Cultural appropriation seems to be the term of the year. From food to music, people of color continue to have pieces of their identities pillaged and put up for profit. Now, when we see something that even remotely resembles an exploitation of things that we are chastised for, like a traditionally “ethnic” hairstyle or international cuisine, it sends many people into a justifiable fit of Internet rage.
This week Coco T got dragged for wearing some “Bo Derek” inspired cornrows and renaming them the “Coco Swoop.” People and trolls crawled out from all corners of the Internet to tell her to rip the braids right out of her scalp and fly away like the vulture that they believe she is.
Although Coco T has never claimed to be any sort of revolutionary for change, she issued a statement claiming that this wasn’t a “race thing.” It all seemed very harmless up until that point. In the video she asked why people couldn’t rename hairstyles and called the accusations of appropriation stupid. At one point, she even compared herself to Beyonce (insert side eye), and finishes the video telling her haters to, “Get over it.”
For me, the anger stems from hurt since so many white people love things about our culture, yet Black lives seemingly still don’t matter. I can’t fault Coco for trying to floss that she got her hair did on the ‘Gram. And I actually thought it looked kind of cute. However, I do take huge issue with someone wearing this hairstyle and not seeing it is a “race thing.”
I find it confusing that people can’t recognize the double standards for Black and white people when it comes to hair. It sucks that Black women can’t exist in some work settings with braids without being considered unkempt or unprofessional. Courts have even ruled this kind of discrimination to be legal. And I will forever be disgusted when Zendaya wore dreads on the red carpet, host Giuliana Rancic thought she “looked like she smelled like patchouli and weed.” But when Kylie Jenner did it, she was hailed as a fashion icon. These are systematic ways that oppress Black women and hinder their success and livelihood. So it isn’t just a stupid hairstyle. However, I believe a lot of Coco’s response also came from a place of emotion since she just wanted to wear her hair in braids. Will trolling Coco T enact change on prejudice against Black women and their hair?
On the other hand, a similar incident happened with online personality Rubia Garcia. She recently debuted blonde micro braids on her social media channel and was also called out for it. Garcia is known for being a self-proclaimed catalyst for change, specifically within the Black community. She speaks with a “blaccent” and has thousands of Black men hailing her as a queen and an icon in her comments section. After she was called out for “cultural appropriation” she made a video where she doubled down and basically said she didn’t care. It didn’t help that there were thousands of men gassing her up in the comments and disregarding the sentiments of Black women.
Garcia is known for being problematic. She brandishes her proximity to Blackness as a teacher at a mostly Black school with underprivileged kids as a rationalization for wearing the hairstyle. Garcia has been called out in the past for centering herself in the Black Lives Matter movement and having a severe “White Savior” mentality. And when she was called out over her hair, she was once again unreceptive to hearing what Black people thought about her participation in our culture. She even claimed that Irish people invented braids. It’s the same argument that some white people with dreadlocks make. When they don’t seem to know the origins of a tradition that doesn’t belong to them and feel entitled to aspects of a culture it only adds salt to the wound.
She brandishes her proximity to Blackness as a teacher at a mostly Black school with underprivileged kids as a rationalization for wearing the hairstyle.
I honestly don’t think Coco T meant any harm. The fact of the matter is she is still married to a Black man. Although Ice T is a fairly privileged dude, race plays a part in the dynamic of an interracial relationship. Things are going to be exchanged and braiding may be one of those things. Ice T even took to Twitter to defend his wife. The silver lining here is that she hired a Black woman to braid her hair for summer and hopefully this controversy brings her more business. I hope she maintains her relationship with her Black hairdresser and that she continues to appreciate the beauty of Black culture raising a Black daughter.
But nobody gets to tell Black people how to react to anything they are hurt by.
Not Rubia. Not Coco. Not even me.