There is a very thin line between appreciation and appropriation. Many of us have teetered it far too often. Given the civil rights movement we’re all living through, it’s critical we understand how to appreciate Black culture without appropriating it.
We can start with educating ourselves on the subject. It’s not enough to attend one protest. We must all call out the harm we’ve caused we’ve done as individuals, whether we’re aware of it or not. To know what steps to take, we interviewed hairstylist Melchijah Blanken of The Window in Amsterdam. Melchijah was kind enough to answer our questions on all things cultural appropriation.
Keep scrolling to see what she had to say!
Mane Addicts: How can white people and non-Black people of color do better at appreciating Black culture?
Melchijah Blanken: Start with educating yourself on the subject of cultural appropriation and the harm it can do to others. By educating yourself, one can develop awareness—which is important for acknowledging in what areas of your life you are appropriating Black culture. Important elements of doing better are treating Black culture with respect and crediting the source. I think it’s also important to see where and how you can give back and support Black culture in a way the feels right for you.
MA: What are some examples of appropriation we see today?
MB: An example in the fashion industry would be the trend of baby hair. In the past, this hairdo and the use of a toothbrush to get the look was seen as ‘ghetto.’ Nowadays, we can see this trend everywhere. The use of a toothbrush is even seen as innovative. A great example that people wouldn’t necessarily expect, is that certain music genres like House, Techno, and Rock started in Black communities. Now, they’re white-dominated.
MA: How can white people and non-Black people of color take the time to better understand cultural appropriation?
MA: Why is cultural appropriation harmful?
MB: It becomes harmful when the culture of the person appropriating has a history of oppressing the culture they are taking from. Using their fashion, iconography, trends, or style, while having access to spaces that refuse the people the culture belongs to causes harm.
The work doesn’t stop here. White individuals and non-Black people of color have to continually educate themselves. Not sure where to start? HERE are three must-read stories!