*You know her as Rue in the “Hunger Games,” and soon, those outside of the teen demographic will recognize Amandla Stenberg as the 16-year-old who schooled her history class (and beyond) on the politics of cultural appropriation.
“What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” the actress asks in a video she filmed on the importance of black culture and its appropriation by mass media.
The video was part of a project she and another student created for their history class, which Stenberg later published to her Tumblr page. In it, she touches on the history of black hairstyles and hip-hop, their merger with mainstream music and how it has fostered the misappropriation of black culture.
“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves,” Stenberg explains in her video, appropriately titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.”
“Hip hop stems from a black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues, styles of music African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity,” Stenberg said. “On a smaller scale but in a similar vein, braids and cornrows are not merely stylistic. They’re necessary to keep black hair neat.”
Stenberg says artists like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus are examples of white mainstream musicians whose music videos are proof that cultural appropriation runs rampant.
She then points to black artists like Azealia Banks who have been vocal about these issues, while also thoughtfully tying in recent protests against police brutality and institutionalized racism to underscore that black lives matter.
Watch Stenberg’s video here.
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