Cash Cropping Our Cornrows: Is Cultural Appropriation The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?
Did you see Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg’s viral video Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows? Her crash discourse on black culture has been changing the discussion on race in pop culture.
But now that she’s helped everyone get unconfused about what constitutes cultural appropriation, let’s talk about these stars who have found themselves in trouble for “borrowing” from other cultures.
Big lips have always been a coveted cultural trait. But when Kylie Jenner stepped out with suddenly fuller lips, the cultural appropriation quickly got out of control. Tons of Kylie’s Twitter and Instagram followers took on the #KylieJennerChallenge to suction plump their lips in a bid to look like her. And things just won’t stop getting out of hand.
It’s hard to know where to start with Madge. Do you go all the way back to voguing? Do you talk about these grills or just focus on her casual use of the n-word? Do people give her a pass because her adopted son is black?
Vanessa Hudgens isn’t the only star to rock a bindi, but her Instagram photo was one of the pics at the center of #ReclaimTheBindi.
Remember when the Los Angeles Times covered cornrows, the hot new trend for white women allegedly started by Bo Derek? Amandla Stenberg specifically pointed out Christina Aguilera and Fergie for their cornrowed tendencies, but there’s no end to all the celebrities (and Bahamian vacationers) who have recently started embracing the very old style.
Where does cultural appropriation end and racism begin? At least one blog said that Miley Cyrus’ use of black women as props — and basically everything else she does in life — is definitely crossing the line. Do you agree?
If big butts are the biggest culturally appropriated body part, then Kim Kardashian is the booty’s most famous ambassador. But while Kim has been famous for the blackness of her posterior for more than a decade, she said that she just realized racism still existed last year.
So how do you borrow from a culture without appropriating it? Rapper Angel Haze said it’s all about dialogue:
“Cultural appropriation should be a conversation. It should be something that people say: Like, why the f**k are you doing this or why the f**k are you rapping about this when you’re not from here? It’s an opportunity for us to reassert the culture we come from: This is what you’re appropriating, this is what we are, as a culture, as a people.
There should be so many different conversations happening, and, for one, I’ve learned a lot just from Twitter about hip hop and what it means to certain people. For some people, it’s who they are, it’s where they come from, it’s their roots and how they grow. For anybody to try to take ownership of that, acting like it’s their history too, is sort of like Black face.”
When Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” video sparked controversy for allegedly objectifying its black backup dancers, Allen said that her video had nothing to do with race: She didn’t choose the backup dancers because they were black but because they were the best dancers. But at least one journalist didn’t believe her:
“I like Allen’s voice and presence and mouthiness, but I don’t like racism. Even tongue-in-cheek, hand-on-slapped-black-buttocks racism.”
The Internet couldn’t figure out whether Harry Styles’ Native American headdress was racist or not. Is this a fun photo or a step over the line?
Rapper Macklemore understands that knowing your place in another culture can be tough:
“You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing to the culture — and that’s subjective, that’s completely subjective.”
He also had a little shade to cast Iggy Azalea’s way:
“But, I think it’s clear who has contributed and clear who is taking. I’m not gonna comment on Iggy in that regard, but what I will say is I saw a tweet it was something along the lines of, ‘hip-hop was birthed out of the civil rights movement.’ This is a culture that came from oppression that came from white oppression, it was the by product of that. We can say that we’ve evolved and that we’ve come along [sic] way since the late ’70s and early ’80s, but [evidence suggests] that we haven’t. So you can’t disregard that.”
Some Inside Amy Schumer fans paused when she debuted this “Milk Milk Lemonade” video featuring black women twerking in the background — including Amber Rose — at the MTV Movie Awards. Amy seems to be poking fun at cultural appropriation but with her previous race hiccups, some fans weren’t so sure.
When is it cultural appropriation and when is it art? When photographer Sebastian Kim found himself in trouble for featuring white model Ondria Hardin in blackface as an “African Queen,” he defended his work. Kim said his images were never meant to be about black women at all, and he was unaware that the title of the shoot would be “African Queen.” What do you think?
Julianne Hough made orange the new racism when she took cluelessness about cultural appropriation to new heights. She was heavily criticized for this full-on blackface version of Crazy Eyes.
Few pop stars are more central to the cultural appropriation discussion than “runaway slave master” Iggy Azalea. And rappers like Azealia Banks have pointed out that while the white Australian has borrowed black hairstyles, speech, dance moves, music, and even curves, she’s been one of the most silent individuals when it comes to speaking out about racial inequality.