Hunger Games Star Amandla Stenberg Gives Us A Hair Tutorial Like No Other
The Debrief: Amandla Stenberg plays Rue in the hit series…
We all remember Rue from The Hunger Games, right? Well if you don’t know about Amandla Stenberg now’s your time to learn.
The actress has done a vlog called Don’t Cash Crop on my Cornrows with a friend and posted it to Tumblr. Though it starts off about hair and the ways white people have borrowed cornrows from black people, hair’s got its politics and so begins a great lesson in cultural appropriation – in this case, when white people take elements of black culture and use them for their own – and why it can be so complicated, and, ultimately on so many occasions, harmful.
If you can’t watch right now, Amandla talks about how black culture got taken into the mainstream as hip hop became more pop. White people started to do hip hop stuff like put cornrows or grills in or speak how they thought black people spoke and use it as a code for ‘edgy’ or ‘urban’, when really, ‘at the same time police brutality against black people came to the forefront… people began to protest institutionalised racism by marching and via social media…’
However, only some musicians did. ‘As Azealia Banks observed in her tweets white musicians who partook in hip hop culture and adopted ‘blackness’, Iggy Azalea in particular, failed to speak on the racism that comes along with black identity.’
She then quoted Azealia Banks saying: ‘All this says to white kids 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 for yourself.”’
Amandla says: ‘That in itself is what is so complicated when it comes to black culture. I mean the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchanges is always going to be blurred. But here’s the thing. Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalisations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.
See, hip hop isn’t just a trend, it’s something ‘African Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity’.
Finally, Amandla asks: ‘What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?’
And we think that might go for the UK, too…
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