Why Kylie Jenner Gets to Be “Just a Kid,” But Amandla Stenberg Doesn’t

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Another day, another incident of unapologetic cultural appropriation.

Recently, reality TV star Kylie Jenner posted a selfie to her Instagram where she was sporting cornrows and mean-mugging the camera. The photo quickly drew criticism from her 29.5 million followers, some of which came from Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg. In a comment on Jenner’s Instagram that has since been deleted, she wrote:

When [you] appropriate black features and culture but fail to use [your] position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards [your] wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.

Stenberg was voicing a common frustration among black women who repeatedly see their style, speech, facial features, body parts and even dance moves celebrated only after they are embraced by white women. She is understandably fed up with black culture being seen as a fun accessory.

Jenner was dismissive of Stenberg’s remark, blithely telling her to “Go hang with Jaden [Smith] or something,” and Stenberg faced a swift backlash for speaking out.

Even Justin Bieber had to throw himself into the fray, commenting that Jenner is just a kid trying to figure it out and that Stenberg’s accusation was “ridiculous.”

And in case you thought this circus was just confined to teens on Instagram, Andy Cohen, a grown man, referred to the feud as the “jackhole of the day” on his Bravo talk show. He later apologized, but the fact that he even found it appropriate to use his platform on national television to attack 16-year-old Stenberg shows how black girls are never seen as children. Stenberg is branded a vicious bully by tweens and adults alike, while Jenner is so fragile, so young—despite the fact that at 17, she’s older than Stenberg.

America loves to defends those it perceives to be the most vulnerable—i.e. young white girls—at the expense of and detriment to young girls of color. This propensity to see black girls as adults not deserving of protection or empathy is the same mindset that allowed Dajerria Becton to not be seen for what she was, a child, when she was assaulted by a male police officer twice her size.

Though some may say this is just a pointless Instagram beef between children, this mentality of putting white womanhood on a pedestal has violent, real-world ramifications. Dylann Roof used the protection of white womanhood as justification for murdering six black women and three black men in a Charleston church last month.

Stenberg, who in the past few months has become black feminism’s sweetheart with her insightful social media posts and videos, tweeted a fitting response to the media coverage:

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Photos taken from the Instagrams of Stenberg and Jenner

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Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jessica Womack says:

    What would be an appropriate way to wear, say or resemble black culture?

    • being black

      • So, objectively, black women shouldn’t be allowed to use a hair straighter and be passive aggressive? And white women aren’t allowed to style corn rows and be dominant?

        … I’m white and I like jazz.

        • No lol African Americans can actually get their hair straighten because we invented the pressing comb.

          • Exactly. It was invented to get straight hair….like white people. You made the exact point.

          • Actually Nicole nobody wants white people stringy hair. If anything want Brazilian Or Indiana kind of hair.

        • Robin Q says:

          You realize until recently cornrows weren’t even seen as proper office hairstyle. You think Black women straighten our hair because we want to be you? plueeze! White women fetishize our styles and when we call them out on it all we get are more white tears. smh

          • I’m a white girl with very curly hair. What am I supposed to do? I am even guilty of having used dark and lovely hair dye because white girl hair dye from the box doesn’t work on my hair. Honestly my hairstyles don’t make me relate to any culture except American.

        • Elizabeth says:

          Cultural appropriation doesnt just rest on borrowing from another culture. It occurs when you borrow something form another culture that is seen as negative when it is represented in its culture of origin but somehow edgy, hip, or cool when someone outside of that culture does it. For instance, Zendaya recently got much backlash for wearing cornrows to a read carpet event, but Kylie Jenner does it and they are fashionable. Young men like michael brown are thugs because they rap and wear their pants low and have tattoos, but Justin Bieber’s image which he borrows from that same culture is valuable and relevant. This is where the problem occurs.

        • And what does being passive aggressive have to do with being white? That makes no sense and you’re drawing from the racist stereotype that black people are always loud and obnoxious.

    • The point of Amandla’s statement is that there are many people who love the look or culture of African Americans yet many do not stand up and speak out when blacks are being mistreated. Kylie Jenner could use her platform to advocate and shed Awareness on issues rather then trying to get her lips bigger and cornrowing her hair. If you love black culture that much you should defend it.

      • aslkjfd says:

        Exactly. These comments are missing the point.

      • I agree 100%, is not an issue of “you’re white, you can’t wear cornrows” is the fact that if you love certain aspects of a culture, defend it, stand up against racism, use your 30m followers on ig for something good.

  2. Being a 53 yr old woman with American Indian/English/German/Irish descent I can identify with her frustration. I identify myself as American Indian since I look more like my native ancestors. Although I am 3/4 white, people see my brown skin & automatically label me as not white. I understand the struggle of women of color and feel like the we have come a long way but we as a nation have a longer road ahead to get this mentality of we are lesser than white people!! This makes me so mad! When white women sport native headdresses or clothing I am outraged also! Dajeria I commend your response to Kylie’s idiotic act!!

