The Kardashian/Jenners are no strangers to cultural appropriation.
Their hair, clothes, and even product lines are often inspired (a little too much) by black culture with no apologies.
One of the most recent instances included Kim Kardashian rocking cornrows, or what she affectionately called “Bo Derek” braids.
Half the time, the KarJenners never bother to address the complaints of appropriation, but this time Kim addressed it head-on. She told Elle,
“I’m not worried because I love Bo Derek. It’s a reference. If you genuinely love something, then it’s what you should do. It’s appreciation. It’s one thing when people mock something and are negative. I’m clearly not being negative. Images mean a lot to me. I spend a lot of time on them.”
To be fair, Kim sounds completely genuine. And as we all know, she does take her appearance and image very seriously, so it makes sense that this wasn’t an impulsive move.
I can appreciate Kim’s perspective, but I do think she’s naively missing out on the bigger issue.
The fact that her point of reference is Bo Derek is issue #1. It wasn’t as if Bo invented cornrows. In fact, she herself was stealing the look from black women. So does imitating a cultural appropriator make it ok? Absolutely not.
I could go on and on about the issue with Kim rocking cornrows, but I’ve covered the topic before, as has half the internet.
The problem is that Kim doesn’t see it this way. From her perspective, she’s not doing it maliciously. And worse, it seems like Kim hasn’t even grasped the issue of appropriation in the first place.
Of course, Kim’s ignorance does not make it ok — far from it. But it does make me realize how numb we’ve become to appropriation. Sure, we call out the obvious instances — white women rocking cornrows, Chola style, and more. But what about all the other instances of black and Latino culture that we’ve stolen?
American music, fashion, hairstyles, food and more have been so heavily influenced by other cultures that it would be nearly impossible to separate it out at this point, let alone call out every instance of appropriation. We’ve become so used to it that we don’t even notice it anymore. Taylor Swift rapping, Kylie Jenner rocking wigs, white runway models wearing hijabs — all a part of everyday life.
We’re so far over the line, we can’t even see the line at this point. I previously covered the appropriation of white women rocking blog, gold hoop earrings and Reddit commenters fought back that they didn’t see the issue.
One day a young pop star will rock cornrows and nobody will say a word. Society will have long forgotten where, and who the look originated with and why it’s a big deal for a white woman to wear them. And Kim Kardashian is just one small part of that process.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel (by far!), but when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her hanging with her kitty Tom or tweeting at Sen. Chuck Schumer.