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Cultural Appropriation is a Crime and White Celebrities Are the Highest Offenders

Photo Source: the Grio
Photo Source: LittleMix

It’s an insult to appropriate the culture of another community. It sucks, even more, when the appropriator does so without shame or chooses to give credit to someone or a group different from the original cultural community.

As you probably know, it’s in the culture of white Americans to appropriate black culture, even when they don’t entirely like black people or the black culture. They willfully ignore historical facts, refuse to give proper credit and use the credit for their own gain thereby perpetuating an unforgivable stereotype of the black community. When will white people learn?

It’s one thing to love a people but another thing to document properly, inspire, challenge and ultimately represent them in a way that doesn’t snatch away their existence or steal what belongs them. From dashiki to dreadlocks and hairstyles, appropriation occurs when a design that was previously dubbed trash and looked down upon by the privileged is picked up by the same class of trash-talking people who now ‘wear’ it as new trends, high fashion, cool or dope. Privileged white people are known for doing this and they’re mostly unaware of two things: how hurtful harmful it can be to a culture and the significance of the culture they’re partaking in. Facts to proof this are just too numerous to mention but we will start with the highest offenders which are the Kardashians.

You would think that since the Kardashian family has a thing for black people or that after Kim K had three children of color, the family would receive sense to apologize for all their bad behaviour, quit all of their shenanigans and stop appropriating black culture. But evidently, they’re not woke enough. They’re always at it. Where and which of them do we even start from?

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In 2015, the Jenner sister wore faux dreadlocks for a Teen Vogue cover story and she was heralded as edgy, raw and beautiful. However, when Zendaya wore the same hairstyle, at the Oscars in February, “Fashion Police” host Giuliana Rancic said she looked like she “smells like patchouli oil or weed.” Although Zendaya responded with the utmost class: “This is just another example of white women being praised for the same styles black women are derided for”.

Kylie and Kendall released a t-shirt with images of Tu Pac and Biggie Smallz overlaid with their own images. Later, Kylie posted a photo of her wearing a black woman hair and called it cornrows and was applauded by Vogue Magazine for starting a new trend, but Black Twitter doesn’t ignore nor forgive such. They reminded all of them that the style is not hers; that it belongs to black people and is actually called “I can’t leave the house yet” not “cornrows”

But did they repent? No. Just recently, Kim K showed off a set of Fulani braids from West Africa on her Snapchat story and credited the hairstyle to Bo Derek, another white woman who appropriated Fulani braids in a 1979 film, 10 and also received a shit ton of flack for “borrowing” the look. Like does Kim even read? Anyways, Black Twitter gave it to her and read her chronic-cultural appropriating ass and got her PR team to plan a public apology.

Photo Source: the Grio

Fashion magazine, Elle Canada called the dashiki “the newest it-item of note,” and it showed several celebrities, both white and of color, wearing the design. When Elle called this West African garb “the new kaftan,” they completely disregarded its origin and the people who’ve worn them for ages.

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In its August 2015 Issue, titled “You (Yes, You) Can Have an Afro even if you have Straight Hair”, Allure Magazine featured photos of a white actress, Marissa Neitling of “The Last Ship,” instructing white women on how to achieve an afro. If you just said “it’s just a white actress on a feature targeted at white women so what’s the fuss?” then you’re probably basic. Considering how significant the afro has been to black people’s identity and political history there are several reasons this editorial has robbed black folks and goes beyond the routine criticism for not using an obviously black woman and the missed opportunity to reach beyond what clearly must be a predominately lily-white readership and offer tips to black women on how to style their afros.

Rachel Dolezal’s entire charade of shame is the icing on top of the appropriation cake. After her white parents exposed her for trying to pass as black, the former NAACP chapter president told Matt Lauer that she identifies as black. Despite her curly hairstyles and bronze complexion — in comparison to her 16-year-old appearance — Dolezal said she wasn’t trying to be deceitful. Yet she is effectively using blackface to pass as black for her own agenda.

Hair website, Mane Addicts came under scrutiny when they published a tutorial on Bantu knots in which the look was described as “twisted mini buns inspired by” Marc Jacobs. Nowhere in the post was a mention of the South African Zulu culture that inspired this hairstyle. This led to black women all over the world displaying their Bantu knots on Twitter with the hashtag #ITaughtMarcJacobs. Needless to say, Mane Addicts eventually deleted the post.

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This is 2018 and no one is allowed to be willfully ignorant, espouse toxic ideas or make others feel inferior just so they can trend.

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Henry I. Ugwu

Written by Henry I. Ugwu

Henry I. Ugwu is a writer, opinion journalist, media scholar, social media strategist and crisis management expert.

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