Sixteen year old, former Hunger Games actress, Amandla Stenberg has become an outspoken critic against the appropriation of Black culture by mainstream society and by non Black people. She made a video on Youtube called, Don’t Cash My Cornrows for her history class project and the video attracted attention across social media. She spoke about how cornrows is a hairstyle that was worn by Black women for centuries and how Black artists such as Beyoncé and Alicia Keys wore cornrows in their music videos and public events. Then she spoke about how mainstream, White artists such as Christina Aguilera and celebrities wearing cornrows and making it a huge thing in the media. And cornrows, Ebonics and twerking was appropriated by several White artists in the past few years. She ended her video with this quote, ”What would America be like if they loved Black people as much as they love Black culture?”
Here is a picture from her video, Don’t Cash My Cornrows
What is cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is when the dominant culture adopts elements or parts from a non dominant culture. According to her video, the appropriation happens when he or she doesn’t understand the significance of the culture that he or she is partaking in. Many of the people who partake in Black culture just don’t or even care to know the history behind the culture or the people who created that culture. Yet when someone who originated from that culture wears a certain hairstyle or look, it is associated with racial stereotypes but when someone from the dominant culture wears the same hairstyle or look, it is deemed as ”edgy” and cool. I have noticed this myself especially when I was in high school. White girls who wore braids or had that bronze look were considered beautiful and exotic while Black girls were put down for wearing braids. I am not trying to imply that White and non Black women can’t wear braids. That isn’t the case that is being made however I am pointing out how braids are seen as ghetto and unkempt on a Black woman such as myself but edgy and exotic on a White woman.
There isn’t anything wrong with people from other races and cultures liking and appreciating Black culture at all. Or listening to Hip Hop. However I don’t like is many non Black people take an hairstyle, clothing etc from Black culture and take it as their own without giving credit to the origin of the hairstyle or clothing. And that really irked me because I believe that people who truly appreciate and like that specific culture that the person would give credit where it is due. Thus Amandla Stenberg’s stance on cultural appropriation is valid.
Kylie Jenner, the younger, half sister of reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, posted a picture on Istagram of her wearing cornrows. Her picture drew admirers and critics alike. Amandla Stenberg was one of the critics of Kylie Jenner’s picture. And since, Amandla Stenberg is passionate about the issue of cultural appropriation and issues that affect Black people in this country, she felt the need to speak up. She felt that Kylie Jenner was appropriating braids yet didn’t have anything to say against the police brutality and racism that Black Americans face daily.
Here is a picture of Kylie Jenner with her cornrows that she posted on her Istagram.
Amandla Stenberg and Kylie Jenner’s exchange on Istagram:
Jaden Smith, the son of Will and Jade Picket Smith, used to date Kylie Jenner and went to prom with Amandla Stenberg earlier this year. Could their connection to Jaden Smith intensify their feud between these two teenage girls? Or hasten their feud? Only time will tell.
Reaction to the two teenage girls’ exchange over Istagram was all over social media. People commented on forums related to the incident and gave their own opinion on the scenario. Some people agreed with Amandla while others sided with Kylie and felt that Amandla was making a big deal over nothing. Pop star, Justin Bieber rushed over to defend Kylie Jenner and said this:
Amandla Stenberg took to Istagram about spoke about the double standards Black women face while White women are still seen as the pinnacle of womanhood. Here is what she wrote and it received twenty nine thousand likes. This was a great piece because it exposed how Black women’s bodies and essence is demonized in society while White women with full lips, brown skin and huge butts are praised and seen as beautiful. And how White beauty is praised above all while Black women’s beauty is continually degraded and put down.
On Bravo‘s Watch, What Happens: Live, Andy Cohen called the whole deal, ”jackhole” worthy and said this:
“Today’s Jackhole goes to the Instagram feud between Kylie Jenner and ‘Hunger Games’ star/Jaden Smith’s prom date Amandla Stenberg,” he said, “who criticized Kylie for her cornrows, calling it cultural appropriation.”
Then Andy Cohen asked his guest stars, Laverne Cox and Andre Leon Talley if they feel that it is okay for a White woman to wear cornrows and none of the guests had anything wrong with it. Andy Cohen found himself catching fire for his words as people vowed to ban watching Bravo after what he had said about Amandla Stenberg. And others harshly criticized him for his words. Even Laverne Cox and Andre Leon Talley found themselves under fire for not blatantly defending Amandla Stenberg. Eventually, Andy Cohen apologized to Amandla Stenberg over Twitter.
Regardless of what others think about Amandla Stenberg, I truly believe that her standing up against the cultural appropriation and racism in society shows that she is a young woman with a good head on her shoulders. You know you are doing something right when you have others disparaging you or trying to put you down. Again, America needs a young, woman like her who is able to speak up against injustices in society and how it affects Black women.
Links from where I got my information from: