What if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?

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?

3 thoughts on “What if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

  1. I think another topic that we as a society need to think about in the terms of African American hair styles is how they are accepted or rather are not accepted in the workplace. In pop culture as the video states, cornrows have become popular amongst white performers in a series of cultural appropriation. This is the opposite of what is happening in the business world. African Americans in the business world are being discriminated against for having natural hair and there are even companies who have rules against certain styles in their codes of conduct such as rules against cornrows and boxbraids. It is important that this discrimination in the workplace is addressed and is not kept in the dark as it is a real problem. Why is it ok for white people to take African American culture in one instance and not ok for African Americans to keep their culture in another?

  2. Ang, this is very interesting, thanks for sharing. In response to your question what would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture is very complex and one I have thought about for quite some time since you have posted this. I find this question difficult because its very hard to imagine a world where Blackness is flaunted and shown in a positive light. In today’s culture, headlines associate those who are Black with violence, guns and inequality statistics. This is a problem for two reasons, one- this puts those who are black in a negative light and two- I have a feeling that there is more going on in the lives of black people than violence, guns and inequality to report on.

    My only guess is that America would be a safer and happier country with less economic and violent strife. I think that diversity wouldn’t need to be a practice anymore and racism would be erased from our dictionary.

  3. This video prompts very interesting discussion and I really enjoyed it! I think Stenberg’s discussion about the appropriation of black culture can also be applied to other cultures in America, such as Native American culture. Stenberg says “The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred.” I agree with this statement, and her follow-up explanation that appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the cultural significance of the event/thing they partake in. I like your statement that failing to acknowledge appropriation is irresponsible. I think if more people were educated about appropriation and about various cultures, then society could become more harmonious.

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