Kylie Ain't The Plug: A Look at Cultural Appropriation
Big booty. Check. Cornrows. Check. Tanned skin. Check. Doorknocker earrings. Double check. No this is not a Kylie Jenner Barbie checklist but a small collection of appropriations committed by white “entrepreneurs” who happen to overwhelm both the social and traditional space. Let us be real, Kylie Jenner is not the only person who uses our culture without giving us due diligence. Major brands and media companies such as Urban Outfitters and Cosmopolitan Magazine have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Why would I ever pay $17.99 for a bubble hair barrette and what made you think a video with white models getting cornrows was appropriate? Please do not make a mockery of a black woman’s rite of passage. Unless you have a substantial knowledge base on the history of cornrows and you are willing to give credit in tandem with showing your “new and improved” style, do not, and I repeat do not, post that picture/video, write that think piece, or share that post. Funny enough, the main problem does not lie in the sharing of culture. I think everyone can agree that sharing culture leads to a more evolved society. The problem lies in the absence of credit, the absence of recognition. As per usual, POC are left out of the picture, even when the content is our own. Or worse, we are given recognition with side by side comparisons, but instead of being “chic and edgy”, we are deemed “urban and hip-hop, ghetto and ratchet”. How is this fair?
Appropriation for me always leads to an internal tete-a-tete regarding access. Access in all forms leads to opportunity. I always find it odd that these so called “new and innovative” ideas are always so well received on magazine covers and liked by millions on social media. But when I think about it, the majority of people enjoying this “new” culture are non-POC. How is it, that these aspects of culture are so new to them but so traditional and ingrained in us? Is their appropriation done purposefully? History tells me the answer is, yes, of course, duh. Of course, they know, but they also know that they have access and opportunity on their side-- two interchangeable themes that do not come as easy for minority communities. Take for example this Dapper Dan and Gucci debacle. Enter Gucci--international superbrand with enough financial and social reach to create anything and have populations manic to have their hands on the next collection. In the next corner, we have Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day, a cultural fashion genius housed in Harlem with clientele ranging from famous rappers to athletes. Which design do you think came out on runways this past month? Ding ding ding, Gucci wins! Once again the big man, the privileged man, comes out victorious. Once again they make a profit off of the middleman without due recognition while arguing that their audacious copy and paste was in fact a form of flattery and not appropriation. **insert eye roll here**
Can you even imagine what would happen if access granted us opportunity? If structural inequalities did not hinder our progress? If policies were actually created for the advancement of POC? You could say buh bye to the Miley Cyrus-Katy Perry-Iggy Azalea hybrids that morph our culture into a fit of shits and giggles. With their ability to try our culture on for a day and shed that skin the next day--like the snakes they are. What did Jesse Williams say again? Oh yea, “…this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil - black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.” Boy you betta.