In a recent Instagram post, Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian family, shared a selfie of her wearing cornrows. In response, 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg, known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, took her to task, accusing Jenner of cultural appropriation.
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
Stenberg ironically hashtagged her comment with #whitegirlsdoitbetter, as the racially insensitive term was trending on Twitter throughout the day—she wanted to draw attention to Jenner appropriating black culture as a white woman. Jenner was also called out for an alleged blackface photo back in April.
Cornrows are a popular hairstyle for black women and men, though thanks to racially biased rules, the hairstyle has been banned in some schools and in the military.
In a YouTube video called “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows,” Stenberg discusses the problematic ways the hairstyle is culturally appropriated, and how racist stereotypes have led to cornrows meaning something different for different races—black people may be considered unprofessional wearing them, while white women might be considered avant-garde:
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. Appropriation occurs when the appropriate is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they’re partaking in.
Jenner didn’t seem particularly concerned with Stenberg’s diss, however. She responded by saying, “Mad if I don’t, Mad if I do… Go hang w Jaden [Smith] or something.”
Photo via Disney ABC/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)