    • SusanSwain says:

      Thank you Tracy; you have given me hope in this sea of obtusity (I think I made that word up). Why can’t we have this discussion without white folks getting very hostile and defensive? I am a white folk who has been guilty of appropriation (including some indiginous peoples appropriation: like doing sweat lodges…sorry!). But I was open to discussion, and learned about why as a person of privilege.. it is so wrong to “columbus” someones culture for my vanity. We have a ways to go… but we need to be open to doing some introspection as wellas shedding light onto the horrors we have inflicted on other groups. (I was just gonna say “thanks”). 🙂

    • SusanSwain says:

      Thank you Tracy; you have given me hope in this sea of obtusity (I think I made that word up). Why can’t we have this discussion without white folks getting very hostile and defensive? I am a white folk who has been guilty of appropriation (including some indiginous peoples appropriation: like doing sweat lodges…sorry!). But I was open to discussion, and learned about why as a person of privilege.. it is so wrong to “columbus” someones culture for my vanity. We have a ways to go… but we need to be open to doing some introspection as well as shedding light onto the horrors we have inflicted on other groups. (I was just gonna say “thanks”). 🙂

    • Tracy, I’m a bit confused by your post. First, you say that you’re only about 1/4 Native American but that you identify as Native American because of your skin color. Then you say it makes you “so mad!” when a “white” woman sports “native headdress” or “clothing”. What if your skin color were more like 3/4 of your ancestry? Would you, then, have been unable to wear “native” clothing even though your ancestry was exactly the same? Is the tint of your skin what’s important or your ancestry, or even just the culture?

  3. Mary Brown says:

    Good grief!! It’s just a frickin’ hair style! You are ALL putting WAY too much into the girl’s hair. Unless this author was also a teenager, I think you ALL need to grow up!

    • SusanSwain says:

      Mary, I think you need to study some history. We have a long history of “policing” POC’s hair. It may seem superficial to you….. but it has been used as a tool of “othering” and oppression.

  4. Laura Lou says:

    I have super thick, hard-to-control Scandinavian hair and have been putting in into little braids since I was a child because it’s a practical and nice-looking style. I presume black people use this style for the same reason. Where’s the beef, here? Ms. Little may be trying to fit this situation to her argument, perhaps mistakenly seeing something that really isn’t there. That’s not to say, however, that her observations about vulnerable young white girls isn’t valid in other situations.

    • HumanOfUnmentionedPigment says:

      Thank you.

      We all have our struggles, and do what we must to survive as comfortably as possible. Fear, jealousy, greed, pain, anger, hate… actions and words fueled by these things only get the same in return.

      Unfortunately where we’re born, what features we’re born with, how we’re raised, what experiences we have, and how that all sculpts who we are, how we react to different situations, and what we value, are not something anyone can change.

      We can stand up for ourselves without putting others on the defensive. Putting other people down isn’t going to bring the person giving the criticism up.

      Unfortunately people who are strong and intelligent are expected to act like it, and are treated as such. People who act immature and make controversial decisions are expected far less of.

      If you want things to change you have to gain the respect of others, and keep it. You have to swallow your pride and accept help from others of all kinds, by giving them something to stand behind. Talk about the daily struggle without accusing. Speech 101: it’s the speakers job to send their message in a way that the listener understands. Trying to force a square peg in a round hole gets us nowhere fast, and with unnecessary force.

      People want to support good causes, and feel a part of it. If we keep segregating our cultures/ethnicities, that won’t be possible. There are ignorant, immature, violent, as well as supportive, generous, and kind people in EVERY culture. If we want things to change, the “good” need to combine to help change the “bad”; and to do that we all need to accept others. That means our own colors, genders, hair types, bone structures, BMIs, etc as well as others.

      Let’s start thinking less about how what people do makes us feel, and more about why people act the way they do, and ways to change it without making things worse.

      • I’m sincerely disappointed at the eagerness to dismiss the experiences of others and demand that people make you feel comfortable while fighting for social justice. MLK made people uncomfortable because what they were doing was wrong. I think you need to examine why this post makes you uncomfortable? Your unwillingness to recognize and validate the experiences of others while asking that your view and comprehension as a listener and potential to be an ally be considered above all else is a galling example of truly callous, unkind behavior and privileged thinking. Think of me and only me and never ourselves is no way to approach our black sisters. Shame on you and your obvious hue.

      • A. Walker says:

        Why are fighting over this? I’ve read some of the comments and can’t believe we’re fighting over a publicity stunt. She, Kylie, did this to get more likes, tweets and media coverage and your givng it to her. She’s a spoiled rotten brat, only someone like that would stir up so much hate. This kind of crap is dividing this country. If we just stop taking offense to these kinds of pictures, then we can start to heal the rift between cultures. Pity her. Giving her all this attention for her bad behavior only makes her want to do it more. My 2 cents.

        • She’s a spoilt brat? U do know kylie hasn’t taken a penny from her mum in three years. Everything she owns she has payed for with her own money. The fact you can spit such poison toward a kid says it all. You just turned into what u were bitching about

          • 1whowaits says:

            lol @ “with her own money”.
            That she wouldn’t have had been able to earn had she come from a different family.

    • Wow, the commenters alone scream out how badly white folks want to dabble in the culture of others, without being asked to do even the slightest thing to help the downtrodden in said cultures.

