What Cultural Appropriation says to Black Women
ARE WE NOT AS MAGICAL AS WE BELIEVE OR ARE WE THE ONLY ONES WHO SEE IT? WHAT IT SAYS TO OUR BLACK WOMEN AND GIRLS WHEN IT'S ACCEPTED AMONG OUR OWN COMMUNITY.
I’ve been putting off writing this for some time because…. honestly, I knew it would take the time and energy to break this down. I knew I couldn’t do it just to put up some content and I also knew I had to have a clear mind. A mind where I wasn’t flustered with disappointment and hurt from the lack of understanding or empathy that some have on this subject. First, before we get any further let me input Wikipedia’s definition of the said term cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation: is a concept dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, and such displays are often viewed as disrespectful, or even as a form of desecration, by members of the originating culture. Cultural elements which may have deep meaning to the original culture may be reduced to "exotic" fashion or toys by those from the dominant culture.
So to put it into laments terms, it’s basically when a group of more dominant people take elements or characteristics of a culture from a group of less dominant people. That’s just the simplistic thought; however there are more intricate parts that can go in more depth. Today, however, I’m going to relate cultural appropriation in regards to black women and the society of America. Now of course it isn’t just black women who have been subject to said action; black men as well, Indigenous people, and the list goes on. But for whatever reason it seems to be more back lash when black women stand up and speak out on this. We all of a sudden are “bitter, angry, jealous, petty” and everything in between when we call out the act.
So first, what are some examples of black women being culturally appropriated? Okay, we had the Kardashians when they were swarming all of the pop blogs (just a way of saying white people blogs without saying white people blogs) with their hip new hairdo called “boxer braids”, which were nothing but corn rolls. Or when pop fashion blogs where all buzzing about how hip earring hoops were now and how they’re coming back into style… black women have been wearing hoops since LL COOL J’s “Round the way girl”; and it has always been an essential aesthetic in our wardrobe. I mean, what Black woman doesn’t own a pair of hoop earrings, right? They're so just so universal. However, as far as I can remember, hoop earrings were always the poster child earrings for “unprofessional and ghetto”. How many jobs have you had or school events you had to attend and were told NOT to wear hoop earrings. Oh, and let’s not forget the viral picture of a young white woman who was wearing big box braids and became the face of the people. Mind you I have strolled pass many black women with some bomb ass “dookie braids” but NEVER have I seen any of them go viral for them.
Now the problem comes when we black women bring this to the forefront and are deemed as a “hater”, “always trying to find something to complain about”, or “we’re perpetuating the racist mentality”. These things are even coming from the mouth of some of our very own black women!! I don’t fault them or hate them for it; I just believe I don’t think they truly understand where these feelings resonate. Do black women HATE when white women or non black women wear braids in their hair? Do we hate when non black women wear dreadlocks, weaves, or afros? Do we hate for non black women to wear hoops, head wraps, big booties, or bedazzled nails??? OF COURSE NOT! And if you are that black woman who does then it’s not just appropriation that upsets you, you may have some more rooted issues with outside races, but I digress. The thing is cultural appropriation for black women is not about feeling like everything we do is ours and we don’t want to see anyone else using or doing it; but it’s more so on how we’re treated and looked at differently for the same thing our white counterparts do. Why is it fashionable, high end, viral, and “what’s in” when our white counterparts do it? That’s such a slap in the face from this society and it’s a jug in the gut when we have black men and some black women who condone this theory.
We’ve been called ghetto, unprofessional, and unkept for wearing our hair, makeup, clothes a certain way but as soon as a white woman does it, it’s fashionable. As if to say braids on us are ugly but on this porcelain goddess…it’s perfection! You see black women all the time twerking our big booties all over social media but when a white woman does it we have people like Trick Daddy or The Shade Room telling us “we better watch out because we’re about to get replaced” or “She’s gonna give you a run for your money”. It’s as if white makes it right and extraordinary.
We just want everyone to be like Teyana Taylor and KEEP THE SAME ENERGY. Be just as impressed and enthuse when we do it, because I definitely don’t see white people doing the same for us. I don’t see black women going viral because we wear our straight blonde hair or because we have blue contacts in our eyes. I don’t see them going coo coo for Coco Puffs because we sing a country song, rock song, or opera (even though they took that too but nevertheless). I don’t see white men telling white women to “watch out” or “these black women are about to give you a run for your money”. What we do is get the blame. What we’re told is if black women didn’t hate on each other all the time, maybe we could get that type of energy. What we’re told is, you all need to celebrate and help each other go viral. What we’re told is everything but, “Sis I can understand how that can make you feel.”
My whole point is black women who speak on cultural appropriation aren’t bitter, angry, jealous and petty. We’re just a community of women who are tired of being pushed aside and walked over, while we’re left to heal on our own because “we’re strong”. We’re tired of being somebody’s afterthought and our feelings are dismissed because of lack of empathy. We’re tired of our cultural being a mood board for their closet, style, music and the next “big thing” while we're treated like another everyday thing to this society. KEEP THE SAME ENERGY and remember where you saw it and heard it first!