Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture, usually white, takes aspects of an oppressed culture and profits from it in some way. Recent uproar surrounding Kylie Jenner’s hairstyle choice brought cultural appropriation to the forefront of the media.
Many groups and individuals chastised the 18 year old saying she was perpetuating a society that only took what it liked while simultaneously ignoring the struggles of the culture. One such individual was The Hunger Games actress, Amandla Stenberg.
Stenberg highlights how pop culture has adopted black hairstyles and elements of black culture over time but how it also continues to ignore the suffering of the culture they took these elements from. The rise of violence and police brutality towards black people in America has seen a hashtag movement on Twitter, #blacklivesmatter. This was in response to several white police officers shooting unarmed black people and being acquitted of the charges. While many have said we no longer live in a racist society, this hashtag has revealed how false and ignorant that claim is.
Many of the public figures who adopted aspects of black culture, Iggy Azalea among them, failed to speak out against the injustice of the rulings and the continued racism targeting black Americans. This is extremely harmful; white public figures have adopted these “styles”, and profited from it, but failed to acknowledge the roots of it. Stenberg says in the above video that these hairstyles are not just “styles” like prominant white figures in pop culture have adopted them to be, but a functional way to keep the natural hair of black women and men neat. It is ridiculous that a young white woman like Kylie Jenner can attract praise of being “edgy” for wearing her hair in this style while many black women have been shamed in the past for having their hair in the same style.