      Good article Anita, whether it’s a story of a pretty white women stuck on a mountain that she chose to climb or a young white girl kidnapped in Utah, they will always get the lead story on the national news… there is no news interest in the same stories with a girl of color… but if they are getting sassy, LET’S PUT THEM IN THEIR PLACE!

      The thing that most of these people attacking Ms. Stenberg don’t get is it isn’t Jenner’s the cornrows, or the stank-face, it’s the amalgamation of Miley, Iggy, Tom Hank’s son, and millions of random white suburbanites saying things like, “let’s get turnt up!” That add up to an appropriate defensiveness toward white folks eating your cultural food, doing your cultural dances, using your cultural words, and yet not being by your side when it’s time to march for the basic human right to not get shot at by police.

      • Jessica says:

        No yoga, cooking any food other than your own culture’s…language and all vocabulary must have originated by your own ethnic group-please refrain from listening to music created by white people, wearing blue jeans, driving a car (white people invented that-sorry), wearing your hair any other way deemed unnatural by your culture…..etc. See how ridiculous your argument is? Cultural appropriation can’t exit without the expectation of segregation by those who accuse others of appropriation. Melting pot? Not so much. Racist? Absolutely. This is America. No one gets to tell anyone what they can or can’t wear. Get over it-it’s hair. I wonder what the response of a chemo patient without hair would say about such stupidity…..probably doesn’t matter when you’re fighting for your life. Get over it.

        • You’re missing the whole point. Cultural appropriation is not about telling someone what they can or cannot wear. Cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group. The US is a white-dominated society, and for proof of that, search no further than the way immigrants, Indigenous people, and people of color are criticized for the things that distinguish us from white Americans. Black people have constantly been told that our features are “ugly” or “unacceptable” by society because of the Eurocentric beauty standard. Someone in this commenting section mention how POC should not be allowed to straighten our hair, but they don’t get that the reason for us wanting to have straight hair is because for years our hair was frowned on and now that a white girl does it, it’s amazing. Black people have been treated horribly for so long, and our characteristics were considered to be “animalistic” to white people. Like, uhh did you forget the part were my ancestors were colonized and prosecuted for practicing our own culture??? How can you not recognize your oppressive context in history? People like Kylie jenner show a love for our culture but remain prejudiced against our people. And also it’s not the same when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t. So you saying that we shouldn’t be allowed to wear jeans or drive cars is bullshit. And also cultural appropriation perpetuates racist stereotypes. So, no I won’t “get over it”.

          • Jessica says:

            You’re missing the point lady! Within the bigger picture of the world-it’s just hair-cry to someone with Alopecia and see how much sympathy you get LMAO.

            Also-my people were also stripped of their language and culture at one point in history-There has been genocide against white groups of people as well which clearly you have never read a history book. Also, genius, braids did not originate in Africa….they were around in Greece, Scabdinavian, Celtic, and other cultures. Also, whether or not someone deems a cultural aspect as cool is 100% subjective so you really have no point there. I don’t find Kylie Jenner to be “cool” in anything she wears-so what now? We live in a melting pot. Blond hair is the Eurocentric standard of beauty? Well sure-Id also like to add its stereotyped as the color of stupidity…hence where the expression “dumb blond” comes from so again, subjective. Black women with blond and straight hair comes from self hatred-no one put a gun to your head and said dye your hair. I bet no white person told you to. Don’t like the fact that America is a melting pot and cultural exchange where YOU DO NOT OWN A CULTURE? Then leave.

        • 1whowaits says:

          Thank you Jessica.
          Every single American “appropriates” some else s culture everyday. It can’t be helped.
          The nation will be healthier when we quit being jealous of the things that make our cultures different and we start embracing those things we share in common.

        • I agree , when will Americans ( white, black, Asian, Latino,East Indian, and all others) stop the segregation of our different races, cultures and creeds, and finally come together as what we all are !!! AMERICANS. And instead of taking such a hostile position when one culture sees someone from another culture adopting a hairstyle, dance language ETC… Take it as flattering instead of the total opposite??? I mean the constant fighting and separation of each other is going to always keep us at war with each other. If we would see each other as Americans period and stop the infighting we would be a much more solid , strong country. See wrong for wrong and stop attaching a color to it so that it creates division between us. If I see a cop doing wrong .. That’s it I see a cop doing wrong and should be punished for doing so. If I see a teenager doing wrong same scenario! But when we keep the infighting and teaching our young children to inherite the same ideals , and beliefs we will never get to a place where we just love and respect one another for the individuals we are .
          Stop supporting those who keep the division, give your support who uplift us as 1, AMERICANS!!!!!

    • SusanSwain says:

      Laura, I know yer hair…I have the same kind. But I think you may be missing the point. Swedes(my heritage), have not been subjected to slavery, then Jim Crow, and being murdered by police and KKK/white supremacist groups. My hair has never been criticized for being “not professional”; I have never been sent home for my white hair style (a little girl with dreads was suspended from school for her natural hair style). This country has a long history of racism; and policing POC’s hair differently than white folks appearance/hair is just one of the many ways we express this inequality.

