A few months ago, the youngest member of the Kardashian clan posted the following picture and caption to her Instagram account with the caption, “I woke up like disss.”
Kylie Jenner, then 17-years old, received a lot of criticisms on the look. But one comment stood out from the rest. Actress Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as Rue in the first Hunger Games film, wrote the following comment (screenshot courtesy of The Shadow Room and here).
Even now, months later, the media is still reporting on this “cat fight” between the two celebrities. And, of course, the media is focused on pitting the two against each other, rather than writing about the real root of the problem; the treatment of black culture and women by white culture.
In response to the backlash Stenberg received for her comment, she posted the following tweet to her Twitter.
Stenberg also explained herself in this YouTube video, entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.”
Stenberg’s comment wasn’t a criticism of Jenner (at least not entirely). It was directed at the racism in America that still prevails to this day. Where PoC are looked down on for wearing dreadlocks (or locs), but white people are praised. Where PoC are devalued for wearing their hair in braids, but celebrities like Jenner (and many others) are hailed as fashion icons for their “new” styles. Stenberg is targeting a system that repeatedly diminishes the accomplishments [and fashions] of non-white populations, and then praises those same accomplishments [and fashions] when worn my white celebrities.
This is not a personal attack on Jenner or other white celebrities that appropriate and exploit black culture. Stenberg has been one of many young WoC to comment on the system. Another strong voice on this issue is Zendaya Coleman, who was a victim of this same mindset when she wore her hair in faux-locs to the Oscars. You can read about that here if you’re unfamiliar. Zendaya responded in a similar fashion as Stenberg, taking to her Twitter to address the issue.
Stenberg’s outrage wasn’t over Jenner’s hair, but the ignorance she displayed when confronted about her appropriation of black culture and lack of response to black issues. I agree with Stenberg whole-heartedly. So many celebrities benefit from appropriating other cultures, taking different aspects to make “edgy” and “new” trends (like Jenner and the cornrows). This would be fine if they also addressed where these trends came from and spoke on behalf of the cultures, but many of them don’t. You cannot take the aspects you like from one culture but not involve yourself with it beyond those aspects.
If you want to read more about Stenberg and her involvement with this issue, Paper Magazine wrote a very interesting article about the event. You can also read this profile on Stenberg and her activism by Mic. I would further suggest following Stenberg’s Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to see what else she’s involved in and follower her efforts.