OPINION: Black culture is not yours to take

Trendiness is not only means of validation for Black culture


Makenna Roy

Graphic by Makenna Roy

Makenna Roy

Cultural appropriation and stealing from Black culture isn’t a new phenomenon. 

From Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian-West to Fergie in the 2000s, white women and celebrities love to take Black culture and use it to their benefit — but they don’t love the Black people who created their styles.

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There is a difference between appropriation and appreciation. But Kylie Jenner wearing a durag is not a fashion statement; it’s cultural appropriation.

Durags are linked to the head wraps that women wore during slavery. Today, Black people often have to remove their durags in hopes of succeeding in the corporate world.  

White women often appropriate Black culture and use it as an accessory and a personality trait.

Culture isn’t a personality trait.

Black women can’t remove their melanin like white women can remove their tan and only apply it when they want to. 

White women like the Kardashians and Jenners take pieces that they like from other cultures and adopt them as their own.

Box braids, cornrows, durags, long acrylic nails and weaves stem from Black culture.

What is the difference between a white woman and a Black woman wearing long acrylic nails? Nothing, except that Black women are called “unprofessional” and “tacky” for wearing them while white women are seen as trendsetters.

Do people even know where braided protective hairstyles, like cornrows, stem from? 

During slavery, women would braid maps and signals into their hair so the other slaves on the plantation could find out directions without getting caught by the slave owners. Today, people in society often see cornrows as urban, but they have a deeper historical significance. 

When white women wear cornrows they are called edgy and innovative, but Black women are seen as angry and unapproachable. 

Black women used to be called bald headed and had their wigs snatched from their heads, but now many celebrities wear wigs and are praised for making them a part of mainstream culture. 

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It doesn’t go the other way. Straight hair is genetic — it isn’t a hairstyle like box braids and cornrows that have a historical tie to a specific culture.

When Black women wear their hair straight they are not appropriating “white culture.” They are participating in cultural assimilation to have a chance at being accepted in a society run predominantly by whites.

It is more than fashion and mannerisms that are appropriated, it’s also our slang.  

I’ll never understand why white people want to adopt the terms used by the Black community when they tell those same people that they “talk Black.” 

Once co-opted by mainstream culture, the influence of these “trends” is removed from the culture itself and credited to celebrities. 

If you feel the need to steal fashion and styles from Black culture, at the bare minimum you need to credit the Black women you are stealing from.

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The same level of accountability needs to be held when other minority communities steal and appropriate Black culture. 

When non-Black minority groups take from Black culture they are still participating in cultural appropriation, it doesn’t change because both groups are minorities.

Culture is historical and the severity of the action doesn’t change based on who is participating in the appropriation. If it isn’t a part of your culture then there is not a reason for you to use it.