“What would the world be like if the world loved black people as much as it loves black culture?”
Besides the fact that I have neglected this blog for long enough (and therefore, should write) I also find myself feeling a bit irritated and thus, inclined to write. As much as I would love to commit to doing a better job of writing more consistently this would be a lie because (believe it or not) sometimes I have nothing I feel strongly enough about to write about. On top of that my semester is a mess! I have seven modules and I’m trying to get them done (by the Lord’s unfailing grace), so time to find out what is going on in this country is limited (I use this time to nap, don’t judge me).
That being said I think it’s time we talk culture appropriation. This is not only because of the outrage that the ‘Kasi Mlungu’ has spurred but also because if some of my (black) friends don’t understand what the problem with culture appropriation is, how much more my white friends that can’t possibly understand black struggles?
I read an article by Tafi Mhaka titled “Kasi Mlungu the South African Dream”, and I felt so personally offended by it (it’s irrational, I know). He justified Anita Ronge's action by stating how some black women choose to look and behave more European than black (I screamed “It’s because of oppression!” in my head). He also went on to use Eminem an example of how much good culture appropriation (he called it multiculturalism ) has done for the entertainment industry, stating that Eminem is “the highest selling rapper of all time and arguably the best lyricist of his generation” (An average white man making money in an industry created by the black man for the black man while better black men still don’t get enough credit, ok so maybe he's not average but Im trying to make a point here). I don’t agree with him, but hey, we are all entitled to an opinion…
Before I delve into the niceties of culture appropriation, I feel like it’s important to clarify that ‘black’ or ‘blackness’ is not just a skin colour (and the prejudices that come with the skin colour) it’s also a way of life that transcends national and continental boundaries. There are rituals, icons, and aesthetic standards that belong(ed) to our great grandparents and to us by lineage. Even though we do not practice these rituals and what-not-all they still belong to us.
So what is culture appropriation? As always, I turn to those google pop-up definitions, and said pop-up definitions define cultural appropriation as:
“the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior form one culture or subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic or military status to the appropriating culture.” -unsettlingameica.wordpress.com
I think this post should be accompanied by a gallery of its own with instances of culture appropriation but we will make do with what we have. Below are pictures of models (their names attached) and the campaign, magazine or label they were shooting for.
Source: Fashion Bomb Daily
Source: Daily Mail
She's not a model
She just lied about being black
For a good 14 years- I think
Source: Daily Mail
This is what is fundamentally wrong with society when it comes to race and race relations. It’s this idea that black features, rituals, aesthetic standards, and overarching culture are not good enough until they are embraced or practiced by white people. And I don’t think anyone is justified in arguing that black people appropriate white culture (whatever that means) because we wear weaves, Italian shoes, straighten our hair and what not all. Western culture was not only exported to Africa and other continents and countries, but we were also forced to adopt it in order to survive, be accepted, and considered beautiful. It once again goes back to the perception that western/white things are better than those of other cultures and races.
Just like men have no right to tell women how to dress, act, and feel, no one has the right to say there is no such thing as culture appropriation because this is how we feel about other cultural groups using elements of our culture. If I was a woman wearing whatever I was wearing and I voiced my dislike of how a man was looking or touching me the world would be up in arms supporting me and my rights. I don’t understand why the same principle and sympathy cannot be applied to instances of culture appropriation. If I say something is culture appropriation what I am say, essentially, is “I don’t like the way you are using elements of my culture” for one or other reason. In some cases, I am saying “I hate the fact that people of western descent use elements of my culture and get recognition, fame, and money from it while my people not only “own” these elements but also use the exact same elements and get no recognition for it”. What it boils down is I don’t like what you are doing. I don’t know if I’m articulating myself well enough but I hope you get the point. Maybe I have messed up this whole post with this paragraph and should have left it out. But hey…
The Kardashian-Jenner’s (I, unfortunately, know all their names and faces now, I never wanted this) are a perfect example of white people getting social credit for things they have no business getting credit for. Nail piercings, corn rows, big behinds, big lips, wearing Niqab’s, oh the list is endless... all of these are accompanied by articles on how they have come up with a 'New Trend' and how they are so beautiful, curvy and voluptuous, meanwhile it's things that the black community has beeen practicing and black women have been ridiculed for have been ridiculed for having big behinds and lips.
|Source: Akns Images|
|Source: Akns Image|
No one can deny the existence of culture appropriation when tags like #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter exist and have close to 30 000 public posts on IG!
Not all instances of culture appropriation are as obvious and extreeme as the ones in the photos of the models, and it's not only black culture that is appropriated but I'm black so...
The line between culture appropriation and cultural exchange is a very thin one and we should all walk it with care and sensitivity. It's one thing to appreciate elements of a culture or religion, its a totally different ball game when you use those very same elements foolishly, ignore their significance, history and the history of the people to whom the culture belongs.
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