Cultural appropriation is easy to spot when it’s actually on someone’s body. If a white person adorns themselves in clothing, accessories, or styles that have strong roots in other non-white cultures, we are on call almost immediately to point out their egregious error(s). But what about appropriation that comes from people’s bodies? Or their mouths, to be specific?
For some reason, language seems to be fair game the piece of culture that anyone can extract at will. Unless someone is using an actual racial slur, there are never any consequences for white people using Black terminology freely. I’ve seen a full analysis of how Kylie Jenner ripped her style off of a Black girl, and who that Black girl might be. But I haven’t seen a single think piece about her Snapchat handle being “kylizzlemynizzl.” For those of you too young to know, “my nizzle” is Snoop Dogg’s popularized version of “my n---a.” In the same breath that someone will say “actually, Kim Kardashian didn’t start that trend…” they’ll call a new Selena Gomez song lit. I never thought I would hear myself say this but: where is the outrage?
Borrowing lingo from Black folks probably happens so easily because everyone is constantly sharing our language with the world on social media. For all of my decent grammar and commas on this website, my personal tweets sometimes require a translator for anyone who is not Black and from the Southside of Chicago. But with enough retweets, even my regionally specific slang can become a “thing.” It’s a phenomenon that definitely make me feel some type of way, but one that doesn’t have an end in sight.
Words have histories. It seems only right that you’re going to insist on using them, you should know what that history is.