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. 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. 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. 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 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.” 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.