In a “crash discourse on black culture” posted on her Tumblr, Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg has called out a number of artists for “rampant” cultural appropriation.
Titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” the video essay made for her history class was posted three months ago, but it has recently begun to pick up attention.
In the video, Stenberg, 16, defines cultural appropriation as “When a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated” – like dreadlocks, cornrows or slang – “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 they are partaking in,” she continues.
As the music of artists such as Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and R. Kelly gained popularity in the 2000s, says Stenberg, so, too, did black culture as hairstyles, music and more were adopted by the mainstream.
Stenberg goes on to cite specific artists, including rapper Riff Raff, “a suburban, middle-class man who almost ironically took on a ‘blaccent’ and wore braids and gold teeth,” as well as Miley Cyrus, who “twerks and uses black women as props.”
Katy Perry is also cited for her video “This Is How We Do” – the remix of which features Riff Raff – for using “Ebonics,” certain “hand gestures” and for eating watermelon “while wearing cornrows before cutting, inexplicably, to a picture of Aretha Franklin.”
At the same time, says Stenberg, “police brutality against black people came to the forefront in an incredible movement ignited by the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and many others. White musicians who partook in hip-hop culture and adopted ‘blackness’ – Iggy Azalea in particular – failed to speak about the racism that comes along with black identity.”
Finally, asks Stenberg: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?”