In the amazing country of the USA, we have many different races, cultures, beliefs, and just about anything else that makes a person unique. And in a country that is full of so many differences, especially cultures, as a nation we want to assimilate to partake in others cultures and learn the ways they choose to live their lives just as we hope they’d want to do the same. But one line that will always be blurred pertaining to this matter is the one that separates assimilation and cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture. In today’s society we see this constantly from celebrities. In terms of African- American culture, some examples of these are people other than blacks getting cornrows, dreadlocks, twerking/dancing, using slang, music/rapping, and wanting bodily features usually associated with being black.
A very recent example of this is Kylie Jenner’s recent instagram post of herself posing in front of a mirror, in a crop top and sweats, with her hair in cornrows with the caption “I woke up like disss”. And I love Kylie Jenner just as much as the next person hates her but one thing she fails to understand is that cornrows aren’t merely just stylistic but were/are a way of taming African-American hair. On the issue Amanlda Stenberg, Rue from THG, commented on Kylie’s post, “when u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.”
In many instances cornrows/dreads are viewed as an unprofessional, dirty, look on a black person but as soon a white person does it, they’re viewed as this “new urban hairstyle” when in fact they’ve been a thing for thousands of years. But they’re not brought to the forefront until someone of privilege does it, giving Amandla’s hash tag validity as something that isn’t even there’s i.e. the corns, meaning that they’re being worn better by someone other than the creator of the style.
On the topic of other things, such as rap, this has been a battle for many years. Eminem’s album Encore went four times platinum, and he received great success due to his Hip-Hop ability and once again black culture was gaining popularity from someone other than an a black person. Iggy Azalea came on the scene as female whose song “Fancy” reached number one on Billboards Top List in the year of 2014 and was very catchy I might add. But many others and myself would not deem her music and inability to rap ever be in a category near hip-hop. May of the same year Forbes released an article, “Hip Hop’s Unlikely New Star: White, Blonde, Australian Woman”, affirming Iggy’s ‘rapping’ on a grand scale and to many it was a slap in the face. Azealia Banks described it as a “cultural smudging” as they put her music on the same level as real hip-hop.
All in all, I’m not saying that you cannot cornrow your hair or rap or shake your butt. But remember where it all came from. You cannot pick the part of the culture that you like and negate the rest of it. Especially in terms of celebrities and figure heads, they want to take the cool, fashion, sense part of it and scream it to the rooftops but when black lives are being slayed due to police brutality they’re more silent than ever. Amandla posed this question to her YouTube followers: What would American be like if they loveed black people as much as black culture? What do you think?