Cultural Appropriation: 'How Bout Dah?'

February 28, 2017

“Cash me ousside, how bout dah” is the biggest social media hit of 2017 so far, and the girl from the video is reaping in benefits from the viral hit. We all have seen and have made jokes about the video but there is one thing we haven’t done, which is discuss how the video shows the effects of social media on black culture.

 

According to oxfordreference.com, ‘cultural appropriation’ is a term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes or practices by one cultural group from another group. For example, look at the following photo. 

 

This image is an extreme and easily identifiable example of cultural appropriation on social media.

 

But what about this photo? 

Most people won’t see how this photo relates to cultural appropriation because it not like the girls in this photo are making fun, it is essentially ‘just a photo.’ However, the problem with this photo is the Kardashians' intent. Do they know about the Karo tribe living along the borders of the Lower Omo River in Ethiopia, who put dots on their faces to signify class, marriage, etc.?

  

It is okay to appreciate the beauty of another culture. However, when you don’t take time to understand the struggles and hardships of one culture or take the time to understand it and its history, then how can you really appreciate it? The worst part about the appropriation of black culture is that since the beginning of America, American culture has always been Euro-centric: heterosexual, white skin, light hair and light eyes. So, when the “cash me ousside, how bout dah” girl is making money because she is acting like the “stereotypical” black girl, you can see how this will affect black culture, because it makes black culture seem “trashy” and unbecoming.

 

According to nielsen.com, a global information, data and measurement company, the power of black culture is something businesses and content creators consider when developing strategic marketing campaigns and programs to make money.

 

If you still don’t understand why cultural appropriation is bad, here is a simple explanation. You tweet a hilarious, well-thought-out joke but get zero likes or retweets. In fact, people mock you for posting it. In contrast, someone with lots of followers who is viewed favorably copies your exact tweet – and it goes viral. It ends up on the news and screenshots of the joke are repeatedly shared on social media, so now every time you log in you are reminded that someone who has a bigger presence on the internet has received recognition, credit and profit for something you created. Although this is example doesn’t take in the complexity of cultural appropriation, it does give you a chance to understand how someone who’s culture is being appropriated feels.  

Admittedly, there is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation, and many grow frustrated trying to differentiate. You just have to ask yourself, “Am I reducing this to a fashion statement? Are people of this culture the ones who are profiting off of this? Am I in an environment where this is appropriate?”

 

It is also important to note that there are some things you should not simply copy. For example, people love to wear headdresses to concerts and festivals. However, those feathers and face paint have spiritual significance; they are earned through good deeds and used as a means to showcase honor and victory. You must be given permission to wear them after you’ve earned the right to as part of the tribe. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who love getting dressed up as Native Americans, even though headdresses are in fact sacred. These important pieces of culture are often overlooked.

 

The best way to stop cultural appropriation is with cultural appreciation. You can appreciate a culture when elements of that culture is used, while honoring the source they came from. Appreciation involves respect and value. It's okay to find things beautiful, but it's better to appreciate them and learn more about it, especially before you put an article of clothing on, say something or post on social media. As actress Amandla Stenberg said, “Don't cash crop on my cornrows.”

 

To learn more, check out this video.

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