Hunger Games star Amanda Stenberg posted a video titled “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” about cultural appropriation that someone recently shared with me on Facebook. At the end of her video, she poses a question asking what would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture. This video clearly ties into the Keyword Essay by Katherine Capshaw Smith on “race”. Although many texts we have discussed this semester could have easily fit along with this video, I decided to focus on “Little Eva, Flower of the South” and Philip Nel’s essay “The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog”.
Stenburg focuses on the cultural appropriation of black culture in discussion of black hair styles and rap/hip hop music. She discusses Miley Cyrus twerking in her music video for “We Can’t Stop” and using black woman as props. In the story “Little Eva, The Flower of the South”, people of color can also be seen as props to help portray Eva as being an angelic and perfect child. The story represents “little colored boys and girls” as being dependent on Eva as she teaches them the alphabet. This theme of Eva caring for the people of color in the story portrays her as being superior over them. Smith’s essay on “race” discusses how some texts in children’s literature “homogenize and belittle people of color” and often set black people in the contrast of white characters. “Little Eva, The Flower of the South” is a perfect example of this.
Back to Senburg’s video, she emphasizes the discrepancy between white people profiting off of black culture (for example, artists like Macklemore and Iggy Azalea), while actual black treatment in American worsens. This theme ties into Nel’s essay where he states that “racism’s legacy is everywhere, and it’s particiularly tenacious in children’s literature and culture”. He emphasizes that racism is not just merely individual prejudice, but is within a structural system of power and has a force in our society. The ignorance and refusal to acknowledge racism is contributing to the perpetuation of a racist system. Failing to acknowledge that appropriation of black culture is happening and is irresponsible and needs to be discussed. Honestly ask yourself, what would this country be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?