The current buzz phrase “cultural appropriation” has both the entertainment world and its viewers perpetuating ongoing conversations highlighting racial tension. It seems as if people of color are banding together and up in arms over every event in pop culture, specifically, the wardrobe and behavior of popular artists like Iggy Azalea, Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, and our favorite behaviorally belligerent Miley Cyrus. This issue is about privilege, or lack thereof; what’s unacceptable for one group of people is praised amongst another. That’s simply what cultural appropriation is: intentional usage of cultural aspects such as hair, clothing, or other cultural identifiers, to basically get cool points, downplay its origin, and seem innovative, without thoroughly taking the time to understand the roots.
Cultural appropriation is not to be confused with cultural assimilation. The slight, but important factor is that with assimilation the culture is (respectively) adopted. Urban, street style, whatever you want to call it, has been imitated by many white (non-black) artists for years– that’s nothing new. However, the pressing element is the apparent evolution of social acceptance in 2015. By now, myself included, people expect to see changes in prejudices of appearance. No longer should anyone be condemned for basic things like popular hairstyles within one culture having phrases such as “unprofessional” or “unkept” attached to them. In turn, to have a relevant teen like Kylie Jenner wear those infamous cornrows of hers and get praised by the same tongues who’d diss Ciara or Zendaya for having their faux “locs”. Hairstyles are often ridiculed and common styles such as braids, locs, afros, or essentially any style that many black women wear similar to their natural state, is usually found as too urban, too unprofessional, and oftentimes not taken seriously. A few months ago Kylie Jenner posted a mirror selfie flaunting these cornrows. She is one of many urban washed individuals who love to show just how “down” they can be on the outside infiltrating popular black culture, but do not use their platforms to engage in the needed cultural dialogue.
I wholeheartedly stand behind those artists who are fed up with the obvious cultural appropriators who are being displayed in mainstream media as “trendy” or “edgy” when it’s worn by someone who is white. How can someone dress the part for likes, but not openly stand up for injustices at given times for the likes of the culture being mimicked? In response, 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg spoke out about cultural appropriators. Known as Rue from “The Hunger Games,” Stenberg hits the nail right on the head with her definition, “appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations but is deemed cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves”. The ugly, admitted truth is that it’s a form of perpetual hatred for images and actions displayed by celebrities of color. As a black woman who chooses to embrace her naturally kinky hair, I find it highly offensive that in certain cultural settings I could not wear my hair as it naturally occurs, or in a way that is fitting to my culture. On behalf of myself, and others who may share my views, it would be greatly appreciated if black women’s hair was not commonly mocked and then praised on perpetrators who aren’t ballsy enough to speak out about injustices. If it looks like a duck, but doesn’t quack like one- it’s kind of useless.