Cultural appropriation is something I have just recently started hearing about on social media. The definition of this, according to Oxford Reference is "the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another." Some people don’t think cultural appropriation is real and instead say that people are just appreciating other people’s culture.
I’m going to explain my side of cultural appropriation and why it is so frustrating. It is not the use of black culture that is the problem; it’s the difference in the way white people are treated when they use our culture. Things that black people have been doing for years are seen an irrelevant or “ghetto” until white people start to do it. Two common examples of cultural appropriation within the black community are hair and body types.
If there is anything that has defined black people for centuries, it’s hair. Our hair is not like other races and because of that, we’ve come up with many different ways to wear our hair. Box braids, Senegalese twists, Dreads, and Cornrows are a way for black women and some men to wear their hair without having to worry about heat damage or frizz. Not only do these hairstyles make our hair easier to deal with, but it is also our way of expressing the roots of our heritage. The use of these hairstyles shows that the culture and history of black people has not been completely wiped out. However, even though these hairstyles are still vibrant in black culture today, black people still must accept that with these hairstyles people are going to look at us different.
Who cares right? Let them stare. But what about blacks in a professional environment? Many people see these hairstyles as unprofessional and that is when it becomes a problem. The way we choose to wear our hair has nothing to with our ability to perform in a professional environment. So when we see an article or something on the news about a white celebrity rocking their new “bohemian” hairstyle, we get mad, not because a non-black person is wearing box braids or dreads, but because they’re getting the credit for being “hipster” and “unique,” but in reality they’re just copying something black people have been doing for years.
About a year ago, the actress Amandla Stenberg posted a picture on Instagram that explained the double standard that black women face for their bodies. Typically, black women tend to have big lips and thick thighs. This is not saying that women of any other race can’t have these features. They are just more commonly seen within women of color. For years, these features were seen as unattractive and made people view black women as a whole as unattractive as well. However, in the past few years traits such as full lips and curves have become very desirable, but not in black women. Body characteristics people have been making black women feel bad about for years are suddenly popular because they are on someone else. So once again, blacks are not given the credit they deserve.
These two things are not the only things that are appropriated in black culture. Types of music, dancing, style, slang, and many other qualities have been used by blacks and then used by whites to make a mass profit. This is why cultural appropriation is such a problem. We live in a world where black culture is celebrated but blacks are not. After all the things blacks have been through, it is fair to ask that the things that have come to define us be represented correctly.