Over the weekend, Kylie Jenner, the youngest member of Kamp Kardashian, was called out for appropriating black culture after posting an image of herself on Instagram sporting cornrows.
Seconds after the image was posted, the Internet was swiftly up in arms, with Hunger Games' actress Amandla Stenberg leading the voices of discontent as she candidly joined a rising chorus of angst aimed squarely at Jenner's mistimed and divisive use of the historical hairstyle.
But a deus ex machina of sorts appeared in the form of Justin Bieber, who volunteered as tribute to offer an interestingly worded message of support for his BFF Jenner.
This past Sunday, Jenner, who has recently been promoting her new line of wigs, snapped a selfie of herself in a crop-top and cornrows with the caption: "I woke up like disss."
16-year-old Stenberg, seemingly rankled by the post and an Instagram user who decided to drop the recent #whitegirlsdoitbetter hashtag in her comment on Jenner's post, took it upon herself to call out Jenner for appropriating black culture for her own means alone:
When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter
In retort, Jenner brushed off the accusation with a comment that insinuated she may have missed the point entirely:
Mad if I don’t. Mad if I do.. Go hang w Jaden or something
This comment harks back to Stenberg and Jaden Smith's prom date from earlier in the year.
Suddenly, a Wild Bieber Appears...
Not to sit around idly while Jenner's dignity is being dissected, Justin Bieber, frequent collaborator with R&B and rap artists, decided to flick his ten cents into the fountain of cultural debate:
Though it's still a bit misty regarding what exactly it is they're "trying to figure out," it's good to see Bieber showing an emotional side after his own run-ins with cultural appropriation and accusations of racism. But, once again, it seems as if the young popstar may have missed the point.
Calling someone out for cultural appropriation is different from labeling them as a racist. Cultural appropriation occurs when elements of an oppressed culture are adopted by the dominant culture, and reduced to mere party favors, costumes or high fashion. Think the head dresses of the various Native American cultures, afros, bindis and many other elements.
This, basically, is cultural appropriation in action:
Bieber's Been Bad
Though he's here playing Jenner's advocate, Bieber has been on the receiving end of criticism after a video of his 15-year-old self reciting a resoundingly racist joke surfaced:
He did offer a well-worded apology though, so that's nice. Here's an excerpt:
Five years ago I made a reckless and immature mistake and I’m grateful to those close to me who helped me learn those lessons as a young man. Once again….I’m sorry.
The Curious Case of Kylie Jenner
This isn't the first time Kylie Jenner has been accused of cultural appropriation.
Back in April 2015, Jenner posted the above image to IG with the caption, "What I wish I looked like all the time thank you," which unleashed a tirade of "what?!" and accusations of blackface from social media savvy activists.
The image was quickly removed from her profile, but replaced with this one in which she attempted to address the criticism flung at it:
This is a black light and neon lights people lets all calm down.
With the experience of the lives of Americans of color being the subject of heavy discussion in public arenas, it would be better than great - incredible even - if the stars who appropriate the cultures of the maligned stopped for a moment and considered the ramifications of their actions.
Yes, the various cultures may have elements that seem "attractive" and "hip" to privileged celebrities, but do you think any of them have even saved a thought for how these symbols came to be utilized as mere accessories? What's the story behind cornrows? What's the story behind this kimono?
You can't just wear another culture's garb like a pair of socks, and, when bored of the look, discard them like it's nothing. That's people's history you're casting into the dumpster.