Halloween has finally passed and now we move on to another holiday that brings people together. Unfortunately, we are left scrolling through our social media facing the inappropriate and culturally appropriative costumes. From people imitating black culture, to native culture and other indigenous people’s cultures, we are reminded of how much culture appropriation actually goes on.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the intellectual property rights of the originating culture. One would think that appropriating culture would be a “no no” on everyone’s list, but unfortunately it’s not.
Time after time, we see others who are not of the race wearing cornrows and gold hoop earrings. Being praised over social media for being “trend setters”, when you can go to any hood and find a sister rocking those same cornrows who’s considered “ghetto” and “ratchet”. It’s not the stealing part that really makes any person of color angry when a white counterpart appropriates their culture. It’s actually when they receive praise and credit for something that has been being done for centuries! From long nails, slicked baby hairs, locks and braids, these are all things that was originated in the black culture, but once a white model does it, it’s considered “high fashion” and the “latest trend”. Like Taryn Finely said in her Culture Appropriation Piece, “America loves appropriating black culture—even when black people themselves, at times, don’t receive much love from America.”
It also seems that when white people do decide to appropriate, they only take the good things: the fashion, the body and even the hair. What they don’t take is the discrimination, the racial profiling, the struggle, the hate and all that comes with being black. You don’t get to pick and choose which part you’d like to imitate because we, as black, native and indigenous people, don’t. We were born this way and we made the best of it. We created a culture that’ll live and embrace and change for the better, because clearly others didn’t want us to excel. We made something for ourselves and children and generations to come.
A message to any white counterpart who’s deciding to buy a dashiki or get some cornrows with extensions: think about how you are appropriating a culture that has fought long and hard to even be recognized and think if you want to be the person to take away everything they’ve created.