Here’s a secret, I’ve been going through writer’s block for over a week. But my inability to verbalize was quickly cured thanks to these troubling images below.
Yes, du-rags and baby hairs just got a makeover.
This comes on the heels of the Vogue debacle, in which they credited Iggy Azalea and J. Lo for making big butts a thing. And I’m still seething over that Kendall Jenner tomfoolery by way of Marie Claire.
“Cultural appropriation” doesn’t seem fitting. Nor does “Columbusing,” or any other catchphrase meant to describe how Black and Brown culture is repeatedly ripped to shreds, disregarded, and then rebranded by the white privileged elite. For me, these terms describe the most infantile of microagressions and cultural insensitivity. Prejudicial transgressions so unintentionally ignorant that pity is a seemingly appropriate response.
These terms don’t capture the grave and utter wrongness of the pictures featured above. Cultural appropriation and Columbusing typically conjure thoughts of daily prejudicial habits, and not the systematic and calculated efforts meant to obliterate the glory of Blackness.
When corporations and other for-profit machines stir the prejudicial pot, pity is no longer an option. Anger and frustration is an accurate response. Why? Because for-profit enterprises have the resources to know better. Millions of marketing dollars are spent researching the market, fostering creative ideation, developing paradigms to measure societal temperatures, and ultimately selling product. The steps to get a product to market are arduous and complex. Interwoven through this intricate process, are voices in the corporate space that green light the next phase.
The process is deliberate. As are the motives behind them.
And then there’s the profit. You think that sporty “Urban Tie Cap,” will sell for $1 like a du-rag does? Nope. And when the person foolish enough to fork over $50 for a du-rag places that trendy fashion statement on their heads, so comes an aura of elitism that will only (and inevitably) fuel even more prejudice against the people who typically wear them. That’s right. Black men.
Which leads me to my next point. How often have Black and Brown bodies been demonized for their appearance? Black men who wear
du-rags Urban Tie Caps are thugs, Black women with gelled baby hairs Urban Fabulous hair are ratchet bitches. Put the pair together and you have a ghetto Urban couple worthy of a Love and Hip Hop storyline.
I’m not against culture sharing; there are literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of cultural nuances across the globe that deserve praise and recognition. The issue(s) comes when such nuances are historically chastised, repeatedly maligned, then stolen, and then not given proper credit or recognition when it’s clear that such nuances have space in the corporate market. The salt in the wound comes when the originators still practice their culture, only to be met with more backlash because they didn’t pay an arm or a leg for the traditions that are inherently theirs.
And no, calling something “urban” is not giving credit.
That’s why these images disturb me. That’s why Iggy Azalea, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry anger me. Because they encroach upon Black culture, but do little to uplift the culture they desperately try to emulate.