Sometimes, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.
“Once again, cultural appropriation is igniting a flurry of controversy,” wrote The Huffington Post’s Julee Wilson. The writer referred to a hair tutorial featured in the August issue of Allure: “You (Yes, You) Can Have An Afro*.” The asterisk beneath read: “*even if you have straight hair.”
“It’s no surprise that the article, presumably aimed toward white women, is causing quite the commotion,” continued Wilson. “The Afro style in particular would have been an amazing opportunity to use a black actress, and yet there were no actresses of color used in the feature.”
What Huff Post and many other news sites failed to acknowledge was that the article was aimed at women with naturally straight hair. As black women do not have naturally straight hair, it simply made sense to feature a white actress sporting the style.
Ironically enough, Wilson wrote a piece in 2013 called “Curly Hair Chronicles: Why My ‘Dream’ Hair Wasn't Worth Going Bald Over.” In her article, Wilson wrote that “growing up in predominately white neighborhoods and schools,” she “was constantly in pursuit of silky, shiny, blows-in-the-wind, ‘white girl’ hair.” This was “sad,” she said, but definitely not cultural appropriation.
Jezebel got a bit saltier in its denunciation of Allure. Journalist Kara Brown declared that the magazine had “rightfully been dragged through the mud.” Referring to a statement Allure made to Buzzfeed after the backlash began, Brown wrote, “Hey, Allure, f**k off with your idiotic, sanctimonious bulls**t…White people cannot have afros. Period. Full stop.” Apparently, when a white person wears the hairstyle, it’s called a “twist out.”
Black Correspondent Michaela Pereira discussed the debate on CNN’s New Day, reading an Instagram post which said: “Shout out to @Allure for their tutorial on #CulturalAppropriation.” With a bit of confusion, co-host Alisyn Camerota questioned, “Is that the problem? I mean, why is it controversial?” Good, we’re not the only ones.
Pereira then stuttered a bit in her explanation. “Because a lot of black women feel like, oh so now— but because it’s interesting, it was all white women, they didn’t use any black models showing off afros. And it’s the idea that black women, this is the hair we have, we’re doing our thing, being natural, and they’re frustrated that cultural appropriation from white people trying to be something they’re not, oh, there might be a reference to Rachel Dolezal in there.”
What? I am reminded of the accusations of Bruce Jenner’s “white male privilege” during his transition. He never had to suffer the injustices and inequalities of being a woman, and now he can just decide to be one? For shame.
Also, Ms. Pereira, you might want to watch your words. Using that lingo of “being natural” and “trying to be something they’re not” could almost sound transphobic.