When cultures collide, the line between inspiration and appropriation can be extremely thin. It’s a concept that some folks understand, and others do not —or simply refuse to no matter how many times it’s explained. Thank goodness then, for 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg, who you might know as Rue from Hunger Games, who is here to break down what exactly cultural appropriation is.
“The line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is always going to be blurred, but here’s the thing: Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes of where it originated but is deemed as high fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves,” Stenberg says. “Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.” Stenberg originally recorded the video as part of a school project (she’s obviously getting a great education!), and aptly titled the short, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.”
Though her analysis of cultural appropriation is level-headed and fair, it is still a concept that many fail to grasp, voluntarily or involuntarily. But, if you’re still trying to understand what is so wrong with appropriation, hopefully this 16-year-old girl can explain it to you.
Bottom line: Cultural exchange is a beautiful thing, but it’s important for us to understand the meaning behind what we’re being “inspired” by and equally as important to make sure the people who created the very thing we’re adopting are acknowledged and represented in that cultural exchange. Seems pretty fair, doesn’t it? It’s not about limiting the freedom of white people to experiment. It’s about getting people to understand what they’re experimenting with, and making sure that the original cultures you’re borrowing from are celebrated, because often, they are not.