      • Laura Lou says:

        The #whitegirlsdoitbetter hashtag it horrible! That’s a pretty inflammatory and bigoted. I get it now. It would have helped it that had been in this article – it explains why this is even a story! Yeesh! How sad for Kylie Jenner, to be so shameful and not even know it – or to know it and do it on purpose. Either way, why do we pay any attention to her?!

        • Laura Lou says:

          Oh woops – I see now where the mean hashtag was mentioned in this article. I didn’t see it before. How awful.

      • Charron W. says:

        Susan, I love, love, l love your post. Thank you for such an eloquent clarification!

        • WhiteOppressions says:

          You’re all so just wow…to the first post yoga did not come from white people just another thing they appropriated from india so you can stop there braids did originate from different areas of the world but the oldest being africa. Already been proven that africa was and is the oldest country in the world being it’s original people being as black as tar hair being as curly as sheep’s wool. By these comments you don’t know your history more importantly history that doesn’t surround white culture and the glorification of white oppression. That’s why cultural appropriating isnt as important as it should be.

          The fact that they teach more white history in schools than any other history in the world speaks volumes. Kylie Jenner insults black women and men but oh kids are just kids while out here in the real world black children aren’t allowed to do or were such things because it’s “ghetto” black children aren’t allowed to appreciate their own culture and show it but white men and woman can? Save it you all sound stupid.

  5. Not A Name says:

    The people commenting on this are fucking idiots.

    • SusanSwain says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful insight… Not a Name

    • I respect your right to express your rage and would never presume to condescend. Being unheard for as long as black women have been unheard and then gaslit by faux allies would make anyone outraged.

    • I honestly think the comments from all the users/readers here are well-written and thought-provoking. Thank you!

  6. Can’t we love and celebrate all of our cultures? What difference does it make if a white woman wears a turquoise squash blossom necklace or a black woman straightens her hair? Sorry, I am white, but I love, embrace, and respect other cultures and I will not give up my turquoise and if I had the hair for it would love to wear dreadlocks which I consider VERY beautiful. If you are black, brown, yellow, or white please take anything you like from my culture and enjoy it. I will look at you with love and easily see your beauty and your INNER beauty.

    • SusanSwain says:

      Judy, we could; if there was equity in our society. The trouble is there is an underlying power imbalance. Culture exchange is fabulous and mutual… cultural appropriation reflects the deeper issue of colonization of an oppressed group. It’s all about the power dynamic. The trouble with the “I don’t see color…only people” sentiment; is that it dismisses the experiences of POC who have to live with institutionalized/systemic racism. But I understand where you are coming from….I too love turquoise..and especially Zuni style jewelry. Which makes me think of a good example of appropriation vs, exchange. I have a Dr. (GP), who for many years did volunteer work with the Zuni folks. She was given jewelry and other items as gifts for serving the Zuni community. Since it was a gift from the members of the community, this is a great example of exchange vs. just taking from another culture.

  7. Serina Perez says:

    I feel that anyone can do whatever they please if they are not directing negative attention to a culture then i feel there is no direct need to place blame on any person using other cultures features, style, etc. Im glad Amandla is advocating for her cultural rights and view in America, but to specifically attack Kylie, among others whom “imitate” then i feel thats wrong. Some cultures should pull the positives behind others using some of the traditional cultural styles. Yes we use it in fashion, etc. but its to be seen as beauty. I although am multi racial, I associate with white, yet i do not like how some advocates for their culture put blame on all white people when we all aren’t the same just like everyone else in this world. One last thing is defining features, clothes, body shape to one nationality, ethnic group or culture is the cause for discrimination, racism and stereotypes , not everyone is the same and not everyone is trying to look like everyone else. live the way you want, look the way you want. and if someone comments on your style then they are the ones creating those boundaries and segregated groups.

  8. Shanta Lee says:

    At the end of the day we could say hair is just hair. However, for a country whose foundation is built on institutionalized racism, we can not overlook the nuances of incidences….even in a so-called harmless (NOT so harmless) instagram photo.

  9. I believe that there are deeper and darker issues about race to point out than over a hair style. The hair style only amounts to a distraction at the end of the day. It is not surprising to know that black kids are seen as unequal to our peers. It is refreshing to see this pointed out finally. Black girls are naturally disrespected by everyone really. Black men have been very disrespectful as well. Sexism and racism are combined for us.

  10. Keep in mind, what has not been reported in this story: Kylie originally used the #whitegirlsdoitbetter hashtag on her Instagram post with her braided hair. Amanda responded within minutes to the post and used the same hashtag in her rebuttal…before the media caught large wind of the post, Kylie edited her Instagram post and removed the #whitegirlsdoitbetter hashtag. So, it looks like Amanda was just trolling her pic, but no. Kylie origanally posted “I woke like this. #whitetirlsdoitbetter”. Amanda was right on for checking her…and Kylie erased the hashtag quickly before the media storm began to swell and the story got more and more attention.

    • Um, do you have any articles or notice that Kyle used that hashtag? Everything I read says Amanda used it and there is not a single reference that Kylie erased the hashtags.

      • Bella1986 says:

        Kylie Jenner originally used the hashtag. It was posted not even a minute before someone told her she’s gone too far with the hashtag. It was even on her Twitter. Read articles before Cohen and Bieber got into the fray and you will see that Amandla was “mocking” Kylie with the hashtag.

