Cultural appropriation is when someone, outside of a culture, takes credit for creations of that culture. For example:
When Kim Kardashian started wearing CORNROWS/CANEROWS/STRAIGHT-BACKS, she was given credit for this style that is popular amongst African American males and females of all ages. It is a style that we wore as children, that we wear as a protective style as an adult, etc. Cosmpolitan magazine, MTV, and other Kardashian loving outlets rudely renamed the style as “boxer braids”. Why? No, cornrows are not exclusive to African Americans but it is a style we are well known for and a decades old hairstyle. These media outlets have done it countless times especially when it pertains to the Kardashian sisters, who one could argue wish they were black. This happens often with a lot of other black created fashion. HOWEVER, sometimes I believe it is innocent. The media outlet. Whatever writer, stylist, or designer is one who coins a new term for the pre existing style without giving credit. Sometimes the wearers are innocently caught in the cross fire. Having no prior knowledge they go with what they see.
One of my classmates during my Spring semester in NYC was an example of this. She’s Asian. She was always fun and quirky. The class was pretty diverse, there were two black students (myself and another girl), a couple white, a couple East Indians (India, Pakistan, etc), and different Spanish (Mexican, Puerto Rican) students. One day my Asian friend, came in raving about boxer braids. She saw them on Kim K and had to try them. the other black girl and I gave her an incredulous look and corrected her. “You mean cornrows?” She said yea and gave a half apology. She was joking and didn’t note the seriousness of it. Although she recognized the absurdity and cultural appropriation of the term. I even braided her hair which was difficult. Unlike the curl unless and coarseness of African American hair, Asian and European hair tend to be silky, too silky to hold a braid. She was happy and I brushed of being slightly offended because technically she was just a victim of our media.
But the term “culture appropriation” and the saying “everybody wanna be black til it’s time to be black” honestly annoys me. I feel like people literally call anything cultural appropriation these days & black people seem to think we’re immune from appropriating other cultures. It’s 2016, social media dictates everything, what’s popular is what’s popular. If hairstyles, clothing, songs, etc are trending PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DO IT IF THEY LIKE IT REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE. Unlike prior decades, African American culture is pretty accepted in mainstream media. African American culture is not the same as African culture. So a lot of things are no longer exclusive to black people. We are not the only culture that experiences this stealing of culture. It’s 2016 and people still dress like Native Americans for Halloween, traditional Indian/middle eastern cultural clothing is still worn for wedding themes (saris, etc). Moccasins are popular shoes but native Americans don get credit for those. Just because someone wants to wear braids, doesn’t mean they have to support the struggle. The dashiki shirts aren’t even authentic, y’all don’t buy it from the African guy who sits in the braiding salon or has a shop selling them, everyone only started wearing them because they became popular.