The internet was in a tizzy this past weekend over a selfie Kylie Jenner posted sporting cornrows. Her caption, “I woke up like disss.”
Duck lips? Check? Exposed midriff? Check. Beyoncé reference? Of course! But while her flick may have seemed innocent to some, others shamed Kylizzle for using her social media following to show love for black culture, but no love for the actual struggles of black people.
Many weighed in on her hair, from Justin Bieber to Charlamagne (to everyone in between). But the most vocal voice was 17-year-old Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg, who commented on the photo, saying, “When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter”. Amandla is also famously known for a video she made back in April titled, “Don’t Cash Crop on my Cornrows.” See her thoughts on cultural appropriation here:
She’s a really bright girl! If you take the 5 minutes to watch her piece, you’d certainly see where she’s coming from. Her point: Kylie has no problem espousing body traits typically celebrated in black women, dating black men, and wearing ‘black’ hairstyles. Has she ever so much as hashtagged #BlackLivesMatter? Not sure.
While we’d hope that everyone with a huge platform would use said platform to inspire and incite change, it’s simply not everyone’s prerogative. Kylie is a teenager. Her family is not known for having any discernible talent aside from looking good and dressing well. Even if Kylie wanted to escape the spotlight, she couldn’t–she’s been on a reality TV show since she was a youngster. She is rich and famous just for breathing. I’m not sure why we’d expect her to have any sort of insight or intellectual depth.
Also, we have to think about the types of people we put on a pedestal. The Kardashian/Jenners are not professors, lawyers, dancers, or singers. We love to look at them as an escape from the ‘Real World.’ They live a life of luxurious excess, one that is purely superficial and pretty much completely fake. So why would we expect them to give us anything but duck lips, enviable abs, and pretty pictures? That is their job!
And who knows? Maybe Amandla’s comment and the ensuing internet controversy will inspire Kylie and her klan to learn better and perhaps do better–and use their platforms for elucidating and educating versus simply pouting and preening. Or not.
What do you think of this hubbub?
*Amandla took to her Instagram last night to weigh in some more.
“Black features are beautiful. Black women are not. White women are paragons of virtue and desire. Black women are objects of fetishism and brutality.
This, at least, seems to be the mentality surrounding black femininity and beauty in a society built upon eurocentric beauty standards. While white women are praised for altering their bodies, plumping their lips, and tanning their skin, black women are shamed although the same features exist on them naturally.
This double standard is one string in the netting that surrounds black female sexuality – a web that entraps black women when they claim sexual agency. Deeply ingrained into culture is the notion that black female bodies, at the intersect of oppression, are less than human and therefore unattractive. They are symbols of pain, trauma, and degradation. Often when they are sexualized, it is from a place of racial fetishism.
The stigmas surrounding it are embedded in American infrastructure and psyche as evidenced by the ways black women are sexually assualted and treated by police – an act that goes frequently unreported by the media. When the media is not ignoring black women altogether, they are disparaging them.
As culture shifts and racial tensions are tested through the vehicle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it’s important to question:
Do female black lives matter too?”