“Don’t cash crop on my corn rows”- An open letter from an ordinary black girl to the rest of the world.
Justin Bieber. Corn Rows. Kylie Jenner. Cultural Appropriation. What about it?
What does it all mean? Why so much anger?
soon as somebody mentions the words ‘cultural appropriation’, the majority of
our brains just completely switch off. You don’t want to hear it. I don’t want
to hear it. We can all agree that it gets boring seeing the same articles over
and over, filling our Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds.
every few pictures of Khloé Kardashian and her niece Penelope rocking French
plaits or corn rows, comes an essay or youtube video telling them why they are
simply NOT allowed to style their hair in that manner.
that’s just it right? They’re not allowed. They’re not included. They don’t
belong with “US”.
read articles which insinuate that our cultures and practices are OURS (yes
they originated from us) and aren’t inclusive. They’re not to be shared.
some extent… those articles display the same xenophobic attitude that we, as
people of colour, fight against every single day of our lives.
others call it hypocrisy. Many want to know why white girls anger the black
community whilst they wear our cornrows, but we are allowed to wear weaves
truth is, it isn’t as black and white as it seems. This isn’t an Afro Vs
European hair war. This isn’t about Justin Bieber getting dreadlocks and
Rihanna having platinum blonde hair. It way bigger than that.
bigger than the use of straighteners to get rid of kinks, and it’s bigger than
the weaving of hair to create tight braids.
about our attitude as a whole.
are defensive beings. When we feel as if we are personally being attacked, we
do not take the time to listen.
sick of this: “ITS BRAIDS OR NO BRAIDS. PICK ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER” attitude.
It’s time we stopped attacking and arguing. It’s 2016. It’s sure as hell time
we started listening to each other.
see, I had a conversation about cultural appropriation a few days ago on Yik
Yak. The beauty of YikYak is anonymity, and the ability to post without a face,
skin colour or any judgment based on the latter. (Yes you can be a green acorn
or an orange sock, but really, who cares?!). I see many political arguments on
there, some which result in personal insults and low blows, but for once, as a
black person, I spoke to a white individual who at the time did not believe
cultural appropriation exists, and made them understand. Forgive the racial
separation in this, but it’s paramount to this part of discussion.
WHAT IS CULTURAL
lets define it. Thanks to the glorious ol’ Google/Wikipedia collab, we get:
adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture”.
next listed article says “Why is it wrong?”.
lets get rid of those words. Lets make it extra simple.
who storm Coachella every year, ditch their white V neck tshirts, leather
jackets and boyfriend jeans for flared floral pants, wavy hair, bindis and
we ask, as with the French braids, why do people get so angry?
can’t put it any other way, than as, some people think they are ‘adopting’ a
culture, but simply, they are adopting its visuals. Iggy Azalea taking hip hop,
Katy Perry does corn rows, Pia Mia and Kylie do Grills. They are taking the
pretty parts and not only making it theirs, but profiting from it. They’re
ignoring the racism, oppression and all the ugly bits that goes along with just
being black. They are taking other’s art (not always intentionally and in a
spiteful matter), then making it theirs. Some are simply copying a picture they
find off Tumblr, and whilst some look to Vogue magazine and are simply trying
to stay on trend. It sometimes can be a simple misunderstanding.
what I mean by IT IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE.
ITS NOT AS SIMPLE AS
SOME PEOPLE THINK IT IS
the advancement of technology and social media, it is unfair to say that TV and
magazines are our sole source of news and fashion trends. We have the freedom
to view the photographs and opinions of people on the opposite side of the
world to us, often uncensored. Opened up have the artistic worlds of Tumblr and
WeHeartIt, where collections of images, blog genres and beautiful photography,
all captured from home, have become our inspirations. Amateurs are no longer
just amateurs, because we have the DSLR cameras, the photo manipulation
softwares, the Instagrams and the language skills to convince others that we
KNOW what fashion is, and we KNOW how to look good. We don’t learn from snooty
high-end magazine editors anymore; we learn from each other.
We have to appreciate the origin of what we wear and do as individuals, and educate one another on where the inspiration has come from. And it's not just to be expected of the normal fast-fashion buying individual, but it hast to be openly admitted and come from top-down. It has to come from artists, fashion and makeup designers, magazine editors, bloggers, and then finally down to us, the readers.
