Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg has one question for us: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
The actress, known for her role as Rue alongside Jennifer Lawrence, joined forces with a classmate to make a video for their history class. In it, 16-year-old Stenberg discusses the role of black culture in America, as well as the problems that arise when black culture is appropriated by white people in pop culture. Oh, and did we mention she’s only 16?
Stenberg then posted the video, hilariously and appropriately titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” to her Tumblr so we could all be blown away by the powerful analysis she does of pop culture — and the role of black hairstyles and hip-hop in shaping mainstream music and fashion.
“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,” Stenberg explains. “Hip-hop stems from a black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues — styles of music African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity. On a smaller scale but in a similar vein, braids and cornrows are not merely stylistic. They’re necessary to keep black hair neat.”
The young actress then calls out a number of white pop stars, including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, whose videos blatantly appropriate black culture. She also points to Azealia Banks, a black rapper, who is extremely vocal about the danger of allowing white stars to freely take black culture to be their own, yet often isn’t given the same coverage for her views as those same white stars.
What’s possibly most impressive about Stenberg’s analysis, however, is the way she critically applies the dangers of appropriation to recent protests of institutionalized racism following the highly publicized police shootings of a number of black men.
You can check out the full video below, and then head to the comments and tell us your thoughts.