one who is racist, I think.

  16. marko says:

    It’s my own fault for falling for the clickbait, I suppose, but…

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to call that performance racist. Just like I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to call the NSFW video for blurred lines sexist. So, is Miley racist? Is Thicke a misogynist? Hard to say. They’re performers of material. How much they get to choose and shape that material is unknown to me. But I can tell you one thing that Miley is NOT – an ally. She may be racist, she may not be, but she sure as hell ain’t helping.

  17. Robyn says:

    I definitely agree that it is not one 20 year old that performed on that stage up there…. I think that Miley Cyrus is now just another brand and really no press is bad press. Her shocking display got her a lot of attention. But I think a lot of racism is covert, which this article points out:

    And while I think there's a bit of a fixation on political correctness now, I do think it merits some discussion. A lot of racism and discrimination goes unnoticed and unexamined. I more so have a cringe for other-izing people in the discussion which is continually hard in a culture where we make the uncertain certain. Nevertheless, the link I provided was a really insightful perspective on Miley Cyrus' performance and its implication on racism.

  18. kimberlylowriter says:

    I wrote a piece about my (white) grandmother who loved me to pieces yet was a total racist.

    There is no evidence she is a racist. I really think some people are reading too much into this tacky dance performance.

  19. kimberlylowriter says:

    I am probably in the minority (no pun intended), but I don't think she is a racist either. Given that Robin Thicke's own wife is black, I cannot see him going for anything that was racist.

  20. disa25 says:

    I am so disgusted by this "journalist". This is an obvious attempt to get clicks by posting a sloppy article on a subject that she obviously has no education or experience with (other than being called racist). Respectfully I ask that Michelle stick to writing on her field of expertise-yoga. This article does nothing to uplift or expand consciousness. I am so glad that other readers see the fallacies in this argument. This article is an example of what white privilege looks like. While any discussions of racism in relation to Miley's performance may seem unbelievably silly to her, there is an issue at hand. Something that a white woman with no education or experience with Black culture can't see. So I write this to help the author, Michelle Marchildon, expand her racial awareness and view things from another perspective. Forgive me for being so passionate. I have just finished an intensive course examining race, culture, power and privilege. It wasn't until I dove into the material presented to me that I realized that even as a woman of mixed (Haitian & White) heritage I have experienced more white privilege than I have experienced racism. I was so upset reading this that I was shaking and couldn't focus, so I stepped away for a few hours to formulate my thoughts. I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way about this article and I'm also very happy to see that many people are educated on white privilege. I would hope that through this experience Michelle may take a moment to reflect on her experience and knowledge on the issue of race in America. Hopefully she can learn something from this experience and instead of just brushing off any accusations and judgements she may see how she can grow as a compassionate person who cares about people of all colors. Maybe she will ask what she can do as a white woman to eliminate racism that surely does still exist, rather than worrying about what trending topic she can write about to get more traffic to her website. My hope and prayer is that Michelle's next post will be something titled to the tune of " What I Learned About White Privilege and My Growth Into Being a More Compassionate Yogi." My answer is not to unsubscribe to EJ and walk away from the problem but to offer support and information for more healing and awareness.

  21. Michelle Marchildon says:

    What happened on that stage was bigger than one girl. It was choreographed, staged, rehearsed and approved by a lot of people. There were many mistakes and I can't see that one girl is to blame. But it is easier to blame one girl. My view from a yoga perspective is to have compassion for all and not to rush to blame.

  22. Moira M says:

    Your argument is so woefully incomplete. What Miley was wearing and her racist actions are separate issues. The title of your article is about her racism– yet you have made no argument other than some vague references to twerking and Miley's outfit. Miley was just a pawn in this, but she was in fact using faceless black women as scandalous and dehunanized props.

  23. disa25 says:

    Yes don't rush to blame one girl, because surely Miley is the biggest victim here.

  24. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Yes! She didn't come up with this idea on her own. It was very much a big corporate move with managers, MTV, all kinds of people involved. But we sure are quick to blame her and call her a racist. Frankly, if there was intentional, overt racism, then I think the network and the shows' producers need to apologize. She was a pawn, and a not very clever one at that.

    Also, commenters are quick to assume I'm not smart because I don't go on and on and on in an academic rant. Well, I'm not an academic. I'm a yogi. But that doesn't mean I'm not intelligent. I'm just confident enough that I don't have to prove it relentlessly with every word I say.

  25. Senchi says:

    But you DID, Blanche.

  26. E. K.q says:

    The rise of certain things in Black culture such as Rap ect is not different than the popularity of other aspects of any other culture and I don't think that makes people racist. So, if I eat Yorkshire pudding am I racist against Brits? Why can't we share the best of each others cultures? Harry Styles was caught twerking and nobody called him a racist. Why does a white person trying to rap or twerk make them racist? So if a person of colour salsa dances like on Dancing with the Stars for example or we eat salsa are we racist towards Spanish culture? I don't buy it. It seems you can't win any which way. It takes political correctness too far.

  27. @ericbrohmer says:

    Michelle, I urge you to extend the "compassion" of your "yoga perspective" to the critics of her performance who (rightfully) decry it as racist — people for whom this mode of cultural representation is inextricably linked to histories oppression and violence. Of course you are right in that Miley is not the only one to blame. Her performance is symptomatic of a much larger systematic culture that condones the use of black bodies as props. This ire, however, comes from a place that is very real for many of us, not from baseless oversensitivity.

  28. @ericbrohmer says:

    Intent versus effect, Michelle. Racially-informed systemic prejudices are so deeply sewn into some of our ways of thinking, living, and breathing in America that many of us can say racist things or be racist without even realizing it. It is part of the process of learning and listening to people when they are offended. If they are offended, as I certainly am by both the performance and this article, we should trust where they are coming from and recognize that those feelings are a product of their lived experiences.

    It pains me to tell you this, but you could have avoided well-earned criticisms leveled against your intelligence had you done away with your article's non-sentences ("And by claiming this makes her a racist, diminishes the power of the accusation." I'm afraid that isn't English) and utter lack of willingness to even engage with criticisms of Miley's performance. As it stands, you have rushed to defend this young woman without even understanding what those who protest her are saying. Confidence would have been responding to her critics.

  29. disa25 says:

    Like I said, stick to yoga. If you aren't educated on a topic please don't speak on it in such a sloppy manner. Confidence does not equal correctness.

  30. Padma Kadag says:

    I'll say it again Michelle…If Al Jazeera receives tapes for Al Qaeda announcements and they run it and then is picked up by every known western corporate or public news source, what distinguishes Al Jazeera from CNN? Not a damn thing. Your article was not about as you wrongfully state, Al Jazeera's "other side of the story", it was clear that you wrote the article because it "made you uncomfortable" they would be broadcasting in America.

  31. Marian says:

    I don't know / care about her politics. She's not a politician. As a performer she didn't cut it and, in fact, butchered a good tune. I am not a twerk fan but apparently she is. I've seen it done better by amateurs on YouTube. Perhaps it would be that she simply doesn't posses the equipment to be effective. The only other thing I noticed was the tongue thing (what's with that?) she deemed appropriate too often to be effective. I feel sorry for the song, Alan Thicke (is that his name) who actually is a good singer of this and that it bombed. Some risks should involve taste & this wasn't calculated. Just my opinion.