Amandla Stenberg, the 16-year-old actress known for her part as Rue in The Hunger Games, decided it was time to set the record straight about what "cultural appropriation" really means.
In a video she filmed for her history class and posted on Tumblr titled "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows: A Crash Discourse on Black Culture," Stenberg gets real on her thoughts on race.
At first, Stenberg discusses black hair and its connection to black identity, and therefore, rap and hip-hop.
"So you can see why hair is such a big part of hip-hop and rap culture," Stenberg said. "These are styles of music which African American communities created in order to affirm our identities and our voices."
In the viral video, which she posted to Tumblr a few months ago, the teen criticizes white musicians like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry for adopting the music and style of hip-hop after its rise into pop culture.
"[In the 2010s,] pop stars and icons adopted black culture as a way of being edgy and gaining attention," the actress said. "In 2013, Miley Cyrus twerks and uses black women as props, and then in 2014, in one of her videos called 'This Is How We Do,' Katy Perry uses Ebonics and hand gestures and eats watermelons while wearing cornrows before cutting inexplicably to a picture of Aretha Franklin. So as you can see, cultural appropriation was rampant."
She also pointed out that a few fashion magazines called cornrows a "new, urban hairstyle."
Stenberg then brought up Macklemore and Iggy Azalea's adoption of black culture, emphasizing that their fame coincided with nationwide protests against the police killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many others.
Rapper Azealia Banks, Stenberg mentioned, brought attention to the fact that most of the white celebrities who adopted black culture in their careers did not speak out in alliance with the protesters.
"The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred," Stenberg said aptly. She then defined exactly what cultural appropriation is and why it's wrong:
Stenberg concluded her "crash discourse" with the question: "What would America be like if it loved black people as much as it loves black culture?"
Ema O'Connor is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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