Cultural appropriation, as we’ve previously talked about last week, is becoming a fast-growing trend among pop culture and its consumers. From bindis to head dresses, some people seem to treat certain cultures’ identifying and/or religious wear into fashion trends; and that is a big problem. This mostly occurs among the current generation of youth with the influence of media, fashion, and music. A lot of other people have spoken out about the issue at hand, and just recently, a video of a young teen icon’s stand on cultural appropriation has gone viral.
You might know her as Rue from the Hunger Games and she might only be sixteen years old, but Amandla Stenberg is more aware of the issues on cultural appropriation than most people are. Three months ago, Amandla uploaded a short video that she and her friend had made for their history class on her Tumblr page. Entitled as “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows — a crash discourse on black culture”, she talks about the realities of white people adopting black culture without really taking into consideration what are the important meanings behind the things they have amassed. Particularly she talks about how black hair has become an “urban hairstyle” in the modern world.
“Black hair has always been an essential component of black culture. Black hair requires upkeep in for it order to grow and remain healthy. So black women have always done their hair. It’s just part of our identity; braids, locks, twists, and cornrows, etc. Cornrows are a functional way of keeping black textured hair unknotted and neat but with style. So you can see why hair is such a big part of hip-hop and rap culture. These are styles of music which African-American communities created in order to affirm our identities and our voices….Pop stars and icons have adopted black culture as a way of being edgy and gaining attention.”
She then talks about how some adopt and celebrate black culture but do not seem to care about black people and the currently circulating issues affecting them. She specifically points out how Iggy Azalea has grown to be an “icon” of some sort in hip-hop/rap because of how she has embraced the culture, yet she chooses to ignore and sometimes even contribute to the heavy racism and brutality black people [and even other people of color] experience. Iggy is one prime example of how cultural appropriation as well as racism is being taken ever so lightly by popular celebrities.
“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture that they are partaking in. Hip-hop stems from a black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues, styles of music African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity. Which itself stems from songs used during slavery to communicate and survive. On a smaller scale but in a similar vein, braids and cornrows are not merely stylistic. They’re necessary in order to keep black hair neat. I've been seeing this question a lot on social media, and I think it's really relevant, ‘What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?’”
We salute Amandla Stenberg for her honesty and for being the right celebrity people should look up to. Not many young celebrities nowadays use their fame to openly express their opinions and to inform others about social issues (of course with an exception of a few such as Tavi Gevinson, Willow Smith, and Maisie Williams). So we are proud to call Amandla as our Woman Crush Wednesday and hopefully she continues being the inspiration that she is to many people, including us!
Watch the video here
- Reign Gonzales
click on photos for sources