I propose that black culture is becoming too mainstream resulting African Americans in losing their culture. Fashion trends from black culture and hip-hop culture has become a common influence in what all celebrities wear today.
Black culture started out first and foremost as a political argument. From the top of the head to the bottom of the feet everything was an expression of resistance and black culture. However, this culture was barely noticed in mainstream until late 1973, otherwise known as, the birth of hip hop. The hip hop era took to the youth like a moth take to a flame. It shocked many around the world and is still a major source of influence today. With the new success and spotlight, black culture was at its prime. Fast forward 17 years later and Brandy, Tyra Banks, Tupac, and The Notorious B.I.G bless the 1990’s with unapologetic culture. This is the era that is currently referred to when looking for the “new” look.
The more black fashion appears in mainstream the less black, black people become. When black fashion is pictured we start to imagine black men and women in gold jewelry, wearing Air Jordan’s, and braids. These are just three things that make black people black and give representation to the black community. However somewhere along the line the public—mostly white celebrities—started to notice the stylish ideas that were being created. Although it is uncertain when this phenomenon started to occur, it was visible when white rappers felt comfortable wearing oversized clothing and when white women decided it was a good idea to wear braids and hoop earring. This was not a big problem until they wore it and it was branded as their own to sell and distribute with no acknowledgment of where it really originated. This lead to widespread cultural appropriation and people believing that they could be more socially acceptable and grab the media’s attention if they dressed like a black person. For example, Huffington Post article “On Miley Cyrus, Hip-hop, And The Objectification Of Black Women” by DeAsia Paige suggests that Miley Cyrus’ new style and attitude that was influenced by hip hop culture was the sole reason why she is considered to be demeaning and appropriating of black women.
Black fashion has always been a political statement of freedom and fighting against oppression. According to Buzzfeed’s video, “100 Years of Black Fashion,” natural hair, Afros, and African cloth became symbols of African heritage and pride and were further popularized throughout the 1960s.” From the 1960’s and 1970’s black fashion depicted the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Members of the Black Panther movement popularized afros and dark sunglasses. In the 1973 the greatest contribution to music was created, otherwise known as the birth of hip hop. Hip hop music influenced many teens to sport bright athletic track suits and loose-fitting clothes. Black icons such as Michael Jackson, Salt and Pepa, and Whitney Houston brought their unapologetic style and grace to the 80’s with flaming red leather jackets and matching outfits for couples. Finally, we come to the most inspirational era of black culture the 90’s. During the 1990’s, black women were going back into their roots and wearing a multitude of fashionable braids. Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, and Erykah Badu influenced generations to come that it was okay to be natural and take care of black hair. In today’s era some aspects of black culture are flourishing while others are being taken advantage of completely. According to “Money flowing into the natural hair industry is a blessing and curse for those who built it up” an article on LA Times written by Makeda Easter in 2016, 2.5 billion dollars was spent on black hair care product by black consumers. While natural hair goes up hair relaxers are taking a 36 percent dive in prices from 2012 to 2017, stated by the article “USA: Relaxer sales fall but Black hair care market is booming, thanks to natural hair movement” from the website Brazil Beauty News. Unfortunately, the more black women wear their natural hair out the more attention it grabs as with all black fashion.
“An Illustrative Identity of Fashion and Style Throughout African-American History and Movements” an article written by Danielle James at Huffington Post believes fashion to be a true identity of the black community. Fashion and style has always been the shining beacon of pride in the black community. The black community started to really express themselves by going to church since it allowed them the time to be themselves in an environment which was not subjected to the racism and hatred of society. Many would dress in elegant suits with matching hats and purses because black people often had to wear uniforms during the work days. In the 1960’s black people started to use African fabric to announce their heritage proudly. The merging of fashion with media was born during the Trayvon Martin case. A plain simple hoodie was then turned into a political outcry for help during this injustice against an unarmed and innocent black teenager. The way black people present themselves to the outside world is not a trend but an identity of who they are and the battles they deal with.
“The Double Standards of Cultural Appropriation” an article on The Bottom Line written by Morgan Bubman explains why cultural appropriation is unjust. Black people have to constantly deal with the “edgy” and “alternative” trends that the majority population find favorable for only them. When white people borrow from culture they only take the thing they believe are fashion forward or could be of monetary value. This is the concern that many black people face because when they wear these same styles, on them it is responded with only black slurs. Examples of this daily occurrence is Kylie Jenner being praised for her surgically induced lips when black women are vehemently badgered for having naturally plump lips. Not only does the public love Jenner’s lips, she made a hefty profit off of them by creating her own cosmetic line. But yet their was backlash on MAC’s Instagram page for having a black model sport purple lipstick.
