Sadly, I expect you to already recognize the name Kylie Jenner. She’s just another member of the Kardashian-Jenner fame machine. Amandla Stenberg on the other hand, is someone you should know. Amandla is best known for her role as Rue from The Hunger Games. She’s incredibly smart and isn’t afraid to point out double-standards about race and beauty in popular culture. Recently, Amandla called out Kylie Jenner for her Instagram pic of her selfie with cornrows and the caption “I woke up like disss.”
This isn’t the first Kardashian attempt at traditionally black hairstyles, or even the first attempt at cultural insensitivity. Here’s a quick hair re-cap:
Instead of commenting on the fact that no Kardashian takes a selfie without 2 hours of makeup prep and pouting practice, Amandla wrote in the comments of Kylie’s pic: “@novemberskyys 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”.
This is not the first time that Amandla has made this point. She’s also posted a Youtube video with over a million views called “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows”, about the double-standards about traditionally black hairstyles. The double standard is that styles like cornrows and dreads are regularly dismissed as ghetto, unclassy, or unattractive on black women, while they’re considered edgy, trendy, and fashionable on white women. It’s like rap music is seen as threatening or dangerous when performed by black people, but not when Macklemore and Iggy Azalea do it. Artists like Iggy Azalea’s been accused of taking on black culture, while not doing anything to benefit black people. Amandla is calling out Kylie Jenner for the same thing.
Kylie Jenner dismissed Amandla’s criticism by saying: “Mad if I don’t. Mad if I do…Go hang w Jaden or something”, as if hanging out with Jaden Smith wouldn’t be the greatest time of your life. I’d also like to point out that Kylie is right that people will get mad when she posts pictures of herself with cornrows saying she woke up “like disss”, but she’s wrong that they’d be mad if she didn’t. No one has ever been upset about her hair not being in cornrows. This isn’t a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It’s just damned if you do.
Instead of telling Kylie Jenner to go hang out with someone less beautifully eccentric than Jaden Smith, Amandla continued her argument via Twitter.
words by me pic.twitter.com/g0HapkvfAt
— Amandla Stenberg (@amandlastenberg) July 13, 2015
Kylie’s pic isn’t just a hairtsyle or a mistake, it’s an example of cultural appropriation. Kylie Jenner can don cornrows like a costume and get praise for it. She won’t get called ghetto, ratchet, or unprofessional. If she gets too much heat for the hairstyle, she can take off her costume and go about her life. Meanwhile, black celebrities have been criticized for showing their natural hair, like Viola Davis at the Oscars. Even basic hairstyles are dismissed or mocked, like with Ciara or Zendaya daring to have locs. Zendaya even posted her own message about the targeting of black women’s hair after Fashion Police joked that she smelled like patchouli and weed:
In the end, people will shrug this off and say Jenner is too young to understand the complexities of race relations, cultural sensitivity, and privilege. She’s just 17!
Well, guess what? Amandla is 16. At a young age, Amandla’s been aware that racism can poke it’s ugly head even in the most innocuous situations. She knows it’s there and she’s ready to school anyone who denies it.