Ain't No Appropriation, BIH!
“Everybody wanna be a ‘nigga’ until it’s time to be a nigga,” the realest saying ever. Relax, white people, this isn’t another article about you appropriating black culture. Conversely, there is this shared sentiment that African Americans are appropriating African culture (I know, it sounded stupid to me, too, but I’m going to explain the concept as objectively as possible).
Because African Americans were not born in an African country, they are not connected to it in any way (side-eye emoji), they know nothing about the culture (language, food, clothing, adornments, intricacies, music, etc.) and therefore they should not take part in practicing it in any form because they are essentially “stealing” it.
Let me throw out a quick disclaimer, this piece does not pertain to every single African and I am aware this view is not shared by every one of them. This rant only criticizes those who have this mentality. Additionally, I am not discrediting the plight and experience of those who suffer and fight for justice and the reclaiming of the Motherland. I am also not belittling the experiences of past peoples that endured the colonizing of Africa and are still enduring its effects today. This is not for you, continue fighting the good fight. This is for the ignorant motherfu…(never mind, I’m a lady). This is for those that hold the following “truths” to be self-evident. I’ll commence by saying:
First of all, bitch, we ARE originally from Africa, so in no way can we “steal” what was originally ours. Yes, many nautical miles and a few hundred years separate us from the “Motherland,” but our origin does not change. We were forcefully brought to this land and the casting off of your brothers and sisters is disgraceful. If I want to research my family history and the route we took as slaves and I discover that my ancestors are originally from the area currently known as Nigeria and I begin learning more about the culture and decide to dress in traditional garb (I hate that word) or wear jewelry that is reminiscent of what people wear there in the present or have worn in the past and then claim to be Nigerian—then gatdammit I have every right to do so! If I want to wear tribal tattoos and waist beads, I can do that. If I want to represent more than one African cultural group, hell, I can do that, too. OUR ancestors were bought and traded and reproduced with Africans from different territories, so if I want to represent any of the numerous slave trade regions on the continent, I’m going to do it unashamedly. Try me.
While you’re mad about someone representing “your” country, you overlook the fact that those lines weren’t drawn by “your” people. During the Mad Scramble for Africa, Europeans divided these territories in order to suit their desires, not you, honey. Those lines are still disputed and still causing more problems than it ever solved (not implying that it ever set out to do so), but you’re too busy being upset about someone claiming to be within the boundaries that are not always recognized by the cultural groups that live there. Reevaluate your life’s purpose.
If the problem is with black people "appropriating" "African" culture by wearing garments, adornments, whatever, etc, then please don't do the same. It's a double standard. You come over here (or maybe you didn’t but you are familiar with American media), you listen to and emulate hip-hop music, you wear “urban” fashion and hairstyles, you pick up a few slang terms, you start trying soul food, you learn a new hip hop dance that you do when you go to black parties and clubs, you make African-American friends, you start dating African-American people, you use the N-word (like I’ve done so freely in this rant), you want to join our organizations and attend our schools, etc. and that’s okay with you. That’s not appropriation at all in your eyes. However, the tables turn when the opposite is done.
It was recently said to me that it is “more acceptable” for an African to marry a white person than it is for them to marry a black American and the reasoning was because black Americans “don’t know the culture” and they “aren’t on their shit” like everyone else—if this wasn’t the dumbest shit ever uttered by a fellow person with melanin popping! They want to come over here, get an education here, and have children here and reap the benefits that us “niggas” that “ain’t on their shit” fought for, but also want to be distinguished from us when it comes to everything else. NIGGAS were the sacrificial lambs, NIGGAS fought to abolish slavery and the slave trade that arguably saved you from enduring the same fate, NIGGAS fought for the end of segregation, NIGGAS fought for the right to vote and attend school, and marry, and LIVE “freely” as American citizens, NIGGAS fought and died to establish our own organizations and businesses and universities, NIGGAS founded the black Greek lettered fraternities and sororities that so many of you so happily join. NIGGAS made it possible for you to come here as a free man and enjoy the fruits of our blood and labor only for you to arrive with your black nose up in the air and claiming that we’re appropriating your culture. In the words of the traditional black American “I’m about to heat yo ass…” ritualistic mantra that has gone viral thanks to Vine: “BOOOOY, IF YOU DON’T GETTT!!!!!” If you don’t want to consider yourselves black, that’s cool. Just know that everyone lacking melanin calls you a “nigger” behind your back just like they do us. Separate yourselves if you want to, but don’t try to reap the benefits that we earn on our own accord.
What’s always funny is that so many come over to America thinking that because they are foreign they will be treated differently or that they are above us “niggas.” Honey, your skin is black just like mine—and that’s all that fucking matters in this country. You don’t get special treatment; you aren’t viewed as “different” or “more respectable.” You are a nigga. You automatically get added to that category, so why try to divide it even further instead of trying to build as one and destroy that stereotype and classification altogether? Why spend so much time trying to extricate yourself from your distant relatives to prove yourself to someone who doesn’t give a damn, as opposed to breaking barriers as a unit?
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a nigga.
I Don’t Azonto, I Bob and Footwork.
M. Estelle is an agile shade thrower from the South Side of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Planning and Management. Lil mama dabbles in the fine art of “Ratchetry” and “Hoodrat” stylings while simultaneously studying the outcomes of urban food deserts, the establishment of sustainable food systems, and she is developing a plan to combat the economic and diet-related plight of urban, black youth. You can find her in the library listening to “Down 4 My Niggas” and “Bounce and Break Yo Back” while reading about systemic environmental racism. She's just tryna keep it classy n’ shit.