documenting my life, thoughts and tips, one ramble at a time...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why is the appropriation of black culture a timeless trend?

With January soon to be over and the dust of the new year finally settles I found myself daydreaming about what fashion and beauty trends would grip the world this year? And then, I checked my Twitter timeline to see a tweet from Insider magazine entitled “Simple manicures have become too basic. You can now pierce your nails”. The attached video gave viewers a how to guide on this ‘new trend’ *cue intense eye roll*

For some piercing your nails is new edgy and least we forget sassy, but for others, especially black and ethnic minority women piercing nails are not new. The art of piercing nails has been around since the 90s when black female hip hop stars such as Janet Jackson, Missy Elliot and Little Kim and to UK legend Shola Ama graced MTV Base and Channel U respectively with their ‘ghetto fabulous outfits and nails’.

“hair done, nails done, everything did”

This new revived trend see women with acrylic nails pierce a tiny hole through the nail and adorn the hole with nail jewellery, including rings, studs and charms. yet again reinforces the cultural appropriation notion that we have all seen many, many, many, times before. The idea of white women imitating and popularising the dress sense, hairstyles and most recently the nail aesthetics of black women and in turn being praised as trendsetters.

We’ve seen the whitewashing of Bantu Knots turned space buns by the likes of Miley Cyrus, and Khloe Kardashian, we’ve heard Iggy Azalea’s rap with a false Southern black girl accent in her music and seen Kylie Jenner popularise fuller lips. More recently, I read an article on the since deceased Lilac Company and how four white males took original Hennessy, added a purple label and renamed it “Headphanie” as a blatant re-adaptation of Young Ma’s lyric in her hit record ‘OOOUUU’. Marc Jacobs was praised by the media and fashion world during Fashion Week 2016 for his ‘edgy and cool’ appropriation of dreadlocks, in which mostly white European models took to the catwalk decorated wearing multi-coloured dreadlocks. After the show, Marc Jacobs then took to Instagram to criticise the black community who voiced their concerns that dreadlocks were not a trend nor fashion accessory but a hairstyle steeped in black cultural significance. It was Jacobs’ open and ignorant dismissal of what dreadlocks mean to black men and women reminded me of what Azealia Banks termed ‘cultural smudging’ during an interview with Hot 97.

“you don’t own shit, you don’t have shit, not even the shit you created for yourself”.  

The media glorified and continues to glorify Kim Kardashian and her sisters for setting new trends including, ‘boxer braids’ cainrows, curvaceous figures and warm skin tones and in the same time it took to send an “OMG new trend alert tweet”, ignoring the fact that yet again black women have been wearing cainrows, celebrating their figures and embracing their melanin rich tones for decades.

The stomach-turning notion is even more amplified when you consider that not only are black women not even praised, celebrated or credited for the ‘trends’ they ignite globally, they are also taunted, embarrassed and laughed at for expressing their culture so beautifully. Zendaya was subjected to racist and ignorant comments  by  Fashion Police’s Giuliana Rancic for looking as if she “smelt of like patchouli oil, or weed as she adorned the red carpet with faux locs. Oscar nominee Viola Davis was deemed less classically beautiful by a white New York Times writer for wearing her natural hair in an afro and MAC cosmetics’ Instagram feature of black model Aamito Lagum’s lips was filled with racist remarks criticising everything from the size of Aamito’s lips to the colour of her skin.

White women are able to appropriate black culture without the stigma of being black

Black schoolchildren are being expelled and reprimanded from schools globally for wearing their natural hair, in the same hairstyles the media glorify white women for adopting. Hairstyles the schools deem unkempt, messy and in need of ‘fixing’. In one UK case a black boy wanting to wear cainrows to school was refused on the basis of the school’s anti-gang policy. In the same breath Katy Perry's ‘This Is How We Do” video showing the pop star wearing cainrows and manufactured gelled down baby hairs has been hugely successful, appearing on seventeen music charts for more than 200 weeks. Last year in the United States of America, a black woman was denied a job offer because she refused to cut her dreadlocks and in that same year Kylie Jenner graced the cover of Teen Vogue adorning what hairstyle? Yes, you guessed it dreadlocks.

In a world where a black girl with a few facial piercings, bright hair and extravagant dress-sense is considered ghetto and a white girl with the same facial piercings and extravagant hairstyle is deemed ‘alternative’. Why is it black things, creations and God-given features are only considered ‘high-fashion’, ‘brave’ and #bodygoals when they are imitated by white women?

It’s embarrassing to shoot down black women as the originators, whilst praising copycats all for your click bait articles. The problem I have with media outlets such as Insider and the Daily Mail’s tweet is that by purposefully ignoring the creativity of black women, they perpetuate the issue of cultural appropriation.  The ignorant inclination to use, wear or take something with cultural significance without fully understand the historical importance of that something. We see this occurring all the time, from festival wearers wearing bindis, dashikis, and cainrows, to culturally insensitive Halloween costumes.

This is one trend I hope dies very quickly.

What are your views on cultural appropriation? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @roshsrambles.

Rosh xo


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