Zendaya Explains The Severity Of Cultural Appropriation

Photo: REX USA.
This month, The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg called out Kylie Jenner for appropriating Black culture. The debacle, which came shortly after Stenberg's passionate explanation of cultural appropriation, led to yet another teaching moment from the 16-year-old. Now, singer and fellow actress Zendaya, is adding her two cents. During a recent interview with Nylon, she addressed the difference between appreciation and appropriation.

“You have to be very careful,” she said. “Some things are really sacred and important to other cultures, so you have to be aware, politically, about those things before you just adopt them. In order to appreciate something, you have to know about it and understand. You don’t just wear something just to wear it — you have to understand the history behind it.”

And while Zendaya doesn’t address the topic of hair specifically, she has experienced a great deal of negative criticism when it comes varying styles. First, Giuliana Rancic made fun of her dreadlocks. Then, she was made fun of for the short cut she wore to the BET Awards. Both situations imply why an understanding of cultural appropriation is imperative.

“I urge people to take the extra step of knowledge and learn about things,” she said. “I’m someone who feels uncomfortable with things unless I know [about them]. I’m not going to try something unless I’ve taken the time and effort to learn about it. I just think with the Internet and the resources we have, you should do a little research.”

The 18-year-old is right. Not only is information about cultural appropriation readily accessible today, but some of our biggest stars have been criticized for promoting it in music videos and photo shoots. These heavily covered instances should at least serve as examples of what not to do.

Zendaya also knows that these rules apply to her as well, as she acknowledged her process for understanding her own history. “We don’t think about it as much as we should — we’re not as connected to our roots,” she said. “It’s a process for everyone and now with social media, I suggest that people try to become more aware and learn. I’m learning just like everybody else.”


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