In a video, titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, eloquently schools certain white celebrities for borrowing from black culture to seem edgy and gain attention.
The video, which was made for a history class project, was posted to Stenberg’s Tumblr three months ago and has recently gone viral.
In the four minute video, Stenberg gives a brief insight into the history of black hairstyles and hip hop, and how their fusion into mainstream music has caused the current cultural appropriation.
“As the early 2000s turned into the 2010s, white people began to wear clothing and accessories associated with hip-hop. More and more celebrities could be seen wearing cornrows and braids and even grills,” Stenberg says as images of stars like Christina Aguilera and Madonna flashed on the screen.
“[In the 2010s], pop stars and icons adopted black culture as a way of being edgy and gaining attention,” the Columbiana actress continues. “In 2013, Miley Cyrus twerks and uses black women as props, and then in 2014, in one of her videos called ‘This Is How We Do,’ Katy Perry uses Ebonics and hand gestures and eats watermelons while wearing cornrows before cutting inexplicably to a picture of Aretha Franklin. So as you can see, cultural appropriation was rampant.”
Stenberg also points out that while some artists have gained momentum by appropriating aspects of black culture, many have remained silent in regards to police brutality against black men, specifically the killings of unarmed black men like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.
Providing a clear definition of the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange, Stenberg states, “The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred … But here’s the thing — appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture that they are partaking in.”
Stenberg then ends her video with a rousing question that has been echoed across the world of social media — “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
[Image: Jason Kempin/Getty]