…in the context of dreads, grills, and other items coopted by white haute couture. She explains the process of cultural appropriation: Black people active in the hip-hop scene start wearing dreads, and the white mainstream culture contemns them. Then white people start wearing dreads, for which they receive universal accolades as super cool trendsetters. So basically cultural appropriation occurs when a cultural group that’s looked down upon at large does something, which is then deracinated from its origin, decontextualized, and celebrated in the dominant culture without serious reference to its source.
With this in mind, I’m thinking that cultural appropriation necessitates hegemonic contempt and steamrolling for the marginalized group that is being imitated. Thus people of color straightening their hair in the U.S. does not constitute cultural appropriation, even though some ill-informed commenters on Stenberg’s video think it is. That’s because the hair straightening is not motivated by disgust and a desire for decontextualized absorption. Hair straightening, rather, is a way in which marginalized POC are negotiating the beauty standards of dominant white culture, in which straight, controlled, smooth hair is valued. Hair straightening by POC is born of an acute knowledge of the hegemonic beauty standards and the value placed thereon, while dreads on famous white people represent a fantasy of ahistorical, ameoboid cultural engulfment.