Welp, it's true that we as a society take two steps back every time we take one step forward. With greater social awareness of what cultural appropriation is and why it's not okay, we still have time after time where celebrity "role models" commit major social faux pas.
Kylie Jenner, daughter of Kris and Caitlyn Jenner and Instagram star extraordinaire, recently celebrated her 19th birthday. While turning 19 should be relatively unexciting—you can't legally drink or smoke weed, AND you could already vote and buy cigarettes with your real ID, so what's the point?—Kylie has managed to top Facebook trends with quite the controversial posts on social media.
Really?!?! Cornrows?!?! As beautiful as cornrows undoubtedly are, she may as well be wearing an Indian ceremonial headress made of neon feathers or a rhinestone bindi (the red dot worn on the middle of the forehead to signify unity in Hindu culture).
Cornrows are a typical African hairstyle that have been a part of African history since as far back as 3,000 years ago; they've been depicted in ancient cave paintings found in the Sahara desert. They made a resurgence in the U.S. in the '60s and '70s and '90s, and if you Google cornrows, this is what comes up:
Now, this wouldn't be an issue for Kylie if cornrows were seen as something to celebrate when worn by African-Americans. But it's often a hairstyle banned from the workplace and schools, seen as a gang symbol, much like the equally as popular and stylish bandana.
In 2013, a USA TODAY article that featured a 7-year-old girl sobbing from torment on her "braids" featured several schools that had banned cornrows, dreadlocks, and "afro-puffs," included this black female advocate's thoughts on the matter:
"Our girls are always getting messages that tell them that they are not good enough, that they don't look pretty enough, that their skin isn't light enough, that their hair isn't long enough, that their hair isn't blond enough," said Beverly Bond of the New York-based esteem-building group
Something tells me that Kylie wouldn't face the same discrimination for her bright red cornrows, nor would she use her whitewashed version of the style that's deeply rooted in African culture to highlight discrimination against natural hair. Instead, she's free to take what she likes from other cultures while still enjoying her privileged lifestyle and fame.
"Historically natural hair has been viewed as dirty, unclean, unkempt, messy," Leila Noelliste, a blogger for blackgirllonghair.com, told USA TODAY. "An older black generation, there's this idea of African-American exceptionalism, that the way for us to get ahead is to work twice as hard as any white person and to prove that if we just work hard and we look presentable we'll get ahead, and that's very entrenched. My generation, we're saying that that's not fair. We should be able to show up as we are and based on our individual merit and effort be judged on that."
Hopefully, the massive amount of criticism Kylie has received will encourage her to educate herself on exactly why her cultural appropriation is harmful and disrespectful, but that's the best case scenario. It's incredibly more likely that she'll just continue on doing her own thing and ignoring the consequences. She should stick to posting more pics of her adorable puppy, Penny:
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