When I was younger my mom taught me a lesson on appearance. She carefully noted that it’s the absolute first impression. I borrowed a cute baseball tee with Marcus Garvey on it. Someone asked me if I knew who he was and sheepishly I said “No.” My mom made me change immediately, then research, and write a short essay on whose face I was representing. Turns out he was a major Jamaican political leader in the 1920’s that founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was the largest secular organization in African American history. He had millions of followers from America, the Caribbean, and Africa. At that point in time I didn’t release the depth of what this cool graphic tee meant to my own culture and had a new appreciation for it ever since. This was my small dose of getting cultural appropriation checked and cured.
We all know what cultural appropriation is right? Think about every time you see a girl other than a woman of color wearing braids, and slicked baby hair. She’s going for the hipster-Aaliyah look but never heard her music. That same girl can probably count her black friends on one hand. Think of durags being featured on the runway. A lot of people of all types rock these looks, but don’t acknowledge the influence behind it. Trends that have been in the black community for years that have been labeled ‘ghetto’ are now high fashion. The runway has made culture trendy and it’s killing me. Instead of ghetto it’s now Urban.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone should blend and fuse different looks from around the world, but value the history and culture behind it. Like my mother taught me, if you don’t understand it don’t wear it. Style is tangled with one’s cultural background. So when I watch tradition made into cheap trends it’s offensive. It’s fashionable now to look as close to black as possible, without the skin tone to match.
Marc Jacobs featured colorful faux dread locs this year at NYFW, but in reality it’s now federal law that my locs can cost me a job opportunity. Media is milking the black image, exploiting what makes us individuals. I’m speaking from a black standpoint, but I’m positive there are girls of all color that feels this same mixture of angered flattery.