  11. Amandla was only ‘attacked’ rather than Kylie because she posted a confrontational comment on someone’s photo, I don’t know that it had to do with her race. And why is it so harmful to wear cornrows if you are not black? Shouldn’t we stop separating ourselves into groups by trying to say what belongs to who? Wouldn’t it be more productive to instead try to join together and become one culture, one race? We are all human beings after all, and just because someone was born white (something they don’t control) does that mean they are unable to style their hair a certain way? I understand getting frustrated when things like headdresses are worn as a fashion statement by those who aren’t Native American as those are religious to that culture but a hairstyle? Cornrows look good and I think it’s a positive thing that they are becoming fashionable, especially when you consider the fact that chemical straightening of black hair has been such a pressure for young black women as straight hair has always been the fad. Don’t we want a hairstyle that embraces natural styling to become popular so that more will feel comfortable wearing them?

    • Anita Little says:

      Author here! The fact you referred to cornrows as “becoming fashionable” is evidence of how black cultural mores are only seen as acceptable after they’ve been co-opted by white America. Blacks have been styling their hair in cornrows since time immemorial and to us, it’s not a fashion trend. To describe it as such is reductive and erases its origins. As for the chemical straightening of black hair you mentioned, that is assimilation, not appropriation. Appropriation is a dominant group taking from the culture of a marginalized group while assimilation is when members of a marginalized group take from the dominant culture so they can fit into that culture. The former is usually done for vanity or “coolness,” the latter for survival. Please don’t conflate the two.

      • Anita… this response… so many feels…so many snaps… All I can say right now is YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!

      • Anita, I never said that the chemical straightening was appropriation, in fact I was saying its a shame anyone ever felt the pressure to make their hair something it is not naturally in order to “assimilate” as I do understand that is a negative consequence of white culture. I was not comparing it to white people wearing corn rows. I apologize if using the word fashionable came off as being flippant and misunderstanding. What I nearly meant by the term was isn’t it a good thing that corn rows are being embraced by ALL people now as it decreases a cultural divide. Besides, I don’t think it was white women that made corn rows be seen as ‘acceptable’ in recent years, I believe it was a cultural movement that has spanned people of all races, genders, body shapes, and sexual orientations to be ourselves and not try to hide our natural features or selfs in order to fit in with what is the dominating culture. In fact I believe it was black celebrities that began to embrace their natural hair that made them become ‘acceptable’. Not a picture Kylie Jenner posted yesterday. Besides; what is the reason for trying to make such a fight between different races about what belongs to who? Clearly corn rows are a part of black heritage, no one would try to dispute that. But why can’t all people share in a heritage and celebrate it? Please let me know where I am wrong in my beliefs, I truly would like to learn more and know I can’t understand what it is like to be a black woman and I am not intitled to say how anyone should feel about their culture.

        • Holly– I appreciate your sincerity and I want to help. The difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is a big one and it is about power dynamics and a sense of mutual respect. Racism works by making something “good” when it is associated with whiteness and making something “bad” when it is associated with blackness. Many white women believe that 1. by taking things that are associated with blackness and giving them some kind of white women’s seal of approval that they are either inherently improving this thing (racists) or 2. that they are taking the racial stigma off of it to make its use by black women easier (bolstering the idea of white normativity — a form of racism) and both of these ideas are detrimental. Why? Because both ideas only serve to support the notion that associating things with whiteness (either for vanity or misguided social justice) serves to improve these things. This way of thinking does not tear down the racist logic underpinning the disparate perception of black and white, but instead reinforces it. The particular object is not necessarily of consequence — it is the association that matters. I will give you an example other than hair. When black women use their fingernails as a tool of creative expression by painting on fancy designs these women are called ghetto and they are reprimanded at work as unprofessional. I have seen these comments in HR files with my own eyes. Now if white women want to get their nails done in intricate styles that is called Pinterest. It is something that in this instance is done for the exact same desire of self-expression and not for important cultural reasons like braids, but the gap in perception is similar. Now that white women have begun to wear similar fancy nails has that in any way helped remove the stigma on black women who chose to express themselves similarly? The answer is no because it was never about the fingernails. It was always about making one particular attribute or another a sin/crime when and only when it is on a black body. When white women chose to take the things for which black women are derided and turn them into fashion pieces it is rubbing this gap in the faces of black women and more importantly does nothing to dismantle racism. Here is another example with men… When a black male carries a gun down the street is he more likely to be thought of as a drug dealer or an open-carry activist when approached by citizens and law enforcement? Most evidence suggests that he is likely to be thought of as a criminal? (check youtube) Does more white men carrying guns somehow remove this stigma from black men who carry guns? No and why would it because it was never about the object. It was the mere association with blackness that turned the same object into a weapon rather than a political statement when in black hands. Putting whiteness next to these things only serves to reinforce the current system of thinking, not tear it down. The system that says associations with whiteness are good is racist and it is the problem and that system shouldn’t be dismissed at any level — not nails, hair or guns– because racism is insidious and it only needs for people to quietly let it pass as unremarkable at this point in history in order to continue.

