No, It's Not OK To Adopt Black Culture If You're Not Black

No, It's Not OK To Adopt Black Culture If You're Not Black

And no, it does not make me feel comfortable.
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Black History Month, Marvel's "Black Panther," constant success across the country from young artists and go-getters all around, what isn't there to enjoy about black culture in today's society? It seems that almost now more than ever having pride in just being a black individual is at an all-time high, with seemingly no sign of that dropping anytime soon. Now I know I've literally said the word "black" about 4 times in the first paragraph of this piece and it may be a bit uncomfortable, but culture is something we should all be open and willing to talk about with an open mind.

As a 20-year-old minority, born and raised in NYC, trust me when I say I've had my fair share of strife with who I am as an individual in this ever-growing world. Throughout middle school and high school, I had a constant battle going on in my mind about whether I wanted to embrace who I was or deny it and try to fit in with most of society's standards. Gladly at age 20, I can now say that I'm glad I took the time out to learn and embrace my culture because, at the end of the day, it's who I am.

That's not to say that every day, myself and many others still don't encounter problems with people either underestimating, undermining, or just misunderstanding black culture. Whether it comes to hair, clothes, music, or language, it's important to know that black culture is exactly that. BLACK culture.

Now before I start, I want everyone to know that this piece is not, and never will say that everyone no matter what race, gender, preference, or ideal, cannot partake in enjoying and supporting black culture. UNDERSTAND, that there is a huge difference but a very thin line between understanding a culture and undermining it. It almost becomes second nature of minorities all across the U.S. to ignore microaggressions and continue with everyday life like nothing ever happened.

What happens when someone asks to touch your hair? Or when someone who isn't black says the n-word? Whether it's calling me your "brotha" or just blatantly yelling Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" because you automatically assume I know the lyrics, know that these things ARE NOT OK within the black community.

Excuse me if I rant a bit (as I'm really trying my best to make a good impression here) but as a young African-American, I should not have to tell you that these things make me uncomfortable. It's one thing when it's coming from someone who you know has gone through the same struggles as you, but it becomes a different and more hostile story when the n-word or anything along those lines comes from someone who you know has no clue what your specific culture has gone through. If I wouldn't dare do something specific to your culture in an attempt to make you feel comfortable when we both know I have no clue what I'm doing or saying, what makes you think it's ok to do the same towards me?

No matter how popularized a certain phrase is, or how much of a "bop" that new Migos track is, it doesn't mean it's OK for you to say it in front of my face in an attempt for you to fit in with who I am. Diversity and sharing of certain cultural traits is a beautiful thing. Food, art, language, and ideals are only a few things that join us as humans together and make us beautiful. Before you say that word though, get that henna tattoo, wear that dashiki, ask that girl if you can touch her hair, or even assume that guy can just automatically speak Spanish because of how he looks, think about how it makes that person feel. I know the headline of this article says 'Black Culture,' but know that these rules (for the most part) are universal, across almost all cultures.

I can't begin to tell you how uncomfortable I've felt around people who feel like they need to acknowledge my culture in order to make me feel comfortable. Whether it's at school, work, or just on the street, a day seems to never go by without somebody pointing out indirectly that I'm black.

I work at the NHL store in New York City. I've been a fan of the National Hockey League since I was about four (which has been a struggle in and of itself). Seemingly every day, a fellow co-worker of mine never fails to acknowledge me as his "brotha." Note, that co-worker is not black. Actually, I don't think I'd be wrong if I said I believe he gets a little on edge every time a black person walks into a hockey store just to check out some apparel. Of course, after a couple days I called him out on it, but that's not the point. The point is, my strife is felt from people of all cultures across the world because for some reason certain individuals feel the need to identify me with who they THINK I am based on how I look.

Do not adopt my culture because you think it'll make me like you more.

Do not adopt my culture period, UNLESS you've taken the time to study, understand, and acknowledge it.

Even then, tread lightly.

I know I sound like an angst-filled young minority at this point, but I write this with good meaning. Please understand that it makes people uncomfortable when you acknowledge them based on their race. Please understand that it is not your right to adopt black culture, or any culture for that matter, because you feel it's the new fad or it'll make me like you more.

Take those cornrows out of your head.

Please take off that dashiki.

Don't get that henna tattoo.

No, that sari and/or bindi is not for you.

A Native American is not a Halloween costume.

Addressing a Hispanic person as Señor does not make them comfortable.

Do not dread your hair if you have no trace of a natural curl pattern.

Take the time to understand those around you. One less micro aggression or act of appropriation makes the world a much better place.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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Exclusive Premiere: LGBTQ+ Artist, Linnel, Releases Stunning Visual With A Strong Message For The Community

Pride month just got that much better

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Made to feel ashamed of who he was, Linnel has only recently been able to accept and explore his queer identity. "I'm Sick" is the culmination of self expression that had been suppressed for 18 years. The song came out a few short months ago and today the world finally gets a chance to see the video that changes the narrative of the song entirely.


What at first sounds like a love song, is really an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. The video, directed by Madi Boll, is centered around a boy named Leyton, played by Pierson Carlson, who is interested in wearing makeup. But when his mom and sister walk in on him putting lipstick on he is made to feel ashamed and a "disease" begins to take form on his skin, alluding to how being gay used to be listed in the DSM. While the gay community has made many improvements in equality, the trans community is now experiencing similar discrimination.

Feeling insecure about his identity, Leyton goes on a walk to clear his head, but finds himself at a party where Linnel is singing "I'm Sick" and everyone there is confidently displaying signs of the same disease. It is a place of community and togetherness, where everyone is welcome. By the end of the party, Leyton's "disease" has fully taken form, but feeling confident in himself, he goes home ready to fully embrace just that. The hope for this video is that it serves as an opportunity for all intersections of the queer community to reclaim the idea that being queer, and/or any other part of the LGBTQ+ community, is a "sickness" or "disease."

Being queer himself, the message of this video is incredibly important to Linnel not only as an artist, but as a person. In the weeks leading up to the video Linnel hosted a "Question of the Week" series on Instagram that consisted of different topics within the LGBTQ+ community. Topics ranged from internalized homophobia to favorite queer art and the responses came pouring in. It enabled people to have a platform to speak out on certain issues/topics that aren't generally brought up in the mainstream media. The responses from all different people brought to light many similarities in regards to why people don't or wait to come out, what they love about their queerness, and how they feel about their own internalized homophobia. For more on this, check out Linnel's Instagram story highlights under "QOW".

Linnel is only just getting started. The "I'm Sick" music video has made a statement about the kind of behavior and morals that he stands for. Linnel hopes to continue to shine a positive light on the LGBTQ+ community, while making music that brings people of all mindsets together to start a conversation.

Cover Image Credit:

Linnel

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