Kylie Jenner’s Braids and the Culture Appropriation Debate

Recently Kylie Jenner, sister of Kim Kardashian, was involved in a twitter feud. Apparently Kylie posted a picture of herself with a new hairstyle that enraged Hunger Games actress, Amandla Stenberg.  Why? The picture depicted the youngest Kardashian/Jenner with cornrows which was, as Stenberg interpreted, “culture appropriation”.

Kylie responded , “Mad if I don’t, mad if I do….Go hang with Jaden or something.” Stengberg retorted with information concerning cultural appropriation that sparked a nationwide debate. While some people could not understand why a teenager seemingly expressing herself through style is considered racist, others applaud the Hunger Games actress for her efforts to enlighten.

The question is, was Kylie Jenner’s braids cultural appropriation? Is it just an innocent gesture of culture influencing the other? What is cultural appropriation anyway?

Here’s my two cents:

Although I completely agree with the young actress, I must admit that Kylie Jenner is barely the person to confront on this issue. Yes, I completely understand that she and her sisters have committed themselves to achieving the “ethnic” look. What we must understand that she is much like others concerning this cultural appropriation, blind.

It seems as if everyone, except people of color, are in the dark concerning this recent hot button issue. Now if you are a member of another race and can get it you are the enlightened one, my friend.

Nevertheless, Its hard for anyone to truly understand the cries of the oppressed when their culture is taken by the oppressor and made to be the “in” thing without identifying with the oppressed.

Take Hip Hop for instance. It was born and bred in the heart of people searching for a way to outlet the violence, poverty, and shame they saw daily. Once the mainstream discovered Hip Hop’s power of influence, it then evolved ( the exception of a few) into something completely different. Hip hop has become so watered down that when outrage occurs in the urban community very few reflect the voice of the people in their music. Many of Hip hop’s moguls instead chose to turn a deaf ear and continue to rhyme about the popular and more acceptable to mainstream topics.

I digress.

There have been many instances in which women who are not of African heritage are placed on a pedestal for achieving a look that black women typically have. Angelina Jolie is praised for her voluptuous lips, Kim Kardashian and the rest of her clan are considered the best booty’s in the US/. Side note: You all do realize they paid top dollar to inject their hips and rear ends with as much plastic as possible to receive a look that comes naturally to most black women.  In an effort to shed her Disney image, Miley Cyrus “twerked” across a stage and popularized the dance (one that derived from Africa).

The list goes on and on. It seems to me that the exotic features and demeaner of black women is only acknowledged and dare I say it, worshiped, when accompanied with cultures not their own.

So when my young sister Amandla Stenberg considers an Instagram pic enough and decides to speak on an issue dear to her heart I understand completely.

There is nothing wrong with admiring a culture. There are a lot of cultures I admire; however, there is another thing when it is a trend to steal from the culture and market it mainstream without referencing that said culture. Not only that but also to “love” the culture so much BUT have absolutely nothing to say about the issues that occur to the people of that culture is just plain insensitive and oblivious.

In essence, cultural appropriation, whether you understand it or not, is a result of institutionalized racism. It originated during slavery when black women were scolded for having “nappy” hair that made them look like ragdolls when placed in cornrows yet in 1979 Bo Derek wore them and suddenly it became beautiful and exquisite.

In order to heal as a country we must stop telling the oppressed, when they cry out, that they shouldn’t be crying and instead listen. I am very sure that Kylie Jenner did not wear the wig/braids (yes I had to throw a little shade) with racism in mind, however, she represents a mindset that must be first shown its flaw then uprooted.

For this to work WE ALL need to take off our blinders and truly see what has happened in this country.

Only then will a brighter more cohesive future be seen.


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