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Divide and Conquer

February 11, 2009

Over the weekend, DH pointed out the recent Miley Cyrus controversy. I was not going to post anything–usually not being interested in celebrity goings-on–but couldn’t resist, after all.

The whole thing is a depressing example of how effective the old divide and conquer tactic can be. Look at Miley’s daddy. If it even occurred to her to poke fun at other people’s epicanthic folds, she’d run into some trouble closer to home. At worst, it’s likely to be a symptom of internalized racism.

AFAICT, the main reason her own eye folds are not as obvious is because she’s employing the too-familar expression of perpetual surprise in front of the camera, to avoid closer to this look. The latter is more natural, but IME is not considered nearly as attractive in the dominant culture. Going around with raised eyebrows in public “for oh so many years” is half the reason I’ve got such nasty migraines now, from knotting up muscles in my forehead. One great-uncle was not known as “Squinchy” for nothing.

Heck, this particular tempest in a teacup caught my attention because I got mercilessly teased over my eye folds, low nose, and broad flat face in school–which probably sounds far too familiar to the protestors. Mean kids made the eye-pulling face at me. Difference is, even I did not perceive this as racist at the time, knowing full well that I was only “white” with a small W. Now I know better.

Around the time of “Achy Breaky Heart”, my mother enjoyed laughing and pointing out the resemblance to Billy Ray Cyrus. He is from the same area as most of my father’s family, and it shows. (And, given useful-to-some popular stereotypes, I must point out that this is not a result of inbreeding. Grargh.) As mentioned in a recent post, I found him deeply embarrassing until fairly recently, thanks to a huge tangled mass of internalized BS. Just looking at somebody should not be enough to bring out that strong a response.

It’s convenient for most people not to be aware of some relevant history. As mentioned before, my great-grandmother knew Carrie Buck, and could easily have met the same fate. “[T]he shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South”, indeed.

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