“Don’t cash crop on my corn rows?"

“Don’t cash crop on my corn rows”- An open letter from an ordinary black girl to the rest of the world.
Dreadlocks. Justin Bieber. Corn Rows. Kylie Jenner. Cultural Appropriation. What about it? What does it all mean? Why so much anger?

As 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.

For 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.

But that’s just it right? They’re not allowed. They’re not included. They don’t belong with “US”.

Sound familiar?

I’ve 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.

To some extent… those articles display the same xenophobic attitude that we, as people of colour, fight against every single day of our lives.

Some 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 every day.

The 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.

It’s bigger than the use of straighteners to get rid of kinks, and it’s bigger than the weaving of hair to create tight braids.

It’s about our attitude as a whole.

We are defensive beings. When we feel as if we are personally being attacked, we do not take the time to listen.

I’m 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.

You 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.


Firstly, lets define it. Thanks to the glorious ol’ Google/Wikipedia collab, we get:

“The adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture”.

The next listed article says “Why is it wrong?”.

Now lets get rid of those words. Lets make it extra simple.

Girls who storm Coachella every year, ditch their white V neck tshirts, leather jackets and boyfriend jeans for flared floral pants, wavy hair, bindis and feather headdresses.

Again, we ask, as with the French braids, why do people get so angry?

I 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.

That’s what I mean by IT IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE.


With 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.


Try 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.

My 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.


An article I read explained cultural appropriation very simply, and you can’t argue with it:

Imagine 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.

That’s unfair ? Yep. Yet there’s no difference in what you’ve handed in…

Now 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 say.

Now 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.” 

Considering 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.


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 face!"

"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 to mine?"

“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. 

Fast 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.

Fast forward again, and I have learnt how to stop myself from being questioned by society;

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.


“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 EMPTY. My features…

 “They’re not allowed. They’re not included. “

"They don’t belong with YOU."

Do you see the hypocrisy?


I, 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 OTHER.

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.

Let our pain be known, whilst our art, music and fashion prevails and moves us forward TOGETHER.


Another human being.



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).

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