Last September, the Daily Show criticized how fashion week had appropriated black culture. Dulce Sloan, a guest on the show, said that when white people appropriate culture they do not get any of the negative effects that has to come with the Fashion and styles they steal. She goes on to say that people like the Kardashians, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift do not “Get pulled over for no reason. Get followed through a store.”
Author of Zeba Blay at Huffington Post believes white women should not be able to wear black hairstyles. Her article “Its a slap in the face when white women wear black hair styles” points out that even though the world knows what is and is not racist they have become unbearable insensitive. To support her claim she uses the fashion magazine Allure to prove her point. In the magazine there is a section that is entitled to create the perfect Afro even if your hair type is straight. Blay believes this was a specific article to white people since the picture tagged to the article is of a woman with curls. Blay then goes on to defend that when black women do straighten their hair or dye it blonde that this is a form of assimilation not appropriation. Black women assimilate to survive since so many are attacked for wearing their natural hair out because is it not seen as professional or classy.
Black fashion has always been a major factor in how black people and the world view themselves. The black community has always suffered from the ignorance, oppression, and racism of others who saw them as less. With that being said, black people remember their history through appearances first. The issue of black fashion becoming more mainstream is that a community of people become muffled and silenced by the others wanting to be like them but not like them. To be truly black means to experience the hatred the world has for them and wait for everything that is considered yours to be stolen from underneath your feet. To be truly black is to feel numb every time the news reports of another innocent black victim dead at the hands of the police. Being black means being told countless times in a lifetime that the world was made to be against you. Being truly black means to be called “urban”, “hood”, “ghetto”, and “scary”. These attributes may also find their way into other minorities, but they can never truly understand the pain and the hardships. The styles the black communities wear is a message all on its own that says to the world, “I have a history and it will be recognized.”
In no way am I saying that cultures should stick to their own culture since that would be a terrible world. I am saying that if a person does take ideas or use aspects from a culture they should definitely refer back to their cultural influence. Many celebrities have stolen from different cultures in the past and have gotten away with it countless times. Even though the black community show strong disapproval towards these celebrities’ actions with no apology. Then the media surrounding these famous celebrities increase the exposure of these “trends”. Cultural appropriation happens when a culture, different then the culture a person is in, is worn and is not acknowledge or is demeaning for others outside that community to wear.
The major contributors to the loss off black identity is famous white women and the media. The media is responsible in showing the public what celebrities wear. However, they also set the tone for how the public should respond using catchy words or phrases. Famous white women find inspiration in black fashion from the hairstyles and clothing we wear then incorporating it into their daily lives. Their mistake is not correcting the media on where they got their style sense. When white women say nothing, a culture is silenced because they are allowing this type of injustice to continue. In stead of black culture being credited the white women are accounted instead.
Black fashion in the mainstream media causes cultural appropriation. The best thing about diversity is being surrounded by people and cultures that can be similar and very different from our own. The world is becoming more and more diverse and unfortunately things like cultural appropriation do occur. Cultural appropriation is when a race steals elements from a culture in an opposing race and uses it for financial gain or re-branded ownership. Usually the race being pillaged holds little to no power. During this time, black women and men are embracing their culture in a most positive way. Black fashion is one of the ways the black community speaks to the world without saying anything and will continue to inspire people. Although, this type of fashion is only acceptable when worn by someone not black. For example, in 2015 Zendaya, a famous celebrity teenager, graced the Oscars with her hair styled in faux dreads. Zendaya was then criticized for looking like she smelled of weed. Kylie Jenner also wore faux dreads for a Teen Vogue story and was labeled “edgy”, “beautiful”, and “raw.” These two examples show that even though one of these women are mixed she is still less than the white women. The more black fashion is exposed in the mainstream the more likely it is that the black community will lose black fashion and with it part of their identity.