“WHITE PEOPLE WEAR
BRAIDS TO STEAL OUR CULTURE.”
to put yourself in ‘white peoples’ shoes for once. Vogue and Elle are telling
everybody that braids are all the rage this summer because Kylie, Kendall and
Khloé are sporting them in their free time. Do you really take the time to sit and think
of the origin of the braid, where its come from, who’s worn it before, and what
it means to others? You may lie and say that when it comes to doing your hair,
you make sure that you honour the hair style’s origin, and it’s past so you
don’t annoy anyone that may view your latest blog post or you may encounter
whilst walking down the street.
point is, as an individual, you may exercise your right to stay on trend, admire
fashion for what it is and channel whichever designer’s vibes you think will be
the next big thing for the next season or so within your discretion.
WHAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE?
that the hairstyle solely belongs to you because Hello magazine said so.
They’re probably wrong.
an INDIVIDUAL of another race because they may be wearing something that stems
from your culture.
that cultural appropriation does not exist.
Based on the definition posted above, no matter how little or big you think the
issue is, if you’re wearing head dress, a bindi, or mandala print, your
fashion/beauty designer has probably taken inspiration from abroad. Something
in your wardrobe was definitely taken from or inspired by another culture at some
the political and racial issues that are at stake for those whose cultures that
your designers have taken inspiration from.
article I read explained cultural appropriation very simply, and you can’t
argue with it:
handing in an essay, which is an exact copy of your classmate’s that is a
different race to you. Now imagine that you get laughed at, bullied, jeered and
an F, whilst your classmate gets praised and an A.
unfair ? Yep. Yet there’s no difference in what you’ve handed in…
imagine Kylie Jenner wears dreadlocks, and gets the cover of TEEN VOGUE. No
biggie right? I mean, major style points for thinking outside the box, the blogs must
realise that Zendaya wears dreadlocks, and gets absolutely slated on E! Fashion
police. Despite looking absolutely flawless, her hair must smell of “Patchouli oil and weed.”
dreadlocks in our day and age are associated with Rastafarians, that sure is a
racist comment. (Giuliana Rancic has since apologised, and Zendaya has
graciously accepted it- using the opportunity to educate others on the double
standards of beauty that young black women face in today’s society.)
Now, Based on your answer to the unfairness of
the proprosed question, assuming you're a decent human being, then the above situation
(Kylie VS Zendaya), playing out largely in
the public eye also stands as unfair.
THIS RACISM ALWAYS INTENTIONAL?
Our society is being conditioned to accept parts of
black culture, but almost without realising it. Mainstream magazines and
fashion outlets will not credit the recent source of these trends, but will
simply state that you must wear it before it dies out.
Now I, not as a black person, but as a human being,
ask you to read this next part and consider what it would be like to be in my shoes.
I have had nasty comments made about me all my life.
We all have. It's nothing new, its something we all learn to deal with and to
ignore over time. However, it is only recently that I have noticed the
hypocrisy of these statements.
"Why are your lips so big? They take up half your
"Why do you have such a huge butt?"
"Ew, your boobs are so big for your age. How do
you even fit into bras?”
"Why is your hair THAT curly?"
"Can I feel your hair? Why's it so short compared
“Why do you have braids? They look really weird!”
I have even had bananas thrown at me, and racial slurs
thrown around like there’s no tomorrow. And I am almost always expected to suck
it up and move on.
As an impressionable teenager, I quickly learnt to
hate myself. Everything my mother had taught me to love about myself was quickly
ripped to shreds by a crowd that I had to face daily.
forward 6 years, and Kylie Jenner draws lip liner
over her lips and then gets lip injections. Kim Kardashian gets butt implants.
Khloé Kardashian and Justin Bieber are getting corn rows and dreadlocks. They
are being praised for it.
forward again, and I have learnt how to stop myself from being questioned by society;
- I must wear a weave.
- I must have long hair.
Perhaps my lips, and the rest of my bodily (and
typically black) features are not being questioned as much now because it is
popular with the Hollywood crowd; so with that, I can be content. But only for the moment.
WHAT IS CULTURAL
“Cultural assimilation is interpenetration and fusion of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. In case of classical assimilation, immigrants and members
of ethnic group are expected to come to resemble the majority group in terms of
norms, values and behavior.” Hence the largely generalizable reason that black
girls are conditioned to start to wear weaves in the first place.
Clothing lines and beauty blogs are still naming
fuller lips and braids as their ‘latest trend’.
The key word is TREND. It dies out. White girls may
return to their normal hair styles and naturally thinner frames/lips without
the bat of an eyelid, as soon as a leading fashion magazine or icon clicks
their fingers. It’s optional for them. But its not optional for me.
I return to my sad normality.
The questions about kinky hair, the strange but dark
obsession with my foreign features resumes and I am once again left feeling
“They’re not allowed. They’re not included. “
don’t belong with YOU."
Do you see the hypocrisy?
SO WHAT DO I ASK?
as a compassionate human being, who sees no colour and only how YOU as another
human being treats me, asks that we LEARN AND TAKE THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND EACH
Please understand that people of colour
are still struggling in a white dominated society, where it is harder to get a
job or good education, and there is pressure to adhere to European beauty
standards of long straight hair and paler skin. I ask that you understand that public figures’ opinions on black
features and the degradation of any black celebrity or person due to their
natural looks is HUMILIATING, hurtful and excluding. I ask you to understand that us black girls wear weaves because we
want to fit in. We do not want to be abused. We do not want to be questioned. We do not want to be treated like second-rate
beings. We want to live without harassment and judgemental remarks because our
hair/skin colour is different. I also ask you to understand that by sporting
any aspect of a culture that’s different from yours, even unknowingly, if you
find out where it comes from that you accept it’s origin, and you embrace the
PEOPLE as well as the FASHION. I ask that you are sympathetic and appreciate
that some aspects of some cultures are more sacred than others. This entirely depends
on the individuals and the culture. You must create an open dialogue with THEM
if they speak out. I ask that once you gain the appropriate knowledge of the
culture that you have been inspired by, to pass on the credit and to educate
others on the history or painful past/present that they are going through. I
ask you not to be selective when it comes to our culture, but to to ACCEPT US
AS A WHOLE.
And I, as a
compassionate human being ask black* people not to hate in return. I ask you
to love. Show understanding, and realise not every person with dreadlocks is wearing
them out of spite. Some simply adore the way the hair looks or want to be more
like us. Some simply are oblivious (and not ignorant unless educated and
STILL HATEFUL) to the hurt that we feel on a daily basis. I ask that you
respond kindly to genuine curiosity, and to those who wish to be a part of and
take on your culture in a respectful manner. I ask that with all cases of what
you deem to be cultural appropriation, that you do not attack an individual,
but you ask if they know about the style’s history or your race’s struggles. I
ask you to be inclusive, and defy the dark attitudes of a select few that reflect on the rest of society. Let us not argue. I
ask you educate and share our culture, spread our music, our hairstyles,
and even native clothing patterns, our food, our love, and share our history.
our pain be known, whilst our art, music and fashion prevails and moves us
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a few for extra reading if ur a good student xxxx
* People of colour
Carlos, M. (2015) ‘“Native American-inspired” fashion week collection offends and Enrages actual native Americans’, 19 February. Available at: http://fusion.net/story/51252/native-american-inspired-fashion-week-collection-offends-and-enrages-actual-native-americans/ (Accessed: 8 April 2016).
HOT 97 (2014) Azealia banks goes off on TI, Iggy + black music being smudged out. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFDS-VEEl6w (Accessed: 8 April 2016).
Hype Hair Magazine (2015) Amandla Stenberg: Don’t cash crop on my Cornrows. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1KJRRSB_XA (Accessed: 8 April 2016).
Larsson, N. (2015) Inspiration or plagiarism? Mexicans seek reparations for french designer’s look-alike blouse. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/17/mexican-mixe-blouse-isabel-marant (Accessed: 8 April 2016).
Wilson, J. (2013) Numéro magazine apologizes for Blackface fashion editorial. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/numero-magazine-blackface-apology-african-queen_n_2772670.html (Accessed: 9 April 2016).
Labels: advice, cultural appropriation, essay, joksie, joksie essay, racism