What is cultural appropriation? Google defines it was “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adaptation of the customs, practices, ideas etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society." In other words, cultural appropriation is when people outside of a cultural group steal ideas and customs and claim it as their own.
People have been appropriating cultures from different communities for centuries but in the past decade there has been an uproar in appropriation of black culture. A lot of the latest trends have been some variation of black culture. A lot of the reasons for these trends starting is because of celebrities. Kim Kardashian has been caught wearing Fulani braids and cornrows on a multitude of occasions even though she is not black. Bhad Bhabie has appropriated black hairstyles and has not credited black women for creating them. Justin Bieber has said the “N word” multiple times and even recently wore Locs.
Most people's initial reaction is that “It’s just hair” which is what it seems like surface level, but it goes so much deeper than just the hair itself. During slavery, African slaves would braid rice into their hair when they were about to put onto slave ships headed to the U.S because they weren't sure when they would eat again. Then once they got to the plantations, they would use their hair as a map and copy the trails in the plantation to help them escape. Locs have a similar history, some slaves did not have time to do their hair so their hair would naturally start to lock up. Since the white slave owners had a different hair texture they did not understand how or why their hair would lock the way it did, so they called the “Dreadful N*gger Locs” or Dreadlocks for short.
A lot of celebrities have also normalized the appropriation of AAVE. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English also known as Ebonics. This is referring to the way that black people speak, like a dialect. This also dates to slavery when African slaves were first brought to the United States. No one every tough them how to speak English so the way they learned way by listening to their owners speak. But since they weren’t actually being taught how to speak English, there are some mispronunciations in how they spoke. Generations passed and we now have what we call AAVE but because of how it has been popularized on social media a lot of non-black people like to call it “Gen Z language” when it is just black culture becoming a part of mainstream media.
Things like hairstyles and dialects are very sacred to black culture because this is our history. When non-black people normalize these things is makes our culture seem less special. Culture is meant to be gatekept. Cultural appreciation is a far cry from cultural appropriation.
No Justice, No Peace
By Jeanni Floyd