Opinion: Cultural Appropriation

Boxer braids as well as man braids have been the newest trends to take 2016 by storm. From celebrities to Instagram, people have been rocking these hairstyles for the past couple of months. Some say that the hairstyles came from the trendsetting Kardashians. Others say it’s just leftovers from the braid trends that have been bombarding the internet for the past two years. However, there are many who say that they stem from something else; the black community.

This may come as a surprise to many people but this is not the first time that these hairstyles have come about. In fact, they’ve actually been around for thousands of years. Originally known as cornrows, this hairstyle has been worn traditionally in the black community. There have been many who have spoken out about this trend and called it cultural appropriation. Now this is a term that has been thrown around for a while but what does it actually mean.

Well by definition cultural appropriation is when a certain group of people takes an aspect of another culture and claims it as their own. Many would see this as just sharing culture but that is not necessarily the case.

When it comes to the whole boxer braid situation the first flaw was the changing of the name. Before the Kardashians popularized the hairstyle for mainstream media, cornrows “boxer braids” were deemed too ghetto and part of this was because of the name. While other hairstyles are called beach waves or even “the Rachel” people always found the name of the hairstyle to be unbecoming. And while the name rebranding is something that does insult the culture it is only the starting point.

While many see the mainstream welcoming this hairstyle as sharing culture it is a bit more complicated than that. But before we can get into the nitty gritty there is one question that needs to be asked.

Why weren’t these hairstyles popular when just black people were wearing them?

Unfortunately, society has this vendetta when it comes to people of African descent and their hair. Wanting them to either hide it or even change the very bonds that make its texture. Many ways of doing this involves harmful chemicals that have burned scalps and ruined curl patterns. There have been many cases where children have been sent home from school and employees have been fired from their jobs simply for wearing their hair the way it is supposed to be. Yet a blonde girl can wear the same hairstyles and get thousands of Instagram likes and and get praised for being trendy and innovative. The blonde Instagram girl can leave her house and not have to worry about losing her day job. Yet African Americans face this fear everyday once they walk out the door.

Yes, culture is meant to be shared but when the very people who created something can’t even enjoy it without being chastised there is a problem. I know that many people will read this and say that black people straighten their hair all the time so that is cultural appropriation as well. However, it is not necessarily the same thing. That is called cultural assimilation. America is the melting pot we have every culture and race under the sun. But it is a very white society that encompasses this country of ours. With that comes Eurocentric beauty standards that many people succumb to just to be accepted or deemed attractive or a lot of the time even get hired. I’m sure that many African Americans would love to see people of all backgrounds rocking the same hairstyles that they love so dear. However, as long as black people are getting fired from their jobs just for being themselves there will still be frustration among the black community and the curse of cultural appropriation will prevail.

Unfortunately, this is not the first of the last time that something like this will happen. The world has a long standing tradition of taking the contributions of African Americans and giving the credit to someone else. So the next time you choose to to try out the newest exotic trend I urge you to do your research. And at least try to learn the significance of that trend before you try it on.