Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg, who played the character Rue in 2012’s first installment of the franchise, has received mass acclaim for a video she made in her history class titled, “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows.” Throughout the video, the precocious 16-year-old discusses the issue of cultural appropriation, speaking out about its impact in the media and other aspects of our society.
Stenberg begins the video with a discussion of black hair, and how styles like cornrows and braids are intrinsic to black culture—specifically as a way of keeping black textured hair unknotted and neat. She continues to remark upon the inflating popularity of “clothes and accessories associated with hip-hop” among white celebrities as well as in the fashion industry that have lead to offensive stereotypes, further oppressing an entire subset of people.
“That itself is what is so complicated when it comes to black culture,” Stenberg states in her video. “I mean, the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred. But here’s the thing: Appropriation occurs 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.” In her closing statement, Stenberg quotes a question which had been proliferating social media for several months: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
When Stenberg’s video went viral, her message was amplified. Her discussion of the issues associated with appropriation black culture was given widespread attention—an indication that people are beginning to listen. Amandla has helped spur important conversation on the subject of race and why we should respect another’s culture. Stenberg has become an influential role model for youth and adults alike—for anyone who wish to treat race and culture with the respect it deserves.
Contributed by Sophie Emigh