          • Thanks Ashley that was massively helpful to me, your explanation is brilliant. I’ve struggled to get my head around cultural appropriation. My Pakistani friend offered for me to get a henna tattoo done with her when she next gets one because I’d said how pretty they were and then I was worried other POC might think badly of me if I did and I’d hate that. Can anyone recommend any books I could read to learn a bit more about black history? I’m from the UK but I’ve been reading more and more about how difficult things are in America and probably elsewhere, in terms of the division and the racism underlying it. I’d like to learn more but it seems a bit overwhelming on where to start. I’m starting to work with members of our local refugee community, and I’d really like to learn not only their culture but the history behind it. I know some people will say “Look on the internet” and I do, I’m not asking anyone to teach me or anything, I know it’s my responsibility to learn, but anyone that’s studied the subject might have a couple of pointers for me?

      • Bella1986 says:

        Way to go, Anita. Perfectly articulated, just like Amandla’s articulation before Kylie edited her hashtag on her Instagram.

  12. More proof that Kylie Jenner is a spoiled kid who thinks she owns the world and can get away with anything no matter how inappropriate.

  13. Michelle R says:

    As a white woman, I will never truly be able to empathize with what POC feel. Just as valid, I feel like I represent some sort of conglomeration of ideas about white people. That is frustrating because when I express an opinion on the behavior, style or actions of a POC, the “white privilege” card is thrown.
    I don’t know how we will ever as a nation become united.

    • The only person who can throw the white privilege card are white people. POC can’t “throw” that at you. Listen closely to what people have requested here and I think you will see that it is really not so taxing to offer people an equal level of respect.

  14. I am a 47 year old black woman. I cannot remember a time when all the black women I knew did not sport braids and various other natural styles created for convenience and control, at some time or another.
    Interestingly, were any of these women to wear these styles (braids and any other natural looks that showed their natural, what They were born with hair, to work, they would be asked to go home, change the styles or face losing their jobs. This happened so often it actually made the news!
    Over the years, things have changed but, not much. Many black women are still not allowed to show their true textures in the work place. Why should everyone else besides black women be allowed to show their true textures? Because our hair grows up and out of our scalp? Seriously? And, if we braid, loc, or twist it for purposes of control or convenience, it is unacceptable or radical. Seriously? But let a white person wear it and it’s, “what’s the big deal?”
    I remember the owners of my ballet school telling my and two other black moms (after investing hundreds of dollars and time in lessons) we couldn’t perform unless our hair was straightened and slicked back into a bun like all the other girls who could easily do that. My hair was to my elbows. Straightening it took hours with or without the dangerous chemicals. It was up and bundled into a bun. Because it was frizzy, because that’s what lots of black hair does, it was unacceptable. My bestie. Has the SAME problem with the ballet school her daughters attend. They should get a taste of what its like to wear their hair like ours.
    The Army will not allow black women to braid their hair or wear it natural (even when they are wearing a hat). Their regulations actually say relaxed (an expensive and often painful and time consuming process) is acceptable. Why do black women and no one else have to change thei hair to do what it naturally does? I wonder how they would feel if the tables were turned? Probably as insulted as we are.
    So, yeah, when someone, in this day and age, wears the styles us black women still can’t wear without scrutiny, and then, has the nerve to say #whitegirlswearitbetter, and try to make it cool while some are still fighting to simply wear it ( not to be cool, or vain) is all kinds of wrong.
    All you guys talking about its just a hairstyle and screaming peace and love, how bout you recognize and fight the good fight for everyone and not just the white girl child and her vanity.

    • Oh come on, you know exactly why cornrows are not considered/seen as professional. And it has nothing to do with true textures. Yes, there are many hairstyles common to w.o.c. that are, wrongly, categorized as “not fit for the workplace.” Cornrows are included in this group for a entirely different reason. When you want to get honest about where many “black” trends, fashions, etc. rise up from to become current and “in”, only then can there be some progress. You want white people to be unflinchingly honest about the different worlds blacks and whites live in; that’s perfectly fair. But, then, it needs to be honesty from everyone! Playing dense doesn’t benefit anyone in this debate, especially yourself.

  15. A lot of people forget that in the caption of kylie’s photo it said #whitegirlsdoitbetter

  16. Danielle says:

    I completely understand where Amandla is coming from, but I think the reactions to this are a bit extreme. Why are hairstyles being grouped into racial categories? I don’t think that Kylie was trying to offend anyone, she just wanted to wear her hair in a pretty way. I feel as if we all have become too sensitive, and associate everything nowadays as being cultural misappropriation. No hate to either side of this argument, just my opinion on the subject.

    • Intentions aren’t magical and i don’t think that being asked to be sensitive to other people is “too sensitive” typically white women are in the position of asking others to be sensitives to thieir plight, but are slow to respond with similar intention when asked not to disrespect others. For as long as black girls can’t wear these styles without facing ridicule and social and economic backlash, white women should not do it and then ask what is the big deal? When it is clearly a big deal if a black woman wears this hair to work, school or the military (Google: black natural hair banned) .

  17. Helen Shultz says:

    Great essay!!! As a middle aged white woman i had never come into contact with exactly that point of view but can absolutely see the truth of it in the world around me. It is absolutely unjust. The link to this article was posted by a Facebook friend. !! I’ll be sharing it on my page as well. Thank you!!

