Answering Amandla Stenberg: Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows

This is a response to a youtube video made by Amandla Stenberg, which you can see here:

It seems the analysis I made on the video was rather popular, so I wanted to share it here too.

I listened up until 3:30 before I heard anything objectionable. Prior to this was nothing more than observations of white people making music as per black culture. While this is called “cultural appropriation” (and I recently posted a full response to that nonsense here) nothing at all is explained about why it’s wrong, or how it’s harmful to anyone.

So no case is being made as to why this “cultural appropriation”, as it were, is a problem. If anything, it seems to show a wide degree of acceptance towards what used to be a disliked minority. Everyone sees this style as cool enough to participate in.

But at the 3:30 mark:

> “I have a problem when you try to call it Hip Hop . . . it’s like a cultural smudging”

^^^ No explanation for what she means by “cultural smudging”. But she goes on:

> “All this says to white kids is ‘oh yea you’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to’, and it says to black kids “you don’t even own what you created for yourself”.

^^^ This statement is confusing on several levels.

Where, when, and how, in *ANY* of the previous information, did we see a segregation in messages, in which white kids were praised and black kids were denounced? How on earth is a white kid wearing corn-rows telling black kids they don’t own… corn-rows? I’m white, so my hair is straight. It’s utter nonsense to then say “I own straight hair” – or, my skin is white, and whites have straight hair, therefore white culture “owns” it.

American culture includes cowboys. If a person in Japan dresses up like a cowboy, who in America is going to care? This does not say to us “we don’t own our own culture”. This young lady then tries to clarify:

> “cultural appropriation and cultural exchange [are different because] appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny, when the privilege take it for themselves.”


^^^ And here is essentially where the case falls apart. Accordingly, appropriation only occurs when 1) The item in question was at first a part of racist generalization, and 2) Is later widely accepted and no longer considered part of racist generalization.

So this means that if corn-rows, or any other black style, was once associated with racism, it must *ALWAYS* be associated with racism forevermore – because if it ever becomes accepted, then it’s “appropriation”. If people stop being racist and start accepting the culture, and wanting to be a part of it, that’s appropriation.

This is problematic, because once people stop being racist, they generally stop avoiding the culture they once deemed inferior. So what’s being suggested? That we have some enforceable rule that prevents white people from ever forgetting that racism once existed, and never ever wearing corn-rows? Do we need to replace this kind of acceptance with permanent suspicion and racial divisions? ……. all because of a hair style?

The young woman then adds:

>”Cultural appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in”

^^^ First, how does any of this actually matter? How does this impact the day-to-day lives of anyone, on any practical level? Second, does this girl eat spaghetti? ……. is she aware of the deep cultural significance of Italy? If she drives a Subaru, is she aware of the deep cultural significance of Japan? If she wears clothes made in Malaysia, kamu bercakap bahasa Malayu? If she takes martial arts, is she aware of the deep cultural significance of China? And if she is – if the answer on any of these is “yes” – how does that change anything? The spaghetti doesn’t taste different, the car drives the same as it did before, and kamu belejar bahasa capak lah!! (I lived in Malaysia for a few years) The idea of cultural appropriation does not hold up to scrutiny, and only becomes more ridiculous the more it’s examined.