Like many high school students, 17-year-old Claire Kempe took part in her school’s homecoming week activities. On “Character Day” at Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida, the high school senior decided to go as her favorite artist, rapper Kodak Black.
However, what Kempe found to be a clever costume received backlash on Twitter on Monday—a week after her friends lovingly shared it on their Snapchats.
After she tweeted the images—her hair in bantu knots, carrying two Styrofoam cups, wearing a fake grill and drawn-on tattoos—her mentions were quickly flooded with reactions. Many called the bantu knots cultural appropriation, since the hairstyle is a symbol of black pride that can be traced back to the African desert.
“People kept saying it was racist. I had never even heard of bantu knots until today—I thought I was just doing Kodak’s hairstyle,” Kempe told the Daily Dot.
In what could have been a teachable moment, Kempe went on to say she doesn’t understand the accusations of insensitivity. “Racism is still a big issue, but they don’t know it’s an issue that I care about. They don’t know me or who I hang out with or what I do,” said Kempe.
Kempe said she has been trying to ignore the negativity, because there have been positive responses as well, with others jumping in to defend her—including several black Twitter followers who pointed out at least she didn’t use blackface.
Since when white people can't dress up as rappers? Lol ain't nothing wrong with this. As long as she don't have blackface, she alright. https://t.co/OpUQrNL7B4
— Girl 6. (@BAD__MamaJama) October 3, 2016
we're not asking y'all to not dress up as black celebrities, we just don't want y'all using blackface.
she did it right. https://t.co/22z51gm8xj
— alenasss like selenasss but with an A. (@anmctier) October 3, 2016
Despite all the back and forth, Kempe says she doesn’t plan to remove the photo and also will “probably” dress as Kodak Black again for Halloween.
“It’s just me expressing myself,” Kempe said.