What is Cultural Appropriation? Are the Kardashians wearing Braided styles like cornrows an example of Cultural Appropriation? What about when Adele wore Bantu Knots at Coachella, is this an example of Cultural Appropriation”? How about when Vanessa Hudgens, Rita Ora, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, and Justin Bieber wore braided hairstyles or locs? The list of celebrities who’ve worn their hair in traditionally protective hairstyles that were ancestrally worn by people of African descent can go on and on. Furthermore, all of these celebrities have been accused of cultural appropriation. However, the question I’m putting out to you guys is ‘will there be a day where these acts will be seen as examples of protective styles traditionally wore by people of African descent becoming more mainstream and culturally acceptable’?
Similar to the shift in representation for genres of music such as Jazz, Rock n Roll, Blues and Hip Hop, originating with the African American community as a symbol of their culture, struggles, and political or sociological oppressions [i.e Jim Crow South, Segregation, Mass Incarceration, Voter Suppression, Poverty etc.]. The transition from artists like Chuck Berry, Bille Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr, Bo Diddley, Afrika Bambaataa & N.W.A [i.e.Niggas With Attitudes] . To artists like Elvis Presley, The Beastie Boys, Eminmen, Joss Stones and Amy Winehouse. These examples all show that cultural and global acceptability [i.e mainstream culture] can happen with any given set of ideals, attire, traditions and views, especially as it relates to hair and music so long as the respect owed to that group and culture are given.
Artists continuously sample music from past generations or find inspiration from artists who came before them. For example, Elvis Presley who people now call the ” King of Rock Roll” found his inspiration from the original rock n roll innovator Chuck Berry. From sampling songs like “Johnny B Goode, Promise Land, Too Much Monkey Business and Memphis Tennessee”. There was no denying the facts that Elvis found his inspiration from Chuck Berry, but due to the fact that he never outright said it. Presley was accused of cultural appropriation. However, Joss Stones and Eminem were the complete opposite. As she found her inspiration and developed her sound by sampling artists like Aretha Franklin and Eminem who developed his sound by listening to and being mentored by Dr. Dre an original member of N.W.A. These two artists were never accused of cultural appropriation because they gave the respect owed to the pioneers who came before them.
So What Exactly Is Cultural Appropriation ?
Cultural Appropriation happens when an advantaged group of people [ i.e. the majority] in- appropriately adopts or takes the ideals, customs, and beliefs of a disadvantaged group of people [i.e the minority], without given them any form of acknowledgment or consideration for their customs.
So How Does This Play a Role With Hair?
The issues at hand are fairly simple. When you have a lack of understanding, consideration, and acknowledgment of the struggles that people of African descent have faced and are still facing as it relates to wearing these specific hairstyles that are many of the times are glorified when someone of Non- African decent starts wearing them. You then begin to realize that people are just looking at it as hair instead of the bigger issue. Bantu knots, locs, braided styles and twisted styles, etc. will always be viewed as cultural appropriation when worn by another ethnic group, if society’s views of “Textured Hair” do not change. As mentioned within Part 1, where I spoke about grooming policies and the adoption of hair discrimination as a subset of race within the 14th amendment. You then realize that cultural appropriation exists as a result of the same mentality.
Meaning, how can society profile African Americans like myself or another Afro-Latino/Latina at a job event, school function, or in media for wearing these hairstyles but then be shocked when Kylie Jenner or Zac Efron wear their hair in the same fashion. This creates an arena for hair discrimination to flourish. In addition to that people will need to begin to open their eyes and educate themselves about the culture from which they are adopting from. For example, even though Kim Kardashian has never outright apologized for wearing braids after being accused of cultural appropriation. She did, however, apologize to the country of Japan and its officials for trying to name one of her brands Kimono. By receiving the backlash and a letter from a representative of Japan explaining what Kimono actually means to the culture. She then decided to switch the brand name and fully apologized because she understood the severity of her actions.
As many people don’t even know the history of these hairstyles and most likely can’t identify with their ancestry. I do think if we educate people on the discriminations that people of African descent face when wearing these hairstyles, it will create a sense of cultural awareness, which is needed for these hairstyles to become more mainstream ethnically in a respectable way.
To conclude I wanted to put this question out there because we always hear instances where celebrities or people who wear these hairstyles on the street behavior be referred to as cultural appropriation. However, we often don’t hear an explanation for how these styles can become more mainstream without being appropriated. By having this surface-level conversation, I wanted to present this question to you guys prior to having a more in-depth conversation on our podcast, which is soon to come. Since this is a pressing issue within the natural hair community, I would love to hear your guy’s thoughts so don’t forget to leave a comment. Well, that’s it for Part 2 of our Hair As A Political and Sociological Statement Series. Stay tuned for Part 3, which will come out on Friday, and be sure to check out our social media pages for an idea of what’s to come. Also, don’t forget to follow us and subscribe to this page. The links to all of our social media pages can be found at the top of the page.