Amandla Stenberg, you are a very bright young woman with a very important message. But slamming Kylie Jenner on Instagram isn’t the way to deliver it. And Kylie, responding with snark to Amandla didn’t exactly raise the level of discourse. Ladies, it’s time to sit down and talk.
Amandla Stenberg, 16, you filmed a very serious and thought-provoking video called “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows”, which you posted on YouTube in April 2015. Your message was that black style — from cornrows and braids to pop culture, including hip-hop music, twerking and rapping — have all become highly appreciated as part of mainstream culture, but not always with the same regard for actual “black people”.
You were deeply offended when Kylie Jenner posted a photo of herself on Instagram on July 11, wearing cornrows, and the caption: “I woke up like disss.” You were so offended that you left this comment on her Instagram: “@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.”
Clearly, you were upset about Kylie wearing a traditionally African American hairstyle without also getting involved — as far as you knew — with the fight against ongoing racism in America. In other words, you feel like she’s enjoying black style without really understanding the issues that blacks still face, and trying to fight them. You describe this situation as “appropriation” in your video.
“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,” you explain. “Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.”
Now, Kylie, 17, was understandably shocked when she read your comment. She clearly hadn’t thought that wearing cornrows had so much significance.
Kylie Jenner & Amandla Stenberg: Reach Out To Each Other
And her reply wasn’t her finest moment: “@amandlastenberg Mad if I don’t, Mad if I do…. Go hang w Jaden or something.” Kylie, it seems, felt personally attacked and she hit back personally, telling you to go be with your mutual friend Jaden Smith, 17, who was your recent prom date. “Kylie is horrified Amandla would say such things to her, especially because she should know how engrossed in African American culture Kylie is,” a source close to her told HollywoodLife.com. “She feels it’s a unprovoked attack, and possibly something that stems from Jaden Smith 9 her old friend) turning [Amandla] against her.”
We can see Kylie’s point of view — she has an African American boyfriend, Tyga, an African American brother-in-law, Kanye West, and an African American niece that she adores, North West. Plus, an African American semi-ex brother-in-law, Lamar Odom. These are all people that she cares for very much — they are family. However, she may not have been vocal about standing up against racism, at least publicly, and Amandla, that seems to be your point.
However, if you feel that Kylie could play an important role in the fight for racial equality, that’s something you should definitely talk to her about. Reaching out and getting together for lunch and a discussion about “appropriating” black culture would be a really positive way to approach her, and could have great results. Publicly dissing her and her cornrows on Instagram was just guaranteed to get her back up.
But it’s not too late ladies. Your public interactions don’t have to be the last word. You two can still take a breath, reach out a hand to one another and turn public feuding into a friendship where you two work together for a much bigger cause: fighting racism.
Do you agree, HollywoodLifers? Let me know.
— Bonnie Fuller