A Lesson in Cultural Appropriation from Rue

As we try to expand our understanding of intersectional issues and ingrain that understanding into our veganism, it’s very important to listen to what others have to say.

This video, by Amandla Stenberg (best known as Hunger Games character Rue) does an incredible job of breaking down why cultural appropriation of black hairstyles by white celebrities is so harmful, and even goes so far as to define what cultural appropriation is.

Two things that hit me hard:

  • Azealia Banks explaining that white appropriation of their music teaches black kids that nothing is theirs, not even what they create, while it teaches white kids that they can be anything they want, even something that is not theirs to be. This really put a new light on this issue for me and hurt my heart.
  • Amandla Stenberg’s statement at the end where she wonders “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” The fact that this question needs to be asked kills me, and I can’t deny that it does need to be asked.

I struggle with this topic; as a white kid who grew up angry and poor in an urban area, where my best friends where white, black and Hispanic, and we all listened to hip hop, rap and R&B; it’s hard for me to sometimes identify as a white person with privilege, and to not feel like those things are my things too.

But. Those things aren’t my things, they are things I experienced in my life that added color and weight to my childhood. And I do/did have privilege, even when (especially when) I wasn’t aware of it. I have to be open to information. My job is to listen and process and evolve my worldview. My needs and feelings shouldn’t win out over someone else’s message just because I want them to. I am working to find a way to set aside my privileged thoughts while still preserving the childhood experiences that shaped who I am today.

I ask you to be open to information as well. Listen to this video and absorb the message. Even if you don’t agree, it’s critical for all of us to listen to each other and really understand where other people are coming from

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