Is cultural appropriation even that bad?

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. So, in a time where you can’t get away from the Kardashians, lip fillers and 30 day bubble butt challenges one might wonder why so many black people are outraged at the sudden rise in popularity of certain aspects of black culture.

In the past year, Kim Kardashian has debuted “boxer braids” and “Bo Derek braids” all of which caused quite a stir on social media. Many argued she was completely ignoring racial issues, some going as far to say she was aiding in the erasure of black culture, by not simply calling the hairstyles what they were… cornrows and Fulani braids. I don’t like to focus too much of my attention on the Kardashians but when it comes to topics of cultural appropriation, they come to the forefront of one’s mind. As black people we take pride in our appearance particularly our hair, with black consumers spending more than nine times on hair and beauty products than non-blacks[1]. So it’s understandable why black women may be annoyed when credit isn’t being given where it’s due. Aside from the fact that black people take pride in their hair, going back centuries, hair symbolised a whole host of things for Africans, from what tribe you came from to how wealthy you were[2]. To completely disregard that history by essentially stripping away the origin of the hairstyle, I can understand why more than a few feathers were ruffled.

In the USA, butt implants increased by 18% between 2015 and 2016 whilst fat grafting procedures increased by 26% in the same period[3]. Not all black people have big butts but I think it’s fair to say the vast majority have larger derrières than non-black counterparts. There’s been a HUGE shift in the way big butts are seen by non-blacks, with many people squatting their lives away to achieve that plumper booty. If we throwback some centuries to a time where Sarah Baartman AKA Hottentot Venus was ridiculed for the size of her butt and was actually coerced into leaving her home in South Africa to be paraded around “freak shows” in London and Paris[4] I think it would be fair to ask what’s changed? Maybe the faces and races that champion big butts?

Wherever you look whether it be on social media, Love Island or other reality shows lip fillers are one thing that can not be missed. Why do black people get so annoyed about this cultural appropriation? Because for years, similar to the big butt example, black people have been mocked for the size of their lips. I remember being told in secondary school that my “lips were massive” in a derogatory manner. At the time, I really didn’t think much into it but this is just one of many experiences for black people. In 2016, when MAC posted an Instagram picture of a black model’s lips the spew of racist comments that followed were unbelievable. One user commenting “Holy n***** lips, Batman! What is this color called?… Grape Drank?” and another posting a lengthy comment that started “Black women will never be as beautiful as white women.[5]” Please bear in mind this MAC picture and these comments were actually posted way after Kylie got her lip fillers and as far as I recall there were no such comments when she revealed her lip kits. What does this say to all the young black people out there? You’ve got beautiful features but only when they’re not on you.

Yet we still ask the question is cultural appropriation all that bad? Well my dear friends, if we are happy for our history to be slowly but surely erased and the confidence of our young people to be eradicated through the sudden acceptance of black features but not on black people, then I guess we could say cultural appropriation really isn’t all that bad after all.

-Paula M

[1] http://www.hypehair.com/86642/black-consumers-continue-to-spend-nine-times-more-in-beauty-report/

[2] https://www.brighthubeducation.com/social-studies-help/121031-cultural-significance-of-hair-braiding-in-african-tribes/

[3] https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19995561/butt-implants/

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35240987

[5] https://www.buzzfeed.com/augustafalletta/mac-instagram-black-model-lips?utm_term=.ha3zDLjPN#.scmmnbLo8

8 thoughts on “Is cultural appropriation even that bad?

  1. Chi

    Imitation is definitely the highest form of flattery! No need to take offence sisters: and here’s why….

    let’s not forget, Beyoncé started it! She was the original endorsement for the big butt (alongside Jlo).

    The Kardashian-Jenners are not taking credit for endorsing that look: NOOOOO…. lets not get it twisted!
    If you watch their show, the Kardashian-Jenners are very open about how they blatantly copy black culture. Especially Khloe!

    1). First of all, in order to catch and KEEP the black men that they’ve dated over the years, theyve realised that they need to compete with the black girls that Lemar, kanye, Tristan and Travis have been eyeballing since puberty! And let’s face it… even after all their plastiv surgery, these brothers hv proved that they still clearly have a wandering eye.. 👀 … When it comes to silicone vs real chocolate = brothers know the difference!!

    2). In an attempt to attract these black men, the Kardashian-Jenner’s have accidentally, as a by product made the rest of the caucasian race and the media realise or accept that full lips, big bum/hips is actually universally more attractive. But this happened purely by accident!
    Their intention was just to catch themselves a black man, not to take credit.. so we shouldn’t hate.

    It’s still very clear that the Kardashian-Jenners (Khloe, Kim and Kylie in particular) are paying homage to black culture. Khloe is blatantly copying everything her black best friend Malika does and says.. even the way she speaks and dresses, Khloe and Kylie are always filmed trying to grind and twerk (and failing miserably). Kim has been trying to adjust her appearance to suit whatever her latest black boyfriend “likes” since she arrived as Paris Hiltons stylist with her flat ass and Armenian looking features.
    They will never admit it openly though because that would dent the integrity of their multi million dollar brand.

    For this reason we shouldn’t feel offended by their endorsement, because the credit all comes back to black culture in the end.

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  2. LA

    whilst I understand the appropriation of the hairstyles, body features etc.. wouldn’t wearing weaves count as culture appropriation from black girls too?

    Just a thought..

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    1. No. Black girls never would have started wearing weave if their own natural styles were accepted fully and looked upon with near universal negative connotations. Most employers STILL in 2018 will not allow black women to wear an afro (the way it grows NATURALLY) because it is a ‘distraction’ or viewed as a political statement. Most protective hair styles are viewed as unprofessional, therefore implying that our very being is out of place and needs to conform to white standards just to exist. Furthermore, when you factor in the accumulative effect of growing up in society that has trouble acknowledging that black beauty exists (but no trouble when the characteristics of that black beauty are surgically grafted on white women) you are again planting the seed that our natural hair is ugly and unwelcome. Conforming to a dominant culture in order to survive (the initial reason for weave and hair straightening) and then taking that necessity and Owning it – because if we have to do it, we’ll do it how we want – isn’t cultural appropriation. You see, a key component of Appropriation is Erasure, the lack of acknowledgement from whence those cultural markers you have taken on board come from, taken credit for it, or cherry picking what you like but discarding or denegrating the people that created it, THAT is appropriation. Without understanding the History and Context of a Black Woman’s relationship with her hair in a Western/Colonial paradigm this comparison is quite literally a False Equivalent.

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      1. EDIT: the above should have said ‘No. Black girls never would have started wearing weave if their own natural styles were accepted fully and looked upon WITHOUT* near universal negative connotations.’

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    2. Gemma

      Assimilation and appropriation are not the same thing. Black women have had explicit and implicit bias against their hair in Western society and various policies created against their hair in schools and the workplace. This does not happen to those with straight hair.

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  3. There is nothing wrong with taking ideas, food, hairstyles, looks etc. from other cultures, this exchange makes life sweeter…. the problem is is that for hundreds of years European took elements of other cultures while simultaneously rejecting and humiliating the people that they took them from, while enforcing their own ideas of what and how a human should behave is… for example in colonial times in order to have a chance of a decent job or work in administration you had to learn the language of the European Coloniser (in most cases); people with lighter skin being chosen for job roles etc…

    In countries where and from people whom so much was taken over the course of centuries, little things like culture are all people have left to hold onto to remind them of who they are…

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  4. Pingback: Blackfishing: Cultural appropriation gone mad

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