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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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2 Comments

  1. Miley Cryus is spoilt brat. You don’t have to be all grown up to realize that we live in a world of diversity and colour. Using spiteful stereotypical expressions or resulting to cartoon like characterizations of someone based on their race is hurtful and damaging, not just to the recipient… but to society as a whole. What would this world be like if we all looked the same? Our diversity, our individuality springs from all the different things that make up who we are and that includes our heritage. Race does not define a person for we are all as unique as the thumbprint on your hand… and that should be something to celebrate.

  2. While I concur that Miley Cyrus is far from being a role model, youthful stupidity does need some leeway. Another issue is of course all young people whom are into Rap and Hip Hop. I have noticed a propensity for the use of the “C” word when referring to women and the “N” word when meeting up with one another. Moreover, a number of these young people call someone my “N”‘s is a hello of sorts to ones social group regardless of race. This brings up a point of when a word becomes a matter of inclusion rather then exclusion or bigotry. This is really a gray area. I know that rappers have reclaimed the word, much like gays and lesbians have reclaimed queer and dyke and so forth. As a teacher, I think the best we can do is educate about the history of bigotry and the potency of words and facial expressions.


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