Monday, 14 September 2015

Appropriating or Connecting

For the last week an article written by Zipporagh Gene has been making waves on the internet. The article titled Black Americans Please Stop Appropriating African Clothing talks about how African Americans are wearing African clothing, at events like Afropunk because it is trendy and cool. She makes the comparison that African Americans wearing African clothing is no different from white people wearing African American clothing for fashion. When I came across this article I felt it was problematic for a number of reasons. One the tone comes off as condescending, secondly she does not seem to understand what happened during slavery, thirdly she also does not seem to understand the power dynamic in cultural appropriation and lastly the article is very divisive.

Ms. Gene first brings up the issue of black Americans wearing African clothing from different ethnic groups in Africa and how it is disrespectful. What she is not seem to realize here, is that black diaspora communities are a mixture of different African people, slaves were taken from across West Africa, so none of us have ancestors from only one ethnic group or country in Africa.  We have a "hodgepodge" (as she so eloquently put it) of different African peoples running through our veins. So to me it would be weirder if African Americans decided to just wear clothing from Nigeria, when not all their ancestors are from there. African slaves in America had their culture striped from them during slavery, they would be beaten, punished, even killed if they were caught doing anything that was African.  When African Americans wear African inspired clothing it is not to be trendy or cool, it is a way of taking back what was stolen from them. Secondly I disagree with her when she compares Black people wearing African clothing to white people wearing African American clothing. Difference is when a white person wears cornrows they can take their cornrows out and go back to white society and not face discrimination, a black person can take their cornrows out, but will still be black and will still face discrimination for being black. If African Americans stop wearing African clothing, they do not stop facing discrimination, not to mention you can not appropriate something you are apart of. The author is accusing African Americans of making a mockery of African culture, but it seems to me that she is the one making a mockery of a group of people trying to reconnect with a heritage that was forcefully taken from them. This article is very divisive and will only make black communities around the world fell further apart.

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