Black culture is beautiful and it has slowly evolved into what it is today. Some parts developed out of necessity and some out of sheer creativity. It is something that I am proud of. Which makes it all the more upsetting when I see non-Black people take it, manipulate it and try to pass it off as their own. I’m not saying that you can’t be interested in Black culture or see it as beautiful. You can appreciate a culture without appropriating it. I do it all the time.
One of the things I find most frustrating about the appropriation of Black culture is the fact that non-Black people will embrace certain parts of the Black experience, while there are Black people who hate themselves because of those same parts. Self hatred is prevalent in the Black community.
Don’t you wonder why that is? It’s because American society conditions people into believing that there is one way to be and if you don’t fit inside that mold then you’re defective, unattractive and unwanted.
Not everyone is secure with themselves and their differences, so they fall victim to this flawed ideology.
That is why you cannot appropriate someone else’s culture. If you don’t belong to that group then it’s a costume that you can put on and take off whenever you please. But to the people in that group it can be both a source of pride and a liability. You don’t get to pick and choose because we don’t.
Take African American Vernacular English (AAVE) for example. There are arguments over whether it’s a dialect or a language, but many agree that AAVE cannot be classified as a form of broken standard English because it isn’t standard English at all. Contrary to what many on the internet believe, AAVE is not a form of internet slang. AAVE goes back to the Atlantic slave trade. A popular theory is that AAVE is the result of the contact between enslaved Africans, indentured servants and slave owners. A common misconception is that AAVE speakers are uneducated.
What I’m trying to say is that today many non-Black people on the internet adopt and integrate AAVE words and phrases into their vocabulary and think nothing of it. It’s “trendy” now. While there is a whole group of Black people who speak AAVE because that’s natural for them and they get labeled as “ghetto” or “unintelligent”. In fact, it is very common for AAVE users to switch to standard English, or code switch, when speaking to someone outside of their minority group in order to avoid these judgements and have equal opportunities.
The line between appreciation and appropriation can be hard to discern at times, but that doesn’t excuse your ignorance when you engage in behaviors that are blatantly disrespectful.