For a while there, we really started to believe the Kardashian-Jenner clan was taking a break from their konstant kultural appropriation. After all, Kylie Jenner's in hiding, Khloé Kardashian gives birth in a few months, Kendall Jenner is gearing up for New York Fashion Week, and Kim Kardashian welcomed Chicago West into the world just two weeks ago. We were this close to getting through the entire first month of 2018 without a single misstep — and then, well, this happened:
Kim's most recent Snapchat video shows the star running her fingers through her new blonde, beaded cornrows. Now, granted, we've seen Kim in cornrows before — or "boxer braids," as she likes to call them. (For the record: There's no such thing as "boxer braids.") But this time, Kim chose to refer to her new look as... wait for it... "Bo Derek braids." Not cornrows, which are three-strand braids assembled from the roots. Or Fulani braids, which are plaits assembled in a pattern and decked out with beads — a style that's been worn by the Fulani people of West Africa for centuries. Nope, she credited the inspo to Bo Derek, which is problematic in itself. And, just in case you missed her initial Snapchat video, she captioned one of her Instagram posts with "Bo West" to further emphasize the reference.
When Derek wore beaded cornrows in her 1979 film 10, the media credited the actress for turning the traditional style into a "cross-cultural craze and beauty-salon bonanza nationwide," according to a People story from 1980. Thank goodness that Ann Collins, who was Derek's on-set braider, set the record straight: "We’ve always worn our hair like this," she said in the article. "But it’s just a fad for whites.” Years later, Derek had a very Kardashian-like response when asked about Kylie's 2015 feud with Amandla Stenberg, who called out the cosmetics entrepreneur for her own cultural appropriation. “It’s a hairdo! That’s all it is,” Derek said, when asked by New York.
But it's actually not "just" a hairstyle, which is why Kim's Snapchat is so frustrating. Look at it this way: The Kardashians and Jenners have an incomparable social and global reach, with many young eyes watching their every move. It only takes one thoughtless post like Kim's for some fans to believe that the origin of cornrows truly began with an 80s rom-com.
There's nothing wrong with trying new styles, of course. We encourage it every day. However, there is something wrong with not giving credit where it's due, especially in a time when Black hairstyles and our natural textures are still considered "ghetto" and unprofessional at school, at work, in the military, and in the entertainment industry. Kim's post manages to whitewash and ignore the rich origins of a look that isn't just a protective style, but a tie to African heritage. But hey, I guess it doesn't matter, since she "doesn't see color."