Let’s Talk About It: My Culture Is Not Couture

Kylie Jenner is problematic. Amandla Stenberg is heaven sent. Recently, the two young ladies had a short “exchange” on social media following Kylie’s blatant display of disrespect with her cornrows allegedly done by Tokyo Stylez.

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A young (black, might I add) lady on my Facebook page posted the following status:

” I’m sorry I have to say this… 

JUST because white people wear cornrows does NOT mean that they are trying to become African American. YES, we expose the world to our protective hairstyles..but that’s just it. We expose the WORLD to it! Don’t be offended that you see white people with cornrows, okay? Think of it as them taking a note from our book of life. It’s urban, it’s fashion. It’s NOT them trying to be like us. Its them admiring our protective hairstyles and wanting to be up on the fashion. BUT, when we wear Brazilian weave/ Malaysian weave/ whatever type of European hairstyles we wear…we would hate it if someone were to say we were trying to be white, right? Sounds a lot like a double standard to me.”

This was my response:

“JUST because white people wear cornrows does NOT mean that they are trying to become African American.” Okay. Well. That’s not what we’re saying, lol. I get tired of feeling like my blackness is their accessory… some sort of a novelty item that they can pick up and put down at will. Cultural Appropriation isn’t about them trying to magically transform into a black person. I guarantee that’s not what they want. Cultural Appropriation is when you disregard the underlying issues of a culture and INSENSITIVELY wear their traditional garb or mock their customs, beliefs etc. simply for decorative or entertainment purposes. Cultural appropriation (in this particular situation) is the appropriation of Blackness as a “consumable product”, without any credit to or respect for those it is taken from.

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I’m tired of Black creativity being used as an idea bucket from which others – primarily boring, and disrespectful non-poc’s – take advantage of and reap the most prestige and profit. Well, honey. You can play dress up but you can’t play black. Cultural Appropriation is a no-go over here. When I have my cornrows (which I often do) and I’m called “ghetto” or an “around the way girl”, but little Sally Mae gets hers and covers Teen Vogue, I see a problem. When I’m told my braids and certain styles aren’t appropriate for the “workplace” but Junie B. Jones can rock her bantu knots or “mini buns”, that’s an issue. I find it hilarious how most of the blacks that are defending Kylie by saying “Let her experiment. It’s not that serious.” or “Just look at it as us inspiring her.”, were the ones who were MIA when Baby Blue Ivy was being ridiculed for her hair. My culture is not couture. My culture is NOT a costume. I’m going to conduct a case study for y’all on non-POC’s infatuation with our culture: hair, food, music, style, body shapes, features, SKIN COLOR etc but yet, they don’t value us as people. I’m speaking on this because I cannot be insensitive to some situations and overly passionate about others. The beautiful part about the world is how many gorgeous cultures exist. There is a difference between honoring a culture and mocking one. How can you justifiably claim the culture and not the struggle? It’s all or nothing. 

Some of you’ll say, “The Kardashian/Jenner family isn’t white.” My response is that they’re white washed. They can mock black culture but won’t for one measly second represent their so called “proud” Armenian heritage. This family has an appropriative history. When we go day-to-day with our box braids, corn rows, and baby hairs, we’re not saying “HEY WORLD LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!” We’re just doing…our…hair. It’s NOT urban. It’s NOT fashion. It’s life. 

“Black people (women) aren’t born with naturally blonde hair.” Google: Melanesian Blondes. BOOM. 

“So when black women wear weave is that not appropriation?” No. It’s not. Because the styles and patterns that this hair comes in is NOT exclusive to any culture. Hair color is not exclusive to any culture. The weave argument is invalid because it’s not appropriation. It’s assimilation. Black women w/ weave aren’t mocking Europeans or any other ethnic group. Black women are experiencing what is called FORCED ASSIMILATION and it’s due to the need for basic “survival” and ‘professionalism’ in a dominant white ‘culture’ in white corporate America. Then, you have the culturally insensitive that partake in CULTURAL APPROPRIATION for the purposes of HABITUAL and CONTINUOUS mockery and blatant cultural theft.

Come back when there aren’t rules against natural hair styles in work places and natural hairstyles on children aren’t classified as a “distraction” at schools. Cultural appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated BUT is deemed as high fashion, cool, or even funny when the racially privileged take it for themselves. 

“Don’t cash crop my cornrows.” – Amandla Stenberg”

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I indirectly experienced the “forced assimilation” this past week. A close friend of mine went natural a little over a year ago. She’d been trying new styles and even began to embrace her natural hair. It was/is beautiful. She had an interview last week and in a panic, rushed and had a weave installed. She didn’t want to risk the possibility of not getting the job because of her hair. Maybe she shouldn’t have done it but people like Kylie Jenner will never understand that dilemma. That constant questioning of “How much of myself should I really show?”

This topic is particularly irritating for me because the evidence of it is so obvious. Zendaya was ridiculed by the less than Fashion Police co-host Giuliana Rancic after rocking faux-locs on the red carpet. Rancic is quoted as saying “I feel like she smells like patchouli oil and weed”. So Zendaya’s locs weren’t okay but a non-POC can get their fragmented hair line and force baby hair and that’s okay? Girl. Bye.

Then, we can’t forget about Culture Vulture Gal Pals Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea. Katy is the QUEEN of Culture Appropriation. Katy Perry’s music video for “This Is How We Do” is terrible. Baby hair & corn rows, the watermelon, the egyptian scene.. it was disgusting.

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And Iggy.. don’t get me started on Iggy. She is terrible.

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Kylie Jenner. You better respect Jaden Smith, boo. He is THE only boy who found you attractive when your lips looked like deep paper cut wounds. Don’t do that. You can’t even blend your “extensions” so I doubt you’d understand this concept.

*This post will be updated asap.

*Update 7/21 – I was told that Melanesians aren’t black. Melanesians are not 100% black but they do have sub-saharan genetic DNA. Do you know where the Sahara desert is? Exactly.

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