This ‘Hunger Games’ Actress Explains Cultural Appropriation And She Totally Nails It

You might remember this actress from The Hunger Games as Rue.

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Amandla Stenberg posted a video on Tumblr, which she made with a friend for her history class.

Her video, titled “Don’t Cash My Cornrows β€” A Crash Discourse On Black Culture” has since received over 59,000 notes.

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Stenberg discusses black identity and black hair. She aligns them with black music β€” jazz, hip hop, and rap; styles of music which originated from African-Americans, during a time of struggle, ‘created to retain humanity in the face of adversity.’

“So black hair has always been an essential component of black culture. Black hairs requires upkeep for it to grow and remain healthy, so black women have always done their hairs. It’s just a part of our identity: braids, twists, locs, cornrows and etc.”

“…you can see why hair is such a big part of hip-hop and rap culture…These are styles of music which African American communities created in order to affirm our identities and our voices.”

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Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

She goes on to criticize white musicians, most notably Katy Perry, Riff Raff, Iggy Azalea for adopting black culture into their music and videos.

“In the early 2000s, you saw many R&B stars wearing cornrows: Alicia Keys, BeyoncΓ©, R. Kelly and many more. As hip-hop became more and more integrated into pop-culture, so did black culture.”

For example, Marie Claire praised Kylie Jenner for rocking cornrows and “taking them to a new level” and in Stenberg’s words, structuring them as a “new, urban hairstyle.” (Marie Claire has since apologized for that statement.)

And Riff Raff’s entire persona when he is a “white, middle-class man, who almost ironically took on a black [skin] and wore braids and gold teeth.” This led to James Franco’s portrayal of Alien in Spring Breakers, where he sported cornrows and gold teeth as well.

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Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

Stenberg says, “Pop stars and icons adopted black culture as being edgy and getting attention.” She turns to Miley Cyrus (her twerking) and Katy Perry (using ebonics and using black stereotypes β€” eating watermelons, hand gestures) as examples.

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Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube
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Hype Hair Magazine / Youtube

She also drew attention to white rappers quickly gaining popularity and “excelling” in the craft, mentioning Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Iggy Azalea.

The media played a huge part in propelling these artists to fame, most notably Forbes’ article, titled: Hip-Hop’s Unlikely New Star: A White, Blonde, Australian Woman.

But as these white hip-hop and rap artists rose to fame, “police brutality against black people came to the forefront… From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to Tamir Rice, Eric Garner… people began to protest institutionalized racism by marching and by using social media.”

Stenberg points out that these white artists, while adopting “blackness” did little to nothing to address the racism that came along with the black identity.

She used Azealia Banks’ Tweet pointing out Iggy Azalea’s silence:

Which culminated into Banks’ interview on Hot 97.

“I have a problem when you’re trying to say that it’s hip-hop and you’re trying to put it up against black culture…it’s like cultural smudging. All it says to white kids is ‘Oh yeah, 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 shit you’ve created for yourself. And it makes me upset.” β€” Azealia Banks

Stenberg understands that the line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is ‘always going to be blurred,’ but she dishes out some critical points: ‘Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high-fashion, or 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 they’re partaking in.

Stenberg concludes with this: ‘What if America loved black people as much as they loved black culture?’ TC mark

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