It’s Black History Month again and I am truly enjoying all of the cultural awareness and historical information being shared across social media. But as we celebrate the excellence of our ancestors and peers, there is a constant nuisance lurking not far behind: cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is just a politically correct way of saying something is displaying “black face” or a “minstrel show”.
Quick history lesson: During the Reconstruction Era (time period after the Civil War 1865 -1890s), “Black face” and “minstrel shows” were used as a form of entertainment for whites but demeaned African Americans. These shows included white actors using shoe polish or grease to paint their faces black and red paint to embellish their lips to falsely mock the physical features of African Americans.
People actually paid money to sit and watch these as they racially profiled an entire race using the stage as their platform. Many of the stereotypes that arose from this practice was that we were dumb, docile, and in a few cases, portrayed beastlike behavior. The list of stereotypes presented in minstrel shows are as long as the years of oppression and slavery itself. Fast forward, over 100 years later, and there are new ways that society is using to create modern-day minstrel shows. For more information on the history of minstrel shows and racial stereotypes, check out this link: https://www.britannica.com/art/minstrel-show#ref1067258
As we all experienced, 2020 was one of, if not the most infamous year in human history, One issue that became a mainstream topic was racism and for a brief moment, it seemed as if people were starting to understand the fight to uproot the racist systems that oppress the Black community. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than a global pandemic and peaceful protests to get folks on the same page. This has become relevant from a recent post which featured a white family wearing t-shirts displaying “Dope Black” family roles such as Dad, Mom, Son, etc. Of course, it started a debate among audiences on social media platforms.
Here’s my two cents, there is no thin line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation; the line is wide and clear. If you feel as if someone may offend someone or a group of people, you should definitely consult someone from that specific group. But in this case when the evidence is printed in big bold letters, why even bother? Just don’t do it. This is what blatant cultural appropriation looks like. I would like to know the thought process behind this promotion. Whoever was in charge of this production , including the models, should be reprimanded and the advertisement pulled immediately if it hasn’t been done already.
We don’t mind other people celebrating or embracing our culture but do it the right way with respect. But that will require respect for the people beyond the culture and until they respect us, they cannot take our culture seriously. Just know this, without our culture, America would not be as advanced as it is today. Our culture has influenced the food, fashion, music, social media trends, etc. So the next time y’all feel the need to appropriate something, ask yourself is it worth the backlash?