Written By: Isabella Zimmermann
It appears as if the world is constantly developing with the constant intermingling of different cultures in modern-day society. However, with the overwhelming rise of celebrities establishing new trends on social media, it becomes evident that there is an underlying problem among many influencers and others who cannot draw the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
But out all cultures that exist, black culture has been one of the many who has suffered the most, with non-black people ripping off hairstyles, clothing, and music styles that have been a part of this culture for decades, some even with ancient origins.
Appropriation of black hairstyles has become increasingly rampant as they have appeared on runways and become a “trend” in the past few years. However, when worn by black people, racial stereotypes are made regarding these cultural hairstyles.
A prime example of this occurrence took place in 2015 when Zendaya, a black actress, wore dreads. She was subsequently attacked and belittled for the hairstyle as she received an onslaught of derogatory comments online.
Yet when white people wear dreads, they are often described as being edgy or cool. They remain unaware of the importance of the culture that established these hairstyles in the first place. This can also be applied to the fashion industry, where designers capitalize on African prints, among other things, without giving credit where it is due.
In the past few years, a multitude of white rappers have sprung up in the music industry, such as RiFF RAFF, who parodies black culture by wearing grills, cornrows, and acting out stereotypes that cause more harm than good.
Black people are scrutinized and shamed for the things that they have been doing for their entire lives. One cannot diminish it as it “just being hair” or “just being clothing.” Culture makes up one’s self identity and when you ignore these issues and choose to not see race, it erases the struggles black people have underwent for hundreds of years for being themselves.
When people are oppressed and killed over following century-old traditions, it is insulting for the oppressors and privileged to just turn around and suddenly find it a new fashion staple without even giving credit where it is due. It reestablishes a distinction between the two groups.
It is vital to understand the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. You can still appreciate other cultures by making an effort to learn about it and its history and by giving credit to its original source, rather than claiming it as your own.
Black culture has shaped our own society in the music that we listen to and the foods that we eat, and it is important that we remember to appreciate its impact on American culture this Black History Month.