Black fashion in the mainstream media causes black people to lose their identity. Since cultural appropriation effects how black people are first perceived it is hard for the black community to recognize what their identity is. A big majority of black culture is black fashion. Black fashion was and is still a major approach used by the black community to fight back against oppression and the conformity of society. The black community has to live with knowing that they exist only because of the 246 years slavery existed. They must also learn that after slavery the black community continued to feel pain because of segregation which lasted about 89 years. Through these years the black community has fought wars and forced laws all to make living a little easier for the next generations. Black fashion is what makes black people happy as well as surviving subjugation and racism. This explains why black people are so passionate and interested in incidents regarding cultural appropriation towards their culture. Knowing that black people would become just like everyone else is what pushes this group of people forward to stop this from happening. If the barrier between mainstream “trends” and black fashion was to be removed many black youths would grow up confused at how to define their style and where their sense of style actually originates.
Popular white celebrities and black fashion causes cultural appropriation. These trends in mainstream fashion do not come out of nowhere. Most of the trends in fashion are determined by popular celebrities who are seen by the media. They are also more likely to set a “trend” if they are white. The Kardashian family is infamous for cultural appropriation since they draw inspiration from black culture and profit from it or rename a fashion in black history. A recent example would be Kim Kardashian’s “boxer braids” show in Teen Vogue’s article “This Hairstyle Is Not Called “Boxer Braids” and Kim Kardashian Didn’t Make It Popular.” The author Britni Danielle writes that “girls have worn cornrows before, or that most of the early 2000s were filled with celebs like Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Ludacris, Bow Wow, and even Justin Timberlake rocking the style” but the reason it received attention “is because white women have finally caught on.”
Popular white female celebrities wearing black fashion causes cultural appropriation which also causes black people to lose their identity in society. White women wearing black fashion does not cause them to be a victim in the negative side effects of being black. Since there is an imbalance in power white women are less likely to be ridiculed or treated unfairly if they wore box braids in the workplace or fashioned an athletic suit on Instagram. This same imbalance in power makes it harder for black women to wear their natural hair at work without “causing a scene” or having offensive demeaning labels attached to them. White women need to understand that society holds them on a higher pedestal than minorities. For this reason, they should be more aware of the message they are putting out into the world to work together to bring growth instead of tearing women apart.
As said previously, black people lose their ‘blackness’ when black fashion is worn by someone more socially acceptable. Contrary to this belief, black people cannot lose their blackness because there are many other factors that make them black. In addition, the cycle of black fashion trends is more beneficial to black people as well as the world. Darcel Rockett’s article “’How to Slay’: Black fashion has made its mark on world culture” in the Chicago Tribune interviewed fashion expert, Constance C.R. White, who had this to say “This moment is very individualistic — it’s very much about expressing your personality, it’s a mashup and melding of different times. It’s more acceptable than ever, and there’s a hundred trends happening at once. We haven’t seen that in fashion — ever.” What White is trying to say is that fashion is about expressing individuality by choosing from the many time periods of fashion while it is still socially acceptable.
When someone more socially acceptable wear trends that are from black fashion it is not cultural appropriation it is cultural appreciation. When people style their hair in dreadlocks or wear earrings with their name on them it is to show that people who are not black can show how much they like the culture. White people capitalize on black fashion because they understand that black people are not appealing towards society, so it becomes their responsibility. When different people come together and wear black fashion they are essentially expanding and spreading black culture.
It should also be addressed that this argument is based off of black privilege. In John Blake’s article “It’s time to talk about ‘black privilege’” on CNN it writes that “white commentators describe how blackness has become such a “tremendous asset” that some whites are now trying to “pass” as black.” This means that white people believe it a societal necessity to wear clothes influenced by black people and enhanced body parts to be accepted. This may be the reason why people like the Kardashians feel comfortable getting plastic surgery but uncomfortable telling the world the reason why.
Black fashion is worn by everyone so by default black culture becomes a natural trendsetter. As soon as society begins to wear the hairstyles and clothing of black people they immediately know it is time to find something else to standout. This pattern is the reason why most trends are born, why some trends go out of style, and why some become revamped. As a result of this phenomena, black people influence the world only by the way they look. If anything, this should be seen as a privilege to black people since not many cultures can say the same. Black fashion has not always been a source of happiness for the black community. In many ways black fashion can hold black people back since it reinforces that black people are “dirty and poor criminals with no intelligence” just by attire. However, this way of thinking is curbed when everyone starts to dress in mainstream black fashion trends. Know people are targeted equally since they are all dressed the same. This also allows for black people to be discreet since society dresses like them and it is harder to be noticed if everyone is following the same trends.