In light of the Black Lives Matter Movement, more people are recognising the errors of many people in society who are appropriating Black culture. Society has numerous biases in regard to Black features and Black cultures and it is a sign of White privilege that White people are able to interchange between themselves and these ’trends’ with no repercussions. These are not trends. These are elements of peoples history and culture.
A historical oversight into hair appropriation and ‘Blackfishing’
Why this is historically wrong
The history surrounding this is a simple one. Historically, Black people have been scrutinised in regard to the way they look, the way they dress, the food they eat, the music they listen to, etc. This is due to the superiority that White people felt that they had over Black people. Unfortunately, this is still present today within racial stereotypes of the way that Black people act or speak. The study of things such as Craniology and Physiognomy were used as tools of oppression to discredit Black peoples anatomy and features to ‘scientifically’ prove that they were less superior.
We have seen countless celebrities with braided hair or wearing wigs, without concluding that this is a form of cultural appropriation. The reason why this is looked down upon is because of the oppression that Black people have faced and still do face for their hair today. Black people are viewed as ‘unprofessional’ whereas White people are thought of to be trendy. Simply another example of the double standard that still exists today of White superiority. Furthermore, many of us will remember Gigi Hadid’s Vogue Italia shoot where she was styled in various afro wigs. This caused outrage to many who questioned why they would not simply hire a Black model for this piece, rather than asking a White woman to ‘Black up’. Many high fashion companies will borrow historically-Black features rather than hire Black models who these styles belong to, showing a clear bias in the industry.
Historically, dark skin was associated with being less wealthy. This is because if you had tanned or dark skin, it would indicate that you do some form of manual labour, which was looked down upon. As Black people were enslaved and forced to work in plantations and fields, naturally their skin would darken also. Black skin is associated with many racial slurs, and consequently Black people have suffered horrendously due to the colour of their skin. The use of ’Black Face’ was not even simply used as a way to mock Black people, it was a way that Black people were represented in theatre since no one would hire a Black actor/actress in fear of offending their audience. This oppression caused people to bleach their skin in an attempt to adhere to White beauty standards. This is why the excessive use of tanning products by White people has come under scrutiny as of lately. It is an example of White privilege, since White people will never have to suffer scrutiny for their own skin colour and features, they have no fear in darkening their skin to look trendy. This is a temporary darkening, which they can remove whenever they feel like without any consequences. In comparison, Black people cannot switch between these ‘ideal’ White beauty standards and their own skin, as they do not possess the privilege to decide when people will and will not discriminate their dark skin.