Don’t Cash Crop On My Corn Rows

20 / 04 / 2015

Cultural appropriation is a term that isn’t often heard in daily conversation, which means it’s inevitably misunderstood by many people, majority of them Westerners, failing to grasp the concept of first and fore mostly ‘white privilege.’ This month we’re taking a look at trending video created by the Hunger Games Amandla Stenberg and her beautifully executed and explained ‘crash course’ on black culture and cultural appropriation that’s finding itself extremely present in today’s media and pop culture.

Many white people donning Indian Headdresses for festivals, or wearing a Bindi have taken cultural appropriation to mean the policing of what white people can or can’t wear and enjoy. Having considered their fashion choices a form of personal expression, some may feel unfairly targeted for simply dressing and acting in a way that feels comfortable for them.

Jarune Uwujaren explains that “one of the reasons that cultural appropriation is a hard concept to grasp for so many is that Westerners are used to pressing their own culture onto others and taking what they want in return.”

Last week making headlines, 16 year-old Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg posted a video on Tumblr, which she made with a friend for her history class. Her video, titled “Don’t Cash My Cornrows — A Crash Discourse On Black Culture” has since received over 59,000 notes and over one million views on YouTube.

Youtube

Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

Harold Holger from website Thought Catalog explains the critical points of Stenbergs video, and the relevance of Stenberg discussing black identity and black hair. She aligns them with black music — jazz, hip hop, and rap; styles of music which originated from African-Americans, during a time of struggle, ‘created to retain humanity in the face of adversity.’

Stenberg says “So black hair has always been an essential component of black culture. Black hairs requires upkeep for it to grow and remain healthy, so black women have always done their hairs. It’s just a part of our identity: braids, twists, locs, cornrows and etc.”

“…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.”

Youtube

Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

She goes on to criticize white musicians, most notably Katy Perry, Riff Raff, Iggy Azalea for adopting black culture into their music and videos.

“In the early 2000s, you saw many R&B stars wearing cornrows: Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, R. Kelly and many more. As hip-hop became more and more integrated into pop-culture, so did black culture.”

 

For example, magazine Marie Claire praised Kylie Jenner for rocking cornrows and “taking them to a new level” and in Stenberg’s words, structuring them as a “new, urban hairstyle.” (Marie Claire has since apologized for that statement.)

And Riff Raff’s entire persona when he is a “white, middle-class man, who almost ironically took on a black [skin] and wore braids and gold teeth.” This led to James Franco’s portrayal of Alien in Spring Breakers, where he sported cornrows and gold teeth as well.

Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

Stenberg says, “Pop stars and icons adopted black culture as being edgy and getting attention.” She turns to Miley Cyrus (her twerking) and Katy Perry (using ebonics and using black stereotypes — eating watermelons, hand gestures) as examples.

She also drew attention to white rappers quickly gaining popularity and “excelling” in the craft, mentioning Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Iggy Azalea.

The media played a huge part in propelling these artists to fame, most notably Forbes’ article, titled: Hip-Hop’s Unlikely New Star: A White, Blonde, Australian Woman.

But as these white hip-hop and rap artists rose to fame, “police brutality against black people came to the forefront… From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to Tamir Rice, Eric Garner… people began to protest institutionalized racism by marching and by using social media.”

Stenberg points out that these white artists, while adopting “blackness” did little to nothing to address the racism that came along with the black identity.

She used rapper Azealia Banks’ Tweet pointing out Iggy Azalea’s silence as an example:

 

Which culminated into Banks’ interview on American radio station Hot 97.

“I have a problem when you’re trying to say that it’s hip-hop and you’re trying to put it up against black culture…it’s like cultural smudging. All it says to white kids is ‘Oh yeah, you’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to. And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have shit. You don’t own shit. Not even shit you’ve created for yourself. And it makes me upset.” — Azealia Banks

Click here to see Azealia Banks full interview with Hot 97 on YouTube.

Holger from Though Catalog says: “Stenberg understands that the line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is ‘always going to be blurred,’ but she dishes out some critical points: ‘Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high-fashion, or 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 they’re partaking in.

Stenberg concludes with this: ‘What if America loved black people as much as they loved black culture?’

Click here to watch Amandla Stenberg’s ‘Don’t Cash Crop On My Corn Rows’ video in full.

FacebookTwitter