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Monthly Archives: February 2009

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To whom it may concern,Many of my art students are fans of Miley Cyrus and just last week they asked me, “Ms. Lee, you’re Asian…were you offended by Miley’s slant-eyed photo?”  I had not seen the photo but I told them that when kids made that face at me growing up, the intention was mean-spirited and never funny.

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So I googled the photo and read all the comments and hoopla surrounding it.  I also read her comment on her web site saying that she was only being goofy and that it was taken out of context.  I think that when an Asian person looks at this photo it brings back sad and painful memories of being taunted for having features that differ from western looks.

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Ms. Cyrus will never know how that feels since she is not Asian.  She is too young to remember how Asians were depicted in media prior to the 1980’s and  that awareness of multicultural perspectives was hard won and something young people like her may take for granted.  Perhaps she is too young to understand how a single gesture can spread racist attitudes and turn back the clock on understanding racial diversity.   I hope that her managers, Disney and any other parties responsible for her public image will take into consideration that a celebrity and role model of her stature needs to be educated about diversity and social justice.  This is a teaching moment for Ms. Cyrus, her friends, my students and the rest of the world.

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Historically, genocide and racism was and still continues to be propagated by grouping people through stereotypes and names.  Like the Asian kid in Ms. Cyrus’ photo, once you become a stereotype your individuality and identity are lost.  This is how you lose your voice and ultimately your civil rights.  Please consider how to best handle this  scandal.   What started out as just a goofy picture has seeped into my classroom and even into the conversations at the teachers’ lunch table.  It is unfortunate while we have elected the first African American president in the US,  a pop culture teen celeb can undo so much of the message of looking beyond the color of a person’s skin with a silly party photo that was released on the internet.   Please consider the power that Ms. Cyrus has over my young students and the message she sends when her actions are not responsible.
Best Regards,
Nanci Lee

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