  18. I think if it was a one time thing it would be fine but the Kardashian’s are quite notorious for stealing black culture and adopting it as their own…whether it be the big bums…big lips….the thing with baby North’s hair in Vogue…It’s just ridiculous…Amandla is younger and trying to be a positive role model and The Kardashian’s are clearly fame hungry and don’t really care how they get that.

    • You do realise that North is half black right.. She is the daughter of Kanye West after all. Also the Kardashians figures are natural based on their heritage (armenian). They did not steal black culture, they were just born that way. Sure Kylie has made some questionable choices which I am by no means condoning but the older sisters had no choice over their body type and should not be judged for it.

    • Does everyone realize the Kardashians & Jenners are not white….. They are Armenian. And news flash.. two of them are married to black people. North is half black.

  19. What hair. Ohh I needed to look up!!

  20. Robin Q says:

    Black women, their style , their features and their bodies have been commodified since, we were kidnapped and forcibly brought here! I am over white fragility. The fact is nothing we say do or wear is accepted until someone lighter or whiter does it! This young actress isn’t wrong . The problem with people like Jenner and anyone defending her is that they want to be Black without carrying any of the burdens of Blackness oftentimes, celebrating and objectifying every stereotype they can just to piss off mommy and daddy. I bet you given the chance to actually be Black Ms. Jenner would decline the offer in a heartbeat!

  21. All Amandla is trying to say is while emulating black culture, people should also speak up against racial prejudice.

  22. We walk a fine line when we say “this is black culture”, “this is white culture”. If we want to say that, then isn’t that based off the idea that “we are separate from you. Our culture is ours and leave it alone.” Isn’t that inherently offensive? Isn’t it built upon an idea that our races, cultures, backgrounds forever and ever separate us and we should stay separate?

  23. Emily Heinz says:

    Straight hair doesn’t belong to white people. Many races have straight hair so stop using the excuse ‘black girls straighten their hair to look white’ or they get weave to look white. No one wants to look like a white girl

    • Either way it’s stealing from another culture that isn’t ur own. Which apparently is off limits according to all of u.

    • I am a black woman and I am going to blow the lid off the hypocrisy: since I was a child straightening your hair and getting a weave was a way to have “GOOD HAIR” like the mixed, Hispanic, or white girls. Black women will NEVER admit this and it is our dirty little secret. The kitchens were terrifying to us (our nappy hair at the edges) and we would do anything to hide them. Don’t let anyone fool you that they are getting blonde weaves just to fit in. I know plenty of black women with professional and natural hair. Reality is, many black women want to look like Beyonce and don’t be fooled, Beyonce’s look is a white woman’s look. We appropriate and so do white women. If we are going to talk about this issue, let’s really discuss it.

    • Girl please. What Sub Saharan African person who is not mixed has straight hair? We are the only race with kinky hair. We don’t have a straight hair gene. Stop tripping.

  24. Meijah L. says:

    I feel like a lot of people want to make this article about the hair when it’s not. Had Kylie put a caption like “But it’s okay when I do it #blacklivesmatter” it probably wouldn’t have gotten that comment from Amandla and so many others. But because she put “#whitegirlsdoitbetter” that’s where the problem comes in. I am black and I have been natural for about two and half years now and my own mom still keeps asking me when I’m going to comb my hair and keeps saying how pretty it would be if it were a little straighter. You can’t tell me that there isn’t a social/power rift in America considering there’s one in my own community and household because looking like the “majority” has been more acceptable for all these years. I’m happy we as African Americans have made so many positive strides for our people, but please don’t act like you don’t see the injustices because you’re not a part of the race. We can all be better people and the sooner we’re honest about these things, the sooner we can become one.

  25. I love this article shame all the other media outlets are not stating the true, instead all they can do is make it about cornrows. We need more people like you to revamped and replace the racist media.

  26. Now as white people say how we copy them with straight hair and all this other bull. For one nobody realizes that because of white people , black women was taught that looking the lightest ( close to white) and having straight hair was praised. Because of all this bull the black community has colorism problems just like the Latin culture . I’m the same age as Amandla and I agree with her 100% percent. Before you guys start say black people are wrong for speaking up… You should actually study and see how white people treated us for years. As a young woman of color its hard because my shade of brown isn’t light enough or how my big wavy/curly hair is looked down because it causes too much attention. First of all the black community is going through so much with police officers and racism. For years our hair was frowned on and now that a white girl does it….. Its amazing and cool, or twerking now that Mikey twerked her happy ass around the world every while girl thinks is cool all of a sudden but when black people did it,it made us raunchy.God I hope everyone will start educating themselfs instead of this #white girls do it better movement. You know what I am a brown skinned and a big curly long haired girl and I challenge everyone to look at the documentary dark girls then maybe you will understand how it is to be a black woman and while your at it look at the videos of white police officers beating and killing black people for no damn reason… GOD BLESS AMERICA AND THE PAPER BAG TEST THAT WE STILL HAVE.

    • totaltruth says:

      Please, as a person with brown skin and curly hair(though I have significant admixture), white people never told me I had to look a certain way. The people usually getting on black people for their appearance are other black people. The “you need a perm” black people. So many self-hating hypocrites amongst black people.

