Once calendars are hastily flipped to the months of March and April, predominantly white teenagers of Southern California swarm local salons to get their hair braided into cornrows, while they compile only their trendiest feather headdresses and bindis to make sure they look as hip and happening for Coachella season. What is not recognized by the blind participants of those kinds of actions, however, is that it is not okay to treat cultural aspects of different groups or ethnicities like a kind of fashion statement.
Now that Marc Jacobs has renamed Bantu knots, a style has been worn traditionally for centuries by countless women of African descent, turning them into “mini buns” and cornrows, an edgy, high fashion statement, the astounding prevalence of cultural appropriation in the recent news has surfaced, even further.
“History tells us cornrows originated in Africa. The intricate braiding of the hair indicated the tribe you belonged to. Cornrows on women date back to at least 3000 B.C. and as far back as the nineteenth century for men, particularly in Ethiopia. Warriors and kings were identified by their braided hairstyles.” Atlanta based cosmetologist Toni Love explained to Ebony Magazine.
Evident in the insensitive mascot for the Indians baseball team and the battle to end further desecration of Native American lands through protesting the ongoing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the traditional and deeply-rooted cultures continue to lack appreciation, recognition and are continually squashed by the ignorance of many.
When invited to participate and immerse yourself in an experience of cultural immersion and exchange, it is valid and respectful, as long as you do not cross boundaries (which would occur when one acts like she or he knows more, or is mocking, acting entitled, or disrespectful, in general).
When posed with the questions by those who feel as there is valid appropriation going on within white culture, a concept almost similar to that of reverse racism, one must recognize that there is in fact a difference between appropriation and the assimilation. Often people of color have to participation in the dominant white culture that makes up most of the United States, sometimes even without wanting to.
Although it might seem impossible to put an end to these kinds of microaggressions, there are strategies and ways to do your best to try to keep our community “woke”. Do not be afraid to have constructive conversations about cultural appropriation with those you are close to. By encouraging your friends and family to research in order to better understand the cultures of those around them, we will be able to appreciate, understand and respect each other and our unique differences, as a society.
Rather than exerting white privilege and ignorantly shoving it in the faces of marginalized groups, RESPECT PEOPLE! RESPECT IDENTITIES! RESPECT DIFFERENCES! and DON’T BE RACIST!