Miley Had it Coming: Why Nicki Minaj Has No Duty to be Nice About White Privilege

by Anna Gibson

At the MTV Video Music Awards, Nicki Minaj decided to read award show host Miley Cyrus like an open book. Shortly after Nicki ascended the stage to accept the Best Hip-Hop Video award, she ripped Miley for her comments about Nicki earlier this week. She said, “Now back to this b**** that had a lot to say about me in the press. Miley, what’s good?”

Nicki was referring to comments Miley made about the Twitter exchange between Nicki and Taylor Swift. The tweets between the two performers took place when Nicki attempted to point out the racism and distorted beauty standards behind her VMA nomination snub.

In response to this exchange, Cyrus thought it wise to offer Nicki some unsolicited advice on how to conduct herself. During an interview with The New York Times, Miley said, “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.” She added, “What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love.”

First of all, who asked Miley for advice? Miley’s statements point directly to white privilege. It shows in her unsolicited advice she offered Nicki, and her comments urging Nicki to be more ‘polite and loving’ despite the fact black people have had to endure racist for centuries in the media. She seems to be more concerned with how Nicki said what she did (a derailing technique called “Tone-Policing” ) while neglecting the underlying system of racist injustice that Nicki is pointing out.

There’s a long and varied history of black women being held in contempt for their perspectives. There’s even a stereotype that’s designed to shame black women from speaking their mind and expressing their anger: an archetype called the Angry Black Woman.

The Angry Black Woman archetype was first introduced in the show Amos ‘n’ Andy when Sapphire, the wife of one of the show’s main characters, was portrayed as nagging, difficult, and combative. By referencing how emotional and negative black women are, society can dismiss whatever concerns black women have, especially when it makes them uncomfortable.

Salon has also reflects this attitude in a recent Tweet, calling Nicki a savage and speaking about her in way that made her seem completely unhinged and irrational. It’s a very common tactic (though completely illogical) to disregard someone through character assassination, something that both Salon and Miley did when Nicki spoke her mind. In her NYT interview, Miley said that Nicki Minaj is not a nice person. The question is, since when did Nicki, or any woman need to be nice? It seems to contradict contemporary feminist rhetoric, which tells women to assert themselves more in their careers. On one hand women are told read books that tell us to “Lean In” and that “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office." However, when a black woman in power stands up for herself and defends her boundaries, she’s no longer “leaning in.” Instead her actions are considered uncivilized. This proves that the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman still distorts our societal expectations of Black women in 2015, which quite frankly, is a damn shame.

In addition to this, Miley’s statements don’t prove that Nicki is “mean” or combative, but that white privilege, and in particular society’s long held ideals of white womanhood, still affects our culture. In “Image of White Womanhood in the South: How It Affected Violence Toward Blacks After the Civil War,” Sarah Heckner quotes Thomas Nelson Page’s book, Social Life in Old Virginia Before the War. Page states:
“[Plantation daughters] were like the mother; made in her own image… they held by a universal consent the first place in the system, all social life revolving around them… [she] was not versed in the ways of the world, but she had no need to be; she was better than that; she was well bred.”
Miley is a direct product of centuries old perceptions about white women’s place in society. This would explain why she would talk down to Nicki, and assassinate her character. Historically, society has told her that she alone is exalted, and that as a white woman, who she is and how she feels is of central concern to public opinion.

Nicki’s statements on Twitter that put Taylor Swift on the defense in the first place shows that she understands both the racism and the misogyny that keep black women oppressed. Her clapback against Miley also reflects something black women have to do far too often: defend their psychological space. Her words were a way to take back her agency and reestablish her boundaries, something some white people have repeatedly infringing upon. We need to understand that white tears don’t get to take precedence over racism. Avoiding a topic because it’s uncomfortable does nothing to address the underlying problem. Instead, it allows the problem to fester and cause tension between black and white people. Black women cannot be silenced, and we won’t be: Nicki Minaj has made that abundantly clear.

Photo: Tinseltown /

Anna Gibson is a student of Wayne State University who seeks to uplift and empower marginalized people. You can reach her on Twitter @TheRealSankofa or on Facebook under Anna Gibson

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