Monday, September 09, 2019

Can a hairstyle be considered cultural appropriation?

Oh, here we go again. And here I go again risking my online skin by questioning the political correctness Zeitgeist. But it has to be done, because this stuff is just getting out of hand.
Model and YouTube vlogger Nikita Dragun has offended a whole lot of black people by sporting braided hair. Now, I've never even heard of the woman, but apparently she's famous among a certain set, and I have to say that the platinum blonde braids do look very nice. But it seems that, because some black people like to wear similar braids, they are claiming some kind of copyright over them, and Ms. Dragun is being accused of "cultural appropriation", and even of being "anti-black" in some way.
She hastily sent out an Instagram post to her 5 million followers (5 million!) saying that she wore the braids "to show my love and appreciation for all the gorgeous black women in my life", and also that "being part Native American, we also have braids and stuff like that" - both of which sound a bit tenuous and desperate to me - and it seems like some people were mollified by these explanations, but some were even more outraged (and some, let it be said, were not worried by it in the first place).
Now, I have a lot of sympathy with victims of bona fide racial prejudice, as I hope this blog has demonstrated. But (as it also demonstrates) I have very little patience with this kind of holier-than-thou attitude, and I often (not always) disagree with specific allegations of cultural appropriation, which is a concept that I understand but find to be often (not always) too broadly or wantonly applied. This is just such a case in point, in my view. Just because some subset (a small minority at that) of black people like to wear their hair in braids, dreadlocks, cornrows, you-name-it, doesn't mean that they have a monopoly on such a fashion statement. Are black Americans culturally appropriating the hairstyles of West Africans? Or Australian Aborigines? Are black people who straighten their hair (and there are many, not to mention those who artificially whiten their skins) culturally appropriating white styles? Is paying homage to a certain style, or emulating it in a spirit of reverence or tribute, the same as cultural appropriation, which surely requires an element of flippancy, disrespect or scorn. Can hair even be considered a part of culture? The more you think about it the less justifiable it is.
Rant over. If anyone read this damn blog, I'd be waiting for the tsunami of abuse right now, because this stuff gets so personal and stormy. I just genuinely don't get the whole cultural appropriation thing. We live in a postmodern world where everybody appropriates everybody else. Why is that such an issue, and why is it always assumed to be antagonistic and injurious?

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