Hunger Games‘ Amandla Stenberg Gives A Crash Course On Black Culture

Once upon a time, hip-hop and R&B were the hard-won musical territories of Black artists. These musicians pioneered the sound and the style, drawing on their own specific slant of experience, struggles, and history. But, the more entrenched the genre becomes in popular culture, the easier it is to forget that heritage. As white artists adopt the language, clothing, hairstyles, and musical stylings of hip-hop culture, a line between assimilation and straight-up cultural appropriation begins to emerge — as does the question: “What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?” Sixteen-year-old Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg raises exactly that point in a video titled, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows: A Crash Discourse On Black Culture.” In it, she talks about Black hair as an integral component of Black culture, cornrows as a style tool for taming textured hair, and how certain hairstyles are cornerstones of Black identity. She also breaks down exactly where the line between reflecting and stealing culture is crossed in the most elegant, plain-as-day way imaginable. “Appropriation occurs,” she says in the video, “when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.” While she doesn’t manage to answer what an America that loved Black people as much Black culture would look like, Stenberg definitely gives some food for thought on how to get there. 

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