  27. Unnamed says:

    I think it’s a little sad how some people miss the whole point. I am a young black woman who has had to struggle with my hair for all of my life. I used to perm my hair to get it straight because that was the most excepted among other cultures. I grew up in a military family and moved from school to school and most of the schools I went to were majority white. When I came to school with my straight hair I was beautiful, however when I wore braids or a puff ball I’d be made fun of even tho that is how my hair was supposed to look naturally. So why when another culture wears the same hair style is cool or edgy but when I do it I’m made fun of and it’s not just hair. Black women with big lips and a lot of ass aren’t desired but when Kim K or Kylie does it it’s sexy. I’m not saying other cultures shouldn’t wear the style, but down cast the people who uses the style for everyday purpos (not because it’s cool it helps maintain our hair).

  28. WTF does Justin know anyway? NOTHING.

  29. There’s been more clarity in this discussion about what constitutes cultural appropriation vs. cultural exchange than I’ve seen anywhere else. Thank you.

    Perhaps the most disturbing thing here is that Kylie Jenner has 29.5 million followers. I truly cannot imagine. I hope her teen followers are also paying attention to “leaders” who have something a bit more worthwhile to say.

    BTW, Australian aborigines also have kinky hair. Of course, they are considered to be the first modern humans who migrated out of Africa, so perhaps my point is meaningless, as they are Africans in a way. They have been treated as abysmally as other indigenous people around the world. I wonder if they have also been pressured to make their hair look more like that of the colonizers. I bet they have.

    It’s beyond horrifying that cornrows or braids are considered “not fit for the workplace.” Geez, women just can’t win with their appearance, and especially women of color! Every woman has some kind of issues with trying to get her hair to do something reasonable. So many times it’s women ourselves who are oppressing other women with judgments about appearance. We need to get off each other’s backs. Writing #whitegirlsdoitbetter is just plain mean.

  30. http://www.refinery29.com/2015/08/91760/allure-magazine-afro-controversy?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=post

    May i present to you evidence article number 1… This really is a great example of what many of you ladies were trying to convey…

  31. When I was little, my russian grandmother would braid my hair in to tiny braids- cornrows- and this was back in 2001, and my grandmother doesn’t even speak English. When I would wear my cornrows I definitely was not trying to be “edgy”. It is literally just hair….

    But I understand where this article is coming from- it is racist when people such as Kylie Jenner adopt an “edgy black style” and only think of black culture as hip and cool, not reconizing the struggle and oppression that black people have faced for hundreds of years.

    But I think this is also a bit extreme- it is racist for a black women to straighten hair and wear french braids? If it is not okay for white people to adopt hip hop and rap, which are art forms, that why is it acceptable for black people to adopt chamber music?? We are all people, we are literally all the same. We all live on this planet…culture has been exchanged for thousands of years. As long as we are not insulting other cultures, I think it’s perfectly fine for culture to exchange.

    • Excuse me but you’re working under misconception.

      As a black woman, straightening my hair was not an attempt to “appropriate” white culture. I straightened my hair because I was taught, and sadly, learned, that recruiters were more…receptive to candidates who “looked the part.” Part of looking the part or being more accessible to customers (I was later told) involved a grooming guideline that I and other candidates, were required to follow. Wearing my natural hair seemed to be frowned upon, among my supervisors and my boss. So I straightened it, or wore wigs, to fit in and not be singled out. Other female black colleagues, who wore extended braids did not receive the same ire that I had, when I’d chosen to wear my hair naturally, and so that observation also instilled in me that certain hairstyles were acceptable, as opposed to others.

      Straightening my hair, or wearing wigs, is a means for survival. It’s not a practice I prefer or want but it seems to fit the image my supervisors and bosses want to project to their customers; and so I continue to do so…as a means to support myself.

      Therefore, when you compare black women’s experiences with white women, please be cognizant that straightening our hair, for many professional women, is a means to pay the bills.

  32. Britney says:

    Black women have been rejected jobs and had opportunities taken away from them because of their hair and for you to Appropriate Black culture and say its just hair is bullshit just because you aren’t suffering lost opportunities for your actual hair does not diminish that black women struggle because of our hair, it is not JUST hair , it is NEVER JUST hair

  33. totaltruth says:

    “I have strong opinions, I am not angry.

    Amandla, you’re also not black. You’re mixed.

  34. I’ll do my hair, dress however the hell I want. Normal kid? She’s got Kim Kardashian for a sister, people have said that Kylie will be the next porn star, yeah what a great normal life that is. The girl has some major issues, doing stuff to her face, dating an older guy taking provocative photos for attention. Amandla Stenberg makes an assumption that life is easier for a certain race which in turn makes her the racist especially when she called names out. She started an argument now people are threatening those who disagree with her. She appropriated my Hispanic culture when she a biracial black and white child played a colombian, even using an accent. Now some must worry and think before they do something with their hair or even wear the right outfit because someone might be offended, screw that. No one is thinking of anyone else’s feelings when doing something with their hair and they shouldn’t. Did Kylie claim she invented the hair style? No she didn’t .

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