Cultural Appropriation

Nobody really bats an eye when street wear brands makes African-style jerseys or when sneaker companies use African print on their shoes, such as Vans. As a person of West African descent (I’m Liberian), I’ve noticed a good amount of Black Americans wearing traditionally African clothes and accessories, attempting to return to the natural way that Africans lived before Western imperialism came to attempt to obliterate culture and advancement, and exploit and oppress the denizens of the land (as it did to many other continents and their indigenous peoples). This would annoy me for a couple reasons. For one thing, I distinctly remember it being the black kids— not the white kids— who would make terrible jokes about Africans, such as the “African booty scratcher”— which was interchangeable with “booty licker”. I don’t know where they got this idea that we were obsessed with scratching and licking booties, as I knew this was hardly true. I also thought they looked silly, simply because they were not African. This went for anybody who wasn’t African.

As I’ve grown older, I still side-eye a non-African, be it black or white, who is dressed in African garb, cornrowing* or dreading their hair, or wearing shells around their neck, but I don’t think of them scornfully. Since those days, I’ve come to a realisation, that has really been borne of this conversation about cultural appropriation— “picking and choosing elements of a culture by a member of another culture without permission (Lauren Duca, Huffington Post)”. It made me question my reasons for scoffing at people for taking things from my culture. Was I being a bit racist and unfair by scoffing at these people, and raising my nose with a sniff when I saw them walking around in dashiki’s? Was I limiting the spread and appreciation of African culture by expressing disgust at non-African’s who seemed to LIKE my culture? The answer I came up with that I was.

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