Remember Rue from the Hunger Games? Well, she’s all grown-up and calling out the fashion and pop music industry for its appropriation of black culture in the media. 16 year-old Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as the District 11 tribute in the Hunger Games franchise, posted a video to her Tumblr page explaining how the mass media’s appropriation of black culture needs to be reevaluated.
In the video she poses this question to viewers: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
As she tries to answer the question herself, she talks about how the mainstreaming of black hairstyles and hip-hop within music and fashion amounts to cultural appropriation – leading to her call for the media to be more considerate of black culture.
“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.
Stenberg calls out brands like Alexander McQueen and Marquesa for adopting cornrows and braids on the runway, while also taking aim at white mainstream artists like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.
The video is aptly titled Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows and was originally part of a history project she did with her classmates in school. While the clip was originally posted three months ago, it has since spread across Tumblr with over 43,000 notes and counting.
As Stenberg is known for her strong feminist beliefs and standing up for African-American rights, it’s no surprise that she decided to share this video with the world. In an interview with Dazed, she talked about her own experiences with the media as an African-American actress, explaining: “Most of the time directors and writers have very specific casting intentions, or there’s a family and it’s already been decided that the parents are Caucasian."
"I don’t want to sound bitter or anything, because I know it’s hard to find great roles for any actor or actress, but being a young African-American woman definitely narrows my choices.”
Her video may have gone viral, but will it change the industry’s look on how it represents black culture? We’ll just have to wait and see.
You can watch Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows below. Read our head-to-head interview with Stenberg and Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson here.