As I stated before, cultural appropriation isn’t about Kylie Jenner wearing cornrows. It’s way deeper than that. The root of cultural appropriation is the misrepresentation within the media. To say it as basic AF — Cultural appropriation is when white media trivializes and adopts aspects of other cultures without proper recognition, representation and respect. At least, that is how we can currently define it in 2015. Because really, that’s the main issue right now.
Journalists, tv hosts, bloggers, artists, lend me your eyes! I give to you a sure-fire guide on how to avoid cultural appropriation. All you have to do is simply ask yourself these questions before you publish or submit your potentially problematic posts/stories/segments.
Why do I find this (insert: physical feature/hairstyle/dance/fashion/etc.) cool? Recently, BuzzFeed posted an article about the “comeback” of “eyebrow slits.” While the author did manage to give a shout out to the hip hop culture behind the eyebrow style, it seems that it was a popular white model’s adoption of the look that validated the trend’s “comeback.” Think about why you find your new “discovery” interesting to share. Is it really a comeback or is it just white people finally catching on?
Is my “discovery” based on white acceptance? Let’s talk about twerking. To be clear, black people aren’t a monolith. We don’t all care about or can even properly perform the twerk dance. We also don’t hold twerking as the ultimate definition of blackness. However, it is tied to black culture and relevant to this topic. So I ask you, media folks who praised Miley Cyrus for shaking her rump, what made twerking so special? Daytime talk show personalities, news anchors and politicians: What made such a previously “ghetto” and “provocative” dance so relevant and decent enough to speak about (and perform) so casually? I don’t remember news anchors twerking on-air to Ying Yang Twins, but somehow Miley Cyrus made it safe and popular for all to enjoy. Perhaps it is because white approval and acceptance are highly regarded. After centuries of racism, discrimination, and an unbelievable skewed representation of “normal,” sometimes we (read: y’all) can be blind to anything but the default white figure or voice.
Are my examples of this style diverse? Fashion and beauty media, this one is for you. Cornrows, box braids, bantu knots, saris, dashikis and everything else that is outside of white American culture aren’t new or fresh simply because you finally recognized its existence. However, if you do feel so compelled to do a story on box braids, research its source. As a makeup artist, hair guru, or fashionista, I reckon you should have skills and knowledge beyond just white hair, white make-up products, white fashion figures and white celebrities. I reckon you come across non-white people some time in your daily lives. Consider that cornrows or bantu knots may not be so new. Consider that your post about that hot new “afro” look may just be more frequent on black people, so be sure to include them into your slideshow.
Am I actually down with this slang or did I just find out about it? Can you tell me who Felicia is and why we’re always dismissing her (pre Straight Outta Compton release)? What exactly is a fuckboy? Do you even know what a trap house is? If so, what makes you the queen of it? Accept that maybe you really just aren’t about that life.
Is my “discovery” or “muse” directly related to its source? So you just discovered what a doobie wrap is. Congratulations! Please use those bachelor’s degree-earned investigative skills and find the source! No, silly, Rihanna did not invent that “pinned updo.” A little research would help you see that it’s actually just a hair set and not a hair style.
Also, to the filmmakers and photographers out there, it’s incredibly beautiful that you are inspired by cultures outside of your own. But, seriously, Asian people aren’t costumes. Please stop casting white actors and models to play other races. I promise you, there are loads of talented people of color out there looking for work. Don’t ignore them.
Does this involve blackface (or blackening my face in any fashion)? If your answer is not a straight-up “no,” just don’t do it.
Did I ask someone? When all else fails, just ask someone — preferably someone who isn’t too closely related to you — for their opinion. Consider what others may think of what you are about to share. Is this offensive or ill-informed? Given that I just discovered this trend or topic, am I still totally clueless?
Follow this simple guide and you can save yourself from horrible Twitter mentions, negative feedback, offended readers, and being used as a reference of cultural appropriation. Honestly, much of the media is still white centered. It’s easier to view white culture as the default, given our history, but times are changing and so many unheard voices now have a platform. So many different types of people, lifestyles, and cultures are being represented for all to see and understand. I imagine it must be tough trying to avoid offending everyone, especially when you can’t relate to everyone, but a little diversity — be it in your everyday reading, cultural intake, or (hey, just a suggestion) your company — can make such a difference. It’s time to acknowledge your broad audience.
This story was originally posted on KazzleDazz. Check out more of my stories on the blog!
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