Are African-Americans appropriating the fashion and other aspects of African lifestyles, or are they rightfully reclaiming their culture? Recently, an article claimedthat African-Americans are committing cultural appropriation when it comes to African culture, sparking several counterarguments and discussions about both African-American and African identity.
Simply put, you can’t appropriate a culture that is, in fact, your own.
Black or African-American culture, heritage and history are directly tied to Africa. Black people have made efforts to reclaim and assert pride in their roots for centuries, which is completely different from any incidence of cultural appropriation. Appropriation is defined by a power structure that empowers one group and marginalizes another, a dynamic that African-Americans just don’t have with Africans. White people praising the Jenner sisters for their braids while discriminating against black women in jobs and schools is cultural appropriation. Black people wearing Kente cloth stoles at graduation to exhibit pride in their African heritage in a Eurocentric country is not.
“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed high fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.”
– Amandla Stenberg, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows”