Amandla-Stenberg-on-Cultural-Appropriation

Previous illustration by Shannon Wright, shannon-wright.com

Every time someone black brings up black cultural appropriation,it’s never taken as seriously as it needs to be. Black culture from the way we speak, to the way we sing, to the way we dance, to the way we dress and to the way we wear our hair is one of the most copied, commercialized, and bastardized cultures across the globe. Where we can start to fix this problem is one of the biggest parts of black culture, black music.

When you have a white rapper like Eminem––who is hailed as one of the greatest of all time. Majority of his songs are gibberish and make absolutely no sense. Singers like Adele,Ed Sheeran and Justin Timberlake are hailed as bringing R&B/Soul music back to life and to the forefront of pop culture. While you have black rappers and R&B/Soul who make phenomenal records in the same fashion as said white artists but don’t get half the critical acclaim or worldwide success. That is a problem.

You have artists in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea who have never met a black person in their life,but they happily make “banging” trap music in their languages. Even wearing  braids, tracksuits and Jordans in their music videos. They even go as far as to add in a silver or gold plated grill. Sometimes they go as far as say the word “nigga” (update: Koreans use the word ‘naega’ which means I or me. Can sound like Nigga) or variations of it. While teenage white girls with profile pictures as paleas  Asian boys––”get their life” to this and talk about how amazing this is,how they slay and this that and the third.  While we have black people in America doing the same exact thing–not only do they not get the same reaction but they in fact get CRITICIZED by people in those countries that is a problem.

When you have white women like the Kardashians being praised as beauty and style icons of the 2010s. Setting trends left and right,being the staples on what’s in and what’s next with their “box braids” and curvy butts.  While black people who wore what they wore first are denied jobs, suspended from schools and get called ghetto, thugs, gangbangers, ratchet, hood, unprofessional, for wearing something that is THEIR culture that is a problem.

When you have white people and non black people of color (yes im talking about you Asians, non-black Arabs, and non-black Latinos/Hispanics.  Its not just white people who disgustingly appropriate AAVE) who shiver at the sight of a black man or woman but want to blast Young Thug out their car windows. People who seat on Twitter,Facebook and Instagram speaking in AAVE (and very badly at that). Vicariously saying nigga like the word  means NOTHING historically that is a PROBLEM.

Especially gay men,for some strange reason black things have been morphed into “gay” things. White and non black gay men of color and drag queens are demanding credit for coming up with terms that are now popular with the younger crowds on social media. They don’t realize that inner city black people have been saying since the 70s. They call black slang “gay slang”. They call dances and music styles that originate from inner city black gay men and black house DJs “gay culture” and “gay music”. Thanks to shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race,slowly the blackness is being erased from AAVE and these non black gay men think they have the right to shamelessly appropriate AAVE because their favorite queen on Drag Race does. The lines between what belongs to black people and what non black gays think they own are being blurred.

Another great example is how the current status of social movements has greatly moved towards feminism being a staple in modern progressive ideals. These same feminists fail to acknowledge how a good majority of the feminism they take credit for is actually owed to womanism and black women that they plagiarize, talk over, and act like they can’t see or hear. Then we have other social activists of different races taking literally EVERYTHING black people do involving their human rights and just making it apply to their struggle instead of making their own movements. These same activists will also criticize black people for not speaking out about their own issues and get the community together and help them organize as if it’s our job to get them to care about their own peoples issues. All of this is appropriation.

Usually when the term “cultural appropriation” comes up we think of white girls wearing bindis and Native headdresses at Coachella. We think of Kim Kardashian telling her millions of followers how they  need to have a kimono in their closet. We’re so quick to defend these cultures that are hundreds or thousands of years old. When it comes to black culture, since it’s not ancient there’s a sense of respectability about it. Because black culture doesn’t date back to the Chinese dynasty,people freely without a care appropriate it, or when black people speak up about appropriation we are met with “It is not that serious it’s just braids.” “So now only black people can make this type of music.” “Activism has no color” and so on and so forth. Black cultural appropriation is shrugged off,ignored and not taken as seriously because we as Americans and even people across the globe are just so used to viewing black culture as something to consume. Black culture has been reduced reused and recycled on TV, in movies, and in media for so long that we have been conditioned to see it as just apart of normal everyday society when really that’s not the case. I don’t care how many rap songs topped the charts in the 90s and early 2000s.

I don’t care how many black people have gave you permission to say nigga and turn our culture into something that is just something for you to wear as a style or a trend. I don’t care how many non-black people of color think not being white makes them closer to blackness. I don’t care how many white and non black people live in the ghetto with black people and equate that as deserving access to our culture.

2016 will be the year that we take back black culture and I mean ALL of it.

No more “white people are evolving” when they do a mediocre dance move on Instagram or Vine. No more “Asian trap rap is lit” when they disgustingly mock our culture and try it on like a little girl playing dress up. No more “It’s just a hashtag anyone can use it” to devalue black people being upset about you appropriating our social movements because activism and fighting for our human rights is one of the key parts of being a black person and has been historically significant in our culture as black people.

No more “It’s just a hairstyle” when those very hairstyles are preventing people from getting hired, preventing children from getting educations, and are deemed as unprofessional in many business dress codes and even in the military (Yes, they added a supplement to allow black women to have braids, dread, locs, etc. which was a great step, but if you read into their codes black men are still not allowed to have hairstyles sacred to their culture. These same men that are risking their lives for their country have it written in the rules of being a “professional soldier” that their cultural hairstyles are not authorized) No more “it’s just a word. It doesn’t mean what it used to” when as soon as you get mad or offended that’s the first word you jump to to call us. No more. Black culture is not yours. It will never be yours and it will never be for sale, or up to be shared, and this applies to anybody not black (because for whatever reason non black people of color seem to think “Dont appropriate our culture” means “Only white people don’t appropriate our culture. You guys can have it”) Black culture is sacred, black culture is exclusive, and black culture is for black people only. Deal with it.

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