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Every week there seems to be a news story about a celebrity, model, or designer appropriating black culture. From cornrows and Bantu knots to box braids and the “doobie,” hairstyles that have traditionally been worn by African-Americans and labeled as “ghetto” or “unprofessional” are now considered hot, trendy, and new.
Entertainer and hair chameleon Keke Palmer tells Yahoo Beauty that cultural appropriation “has been going on for a long time.” But she thinks those who defend it are confused by the root of the issues.
“They feel like it’s a situation where black people don’t want nobody wearing braids, don’t want nobody wearing kinky, curly, whatever. It’s not really about that,” she says. “It’s when people get appreciated, congratulated, or credited for things that are not of their culture. Facts are the facts.”
Keke recalls a conversation she had with one of her “homegirls,” where they discussed someone saying, “White girls can’t wear braids, but black girls can walk around with their hair relaxed or straight.” However, Keke is quick to note how a “history of cultural oppression” attributes to making black people feel pressured to wear their hair in certain styles.
“A black girl such as myself couldn’t go to school without being clowned about her hair sitting on the top of her head. When my hair was too crunchy and too hard and my crown was too high, I was teased and called ‘disheveled,'” Keke says. “There was a time when women could not get jobs or go into a workplace without having their hair straightened.”
So to anyone who is appropriating black culture, Keke has this message: “It’s not you wearing braids to get a job, wearing locs to get a job. You’re doing it for kicks. That doesn’t bother me, but don’t be disrespectful to the culture that it came from.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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