noun | od·ys·sey
: a long journey full of adventures
: a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding to someone
So, in case you live under a rock, I’ll be the one to fill you in on the current social media outrage – Kim Kardashian. What has she done again, you might ask? Well it’s simple. Two words: ‘Boxer Braids’
To be completely honest, I tend to remove myself from any cultural appropriation debates where they present themselves because as a black woman, it can be very exhausting, having your thoughts and feelings made invalid by non-blacks, but, here we go.
I feel the need to insert a disclaimer: This post is not for the easily offended or the short tempered, ‘quick to jump the gun’ type of people. Cultural appropriation is alive and well, people and for those of you who don’t see it lurking in the shadows – let me bring it to light.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. This can be harmless and in good nature – respectfully acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating another’s culture. But what is not acceptable is intentionally whitewashing an entire culture’s history. It’s the kind of double edged sword that can be either beneficial or cataclysmic, depending on whether the appropriation strengthens the given culture or not.
I can’t speak for every race who have become victims to this mockery, but I can break it down and highlight ways several cultures have been affected:
- Selena Gomez – in her song “Come and Get It”, her and her team agreed to adopt a Hindu, tribal feel. A very terribly choreographed Bollywood-style dance was demonstrated throughout the video. If you look a little closer, you’ll see that she is sporting a dot in the center of her forehead. This is a bindi (meaning”drop” “dot” or “small particle”),commonly worn by Hindu women, representing the sixth chakra. This was developed as part of the Hindu faith, holding religious significance. What’s worse – she wears it as a casual everyday accessory, just for fun. Selena, I’m pretty certain this ancient tradition was not intended to be thrown around loosely for seductive purposes or as a trendy accessory, darling. Take it off.
2. October 31st – let me speak up for those in the back: ONE’S CULTURE AND/OR RACE, IS NOT A HALLOWEEN COSTUME. Did you all hear me? Offensive costumes seem to be a running theme as of late. It’s tiring. I can accept that some people buy costumes and don’t put much thought into what it is they’re wearing – but what I can’t accept, is wearing costumes which mock others culture and promote racism. Here are some examples –
Did you notice something particularly terrifying about the Aladin costume? Look again. How is this justifiable?
3. Katy Perry: FFS. Really?
4. Rachel Dolezal – The American civil rights activist and N.A.A.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) chapter president who pretended to be black for YEARS and got away with it, until recently.
And there have been many other cases of where this is seen. The point is, there are too many to state in my self-assigned word count.
By the way, I should probably put it out there before the “Reverse Appropriation” crew appear in my notifications: “Reverse Appropriation” is NOT a thing. That’s not how it works…. here’s why. It all depends on these few magic words: history, context, distribution of power, ideology and culture. What message is being produced when the appropriation happens? It wouldn’t be fair to say that “China is appropriating American culture because they have a McDonalds”, nor would it be just to say “Black people are appropriating culture by wearing western clothes and speaking English.” Let me not drift too far from the subject, but I’m hoping you get the gist.
Now, in the case of Kim Kardashian, the public have been eating out of the palm of her hand with the notion that she has presented a new fashion trend: ‘Boxer Braids.’
You mean CORNROWS (aka, canerows, to some)? For those who are unaware, cornrows were invented long before the civil rights era in the United States. The combination of complex curves and spirals were braided into the hair of those of ancient origin. To my knowledge, the styling of the hair in such a way was first seen on the African continent many, many, many centuries ago. So why has this only recently become a trend, some might ask? It hasn’t. It isn’t. It’s old.
And I suppose, that’s what’s most provoking for those in the black community.
It may seem trivial – but to many, it’s a serious issue. Imagine spending days, weeks or months on a perfectly crafted essay. You don’t brag about how amazing a job you’ve done on carefully wording your argument. You don’t publicly display your hard effort in developing it a certain way… you just sit, and work on your A* essay, readying it for the deadline. One night, you leave your essay unattended on the desk of a library cubicle and someone walks by and takes a picture of it. You arrive at class the following day, and the teacher is throwing endless praise, not your way, but towards the guy who stole your work. Would you not be pissed? Now imagine that this happens, not once, not twice, but OVER AND OVER AGAIN. How pissed are you now? Constantly having something of yours being taken credit for, is something worth being pissed about. It has been happening far too often, for there to not be any backlash – from females in the black community, especially.
The main problem is, black women are made to feel less than or ghetto for possessing certain physical features, rocking certain looks or behaving in certain ways. Then those same features, when worn on non-black females, are turned made out to be revolutionary fashion statements.
- Our big behinds were not considered an attractive attribute until seen on Jenny from the block (Jennifer Lopez.) And now, big butts are the latest fad. Celebrities such as Kim Kardshian, Iggy Azalea and many many more also underwent surgery to make their butts larger. Nobody sees them as ghetto.
- Big lips. Black women, me included, have been ridiculed an unimaginable amount of times for having naturally perfect lips. From “fish lips” to “Jay Z” the disheartening remarks are thrown out to the black community without thinking twice. Yet when Kylie Jenner undergoes cosmetic enhancements (Botox) to make her lips fuller, those same people shouting “Nigger lips” at people of colour, are even quicker to insert heart eyes emjois under Kylie’s photos . Not cool. People are even seen drawing lipstick around the perimeter of their mouths to create the illusion that their lips are bigger than what they actually are. Mad. About a week ago, MAC posted a picture on Instagram featuring a model wearing a new lip product created by the company. The comments I read under that post were disgusting!
- Some time ago, Chanel announced that they were to be releasing a new line of what they referred to as ‘Urban Tie Caps’. Yet again, another example of cultural appropriation as the ‘Urban Tie Cap’ is actually a Du-Rag. The Du-Rag origin dates back to the 19th century, used as something to tie back the hair of black workers. Soon after the Great Depression, the Du-Rag had evolved into a hairstyle preserver, mainly known for creating what is known as ‘waves’ in ones hair. By the 1970-2000 period, the Du-Rag had become a fashion statement, worn as a typical dress statement. But okay Chanel, let’s go with ‘Urban Tie Cap’, shall we?
- Let’s not forget when the fashion industry made breaking news after suggesting that rocking slicked-down ‘baby hairs’ was a current vogue. Brush the dust of that fossil guys… African Americans have been pulling off the baby hair look since time began.
- To be honest, I’m not quite sure when the ‘zig zag’ pattern in ones hair was taken to be fashion by non-blacks, but after doing research for this post.. This is what I found. LOL. I remember sitting between my mothers legs as a child whilst she combed my hair into many different patterns, but according to fashion – its new. So maybe I’m mistaken.
Look what you made me go and do Kim. It’s disrespectful to claim such things as your own you know. Didn’t Kris teach you that? You can enjoy other people’s culture and celebrate it and take part in it – but don’t claim it as yours.
It’s too late to unsee the seen…black culture is popular, adored and welcomed – only when on non-blacks. Kim sporting an inherently black hairstyle isn’t really causing as much rage as the media is implying – it’s just confirming what we’ve already been made aware of: Y’all love black culture/assets/trends, our ass, our sass and big lips. Our braids, weave and laid-to-tha-gods baby hair. You love it all… just not on us.
And so here is where we are: The Black Odyssey.
We don’t want you to teach us about the history and appropriate use of our own culture. And we most certainly don’t want our history to be whitewashed and rewritten. As petty as many may think this is, or as invalid as you wish to view my opinions, matters like these are important to others.
This is just a lesson of courtesy. Take it gracefully.