"I cannot dismiss the actions I bought into years ago but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognize them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege," Florence Pugh said

By Maria Pasquini
June 27, 2020 02:30 PM
Florence Pugh
Karwai Tang/WireImage

Florence Pugh is owning up to times in her past when she was guilty of cultural appropriation.

Acknowledging the “tidal wave of information” she had been “unaware of” until recently, as people around the world have protested against systemic racism, the 24-year-old actress said she had spent the past month trying to learn as much as possible, and pass that information along.

“I’ve read, listened, signed, donated, read again, ssh’d my white fragility and really wanted to trace instances in my life where I have been guilty,” Pugh wrote in a lengthy statement shared on social media. “One part I have identified in my own actions is cultural appropriation.”

The English star went on to share that she first heard the term when she was 18, after asking a friend if they liked her hairstyle, which was braided into cornrows.

“She began to explain to me what cultural appropriation was, the history and heartbreak over how when Black girls do it they’re mocked and judged, but when white girls do it, it’s only then perceived as cool,” Pugh wrote, noting that while at the time she “could see how Black culture was being so obviously exploited,” she “was also defensive and confused, white fragility coming out plain and simple.”

Detailing another example, Pugh wrote that as a child she had “befriended an Indian shop owner,” who “would gift me things” and “share her culture with me” — and that she grew up being “obsessed” with henna.

“Over the summer of 2017, Bindis and henna became a trend. Every top high street shop was selling their reimagined versions of this culture,” she recalled. “No one cared about the origin, a culture was being abused for profit. I felt embarrassed. I felt sadness for the small family-run Indian shops all over the country, seeing their culture and religion cheapened everywhere.”

Although Pugh initially thought that because she had been introduced to Indian culture differently she was exempt from blame, she went on to realize that she “actually wasn’t being respectful" either. “I wore this culture on my terms only, to parties, at dinner. I too was disrespecting the beauty of the religion that had been taught to me those years ago," she wrote.

The third instance Pugh shared involved a photo she took when she was 17, which had been brought to her attention by a fan.

“I braided my hair and painted a beanie with the Jamaican flag colours and went to a friend’s house; proud of my Rastafarian creation. I then posted about it the next day with a caption that paraphrased the lyrics to Shaggy’s song ‘Boombastic,’ ” Pugh wrote.” I am ashamed of so many things in those few sentences.”

“At the time, I honestly did not think that I was doing anything wrong. Growing up as white and privileged allowed me to get that far and not know,” she wrote. “Stupid doesn’t even cut it, I was uneducated. I was unread.”

Florence Pugh
Michael Tran/Getty

As her lengthy reflection came to a close, Pugh said just because she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong at the time, that wasn't an excuse not to apologize for her actions today.

“I grew up watching my high profile pop culture idols adopting culture in similar ways, so I didn’t think wrong of doing it too. I now need to be aware that people are looking up to me and I must address my own poor actions,” she wrote. “Black, Indian, Native American and Asian cultures and religions are constantly used and abused every new shopping season. It’s not wrong to appreciate the beauty of a culture but rebranding them for the sake of a fashion trend and a $ most certainly is.”

“I’m truly sorry to all of you that were offended for years or even just recently. I cannot dismiss the actions I bought into years ago but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognize them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege and I apologise profusely that it took this long.”

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.