Cultural Appropriation and White Icons

Amandla Stenberg’s viral tumblr video has lately been a hot topic online. Stenberg went on to explain cultural appropriation and did a brilliant job for sure.  The young Hunger Games actress identified Black hair and it’s link to Black identity which she then linked to Hip Hop and rap culture. Stenberg expressed, how more and more White musicians have been adopting Black culture in an attempt to remain “edgy and gaining attention” . The actress gave example of Miley Cyrus’s latest twerking trend and using Black women on stage and in videos as props. Furthermore, the famous White female rapper  Iggy Azalea despite being from Australia uses a Southern American accent whilst rapping once again implying connections to Black Culture and Hip Hop. Cryus and Azalea are not the only White icons who have been adopting Black Culture, the list really does go on and Stenberg did an applaudable job breaking cultural appropriation down. 

The viral video got me thinking myself and to some extent I understood why so many Black youths feel frustrated  by the media’s attitude towards Black culture and identity. Azealia Banks who publicly criticised Iggy Azalea’s approach to music explained at a recent interview why she feels so emotionally drained by people like Azalea who adopt Black culture just to stay relevant. She said: “I feel just like in this country whenever it comes to our things – like black issues or black politics or black music or whatever – there’s this undercurrent of kinda like a ‘fuck you”. Banks described White icons who use Black culture to make sales as the process “Cultural Smudging” where a White icon takes the work of a Black icon makes a few changes and claims the work to be its own. Banks further went on to explain that the message to White kids from the media is “is, ‘You’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have shit. You don’t own shit, not even the shit you created yourself.’ 

There’s something deeply troubling and heartbreaking about Bank’s statement, perhaps it is because it is uncomfortably the raw truth. Young people from ethnic minorities have every right to feel frustrated but unfortunately if this frustration is stimulated in a form of a protest, they then must experience police brutality which is then dubbed by the media as “violent protesters attack police”. Banks also noted how the same White musicians who adopt Black culture in music videos to make sales fail to speak out against Black victimisation and specifically police brutality against Black individuals. There is no doubt Banks and many others feel let down and simply pissed off at the media’s attitude. Stenberg made a deeply thought provoking statement where she concluded , “What would America be like if it loved black people as much as it loves black culture?”                                                                                                     

This “pick and choose” attitude that White celebs take on when adopting Black culture is disturbing, insensitive and selfish. It really does reinforce how not much has changed. Empowered White individuals are stealing bits and pieces of Black identity and creating new labels such as “Urban Style”. For example, cornrows is referred as  an urban style which was heavily used is fashion magazines in the early 2000’s of course only styled by White models . By urban they also mean blonde hair blued eyed musicians having African styled hair in music videos to “look cool”  and  adopting the same Hip Hop mannerisms.  Examining and understanding Black culture and cultural appropriation within the media leaves me feeling let down and implies we haven’t really progressed  at all. Just found more smarter ways to blend and disguise racism. 

   

 

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10 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation and White Icons

    1. Thank you for the read sis and yes it’s disappointing indeed. How frustrating it must be to not even be able to be yourself, and to watch the empowered majority claim what belongs to you belongs to them. It’s about time we spoke against the medias wicked ways and channel our frustration.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Yes it is. These are the subtle hidden effects of cultural biases in the society. Racism was the first sin that ever took place, when iblees considered Adam as lower in rank than him for being ‘hollow’ and for being made from clay. Look where it landed him! May we all be protected and guided onto the right path.

    It is good to see sensitivity from masses in these issues. That though there are those involved in such cultural biases, there are from amongst them those who stand up for the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very insightful article Hajra, and yes most white celebrities have this attitude to appropriate both black or brown culture to gain more notoriety and exaltation.
    Off most white celebrities have really no interest in voicing their opinions on the injustices borne by people of color, in a way their own lifestyles and careers depend on making money on it, I wondered if you would care to take a look at an older post at http://wp.me/p2Mxgu-ug
    And tell me how are you doing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It makes me angry, it really goes back to colonial times, taking whatever benefits you without a care in the would about those who you take from. I will be sure to check out the post. I’ve been good thanks, busy with the wedding I told you about. And I guess feeling less focused but over here it’s buzzing, therefore I need to get back on it. I hope you’ve been well too?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Han han, i remember the shadi and here was kinda thinking you got hitched and disappeared! Lol.
        On a serious note, yes this is why history is very important for people of color and we need to de-franshise from the usual books written by western and also write the history as our ancestors borne it, thanks a lot. And yes today’s post is about this issue in feminism!

        Like

      2. Haha no no you’ll be invited if I did, I’ll even pay for your ticket cause Western Pakistanis are proper rich right? Lol. It’s actually funny, I was having a conversation with my British friend we were too discussing the same thing. However, tensions got high when I said exactly what you just said. Apparently I had “border line offended” her. Even if we did write our own history, would we be allowed to. Without upsetting a certain race group.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks a lot, I hope to make it to that beautiful event, wherever whenever, hopefully visa won’t be a problem and I will pick the tab on that ticket as a wedding gift! LOL!
        Umm… its interesting to see this unraveling again because every time I speak about this to a white friend or comrade/colleague, they start getting defensive and its really tensely stressful.
        Well, you know until late 19 century people of color didn’t have any “agency” to write their own history but it finally happened, I find myself to be unwanted by most intl. media writing world for this reason and this is why I made this blog and I write for some people of color magazines of and on, if certain race won’t allow me entry I will make my own alternate channel.

        Liked by 1 person

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