Photo creds: Brown, K. "The Problem With Baby Hairs, 'Urban' and the Fashion Industry." Jezebel
I want to start off by talking about the "White Savior" complex as it appears in many instances in society. This complex is most prominent in white liberals who act "down for the cause" but don't even realize, or acknowledge, that they're actually racist and/or exhibit racist tendencies. Some comments you might hear from them include:
I voted for Obama.
I have Black friends.
I listen to rap music.
None, as in NOT ONE; ZERO, of the above qualifies as "standing" for Black issues. Oftentimes, they'll play Waka Flocka the loudest but be the quietest when you ask their stance on the death of Jordan Edwards, or other African American people who have been affected by police brutality. Most recently, Katy Perry was on the chopping block. She has a song with Migos called "Bon Appetit," but we've yet to hear her openly say she supports Black issues. Others who have been blasted for their fake tolerance include: the annoying Kardashian Klan, the problematic Jenner sisters, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber.
addisuns. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/BUaIfFVFL5q/
Social Media will forever and always remain undefeated. But, whoever came up with this meme was onto something. Although it's jokes, it speaks to a deeper issue in society and that's cultural appropriation disguised as tolerance. These individuals will embrace Black culture to alleviate their own guilt over years of oppression or they will do it to "rebel" because they want to be seen as edgy.
Then, they'll try to act as if their acts of cultural appropriation, let's call it what it is, are their way of being in-tune with Black people. It's hypocrisy and quite annoying to actual Black people. These culture vultures will embrace the pretty parts of Black culture, such as our physical features, yet ignore the systemic oppression, the colorism, the fight to to wear our hair the way nature intended it to be, the mass genocide, etc. All things considered, it's apathy, it's false tolerance, and, most importantly, it's sickening.
Chatterjee, Kika. "Halsey and State Champs Hung Out in Australia." Alt Press (2016), altpress.com.
Then, let's talk about Halsey, who appeared in the meme between Justin and Miley. Some argued that Halsey shouldn't have been on the picture because she's biracial, but I feel that it's still possible to appropriate Black culture as a biracial person. At times, some biracials will teeter between worlds and choose to be Black when they "feel" like it.
At first glance, Halsey appears white, so it's understandable that she would be perceived as white. Biracial rapper Logic also talks about this perception. He "looked" white, so his Black peers were reluctant to accept him, yet white people never let him forget that he was Black. However, at some point, he chose to identify as Black. I think that's the message here: that a choice should be made.
By cherry picking the "good" parts of Black culture and embracing their blackness when it's suitable for them, these biracial individuals are making themselves vulnerable to the machine that is cultural appropriation - adopting the same thought patterns as the aforementioned people who are not Black. I understand that in this color-stricken society, there is a tug and pull between races, which can cause internal conflict, but I just think you have to know yourself and not let society define your experience for you.
That's my message to biracials. As for the others, besides when they date Black partners or use Black people as props in music videos and/or adopt Black speech, hairstyles, etc., they generally have no ties to Black culture. For these culture vultures, Black culture is a marketing strategy instead of a heritage belonging to a people who have been degraded, defiled, and dishonored. Zendaya summed it up best when she noted:
People want to be around for the positives and the things that we bring as far as culture, but they don’t want to be around when we have problems or when we’re getting shot in the streets. You know what I’m saying? You have to be there for the whole experience. You can’t just decide when you want to be a part of our culture.
Photo creds: Pinterest. pinterest.com
Take this image for example. Kim K was lauded for her "boxer braids" when, historically, there were regulations placed on Black hairstyles like box braids (if you call them "boxer braids," we can't be friends). These styles were stigmatized and banned for Black women. To contextualize this, consider that in February of 2017, meaning 2 months ago, the army deregulated natural hairstyles. This was February of 2017, not 1957. This just shows how far we've really come as a country, which, in retrospect, is not too far. Although some feel like we "pick on" Kylie or Miley or Justin (we don't), the proliferation of cultural appropriation projects oppressive ideas onto a larger scale.
Phrased differently, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. When we continuously grant slaps on wrists and treat acts of cultural appropriation as isolated issues ("It's not all non-Black people" or "You don't own this language; these hairstyles; these dances.), we are nurturing the problem. The people I named, and even the ones I neglected to mention, are not solely responsible for the degradation that Black people and Black culture face. Instead, they collectively add to the problem.
There's a ludicrous argument out there that "Black women wear weaves to 'look white,' so Black women shouldn't be so sensitive when women of other races wear Black hairstyles." This argument grossly overlooks the fact that, in many settings, protective styles were considered "ugly," "unkempt" or "unprofessional," which is why Black women wore "white" hairstyles. The frustration with cultural appropriation is that there has never been a period in time when non-Black women had to wear Black hairstyles. They just choose do it now because it's trendy. To see women of other persuasions being lauded for the same hairstyles we were prevented from wearing is a harsh slap in the face. It's almost suggesting that Black hairstyles look better when they are not on Black women, which is absolutely a lie.
Monique Ross, the protagonist from Mo's Mix and the fictional founder and CEO of "Mo's Mix," had a unique way of proving that, like Black lives, Black hair matters. When she was feeling down, her future hubby reminded her of the vision:
You created these hair care products so that African American girls, teenagers, and women wouldn't feel the need to deny their natural hair.
This is why I say that my culture is not a marketing strategy, not a lifestyle, and certainly not a choice. It is a part of who I am and I will embrace it for the good parts, such as the rich history pre- and post-slavery and even the fortitude exhibited during slavery, Jim Crow, the crack epidemic, etc. I will love my culture for the not-so-pretty parts, too, such as the denigration that people of African diaspora have faced for 400+ years. Black culture is not a costume, so I cannot take it off when it simply does not "work" for me. Like the hair on my head or the pigment on my skin, it is an immutable characteristic. And I prefer it that way.
What are you thoughts on this? Share them below!
The "Rebellious Woman" blog is a periodic scoop on hair, love, race, politics, and everything in between. Stay tuned for reflections the life of a rebel with a cause!