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Appreciation vs. Appropriation, featuring Adele

She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

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Adele in 2015: Hello….

hello

Adele in 2020: Watagwan!

adele carnival

I have a few words for Adele, but I want to throw some examples of previous discussions to remind y’all that this conversation ain’t new.

Miley Cyrus – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Miley Cyrus is the whitest of white child stars with absolutely no connection to Black culture whatsoever. That’s not an automatic barrier, but it’s a big hurdle to climb, and to do it, you need to prove your worth. She didn’t. She wore her grills and hobnobbed with rappers and “twerked” at awards shows, taking the most visible parts of Black entertainment culture and putting them on like a costume for headlines. And she got them…for awhile. When the shtick wore out, she took it off and gave interviews about “outgrowing” all of the trappings she had adopted when she wanted attention via shock and notoriety.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “oooh Black people are ‘dangerous’ so I’ll dabble in the culture to show how grown up and shocking I am now.”

Iggy Azalea – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Amethyst Amelia Kelly is a white woman from the backwoods of Australia who used Black culture to catapult herself to superstardom. She threw on a Southern hip-hop Blackcent that in no way resembled how she spoke or where she came from. Hip-hop is about authenticity. Give me an Australian twang and a kangaroo joke, not a Decatur drawl and a runaway slave master punchline. When she was called out on it, her answer was basically fuck y’all I do what I want you’re just jealous. She managed to set female rap milestones because the world loves Black culture in a white package and she used that to her advantage while she disrespected us the entire time.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “I’m just using y’all to make a buck.”

Kim Kardashian – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Kim Kardashian is a white woman who rode Black dick to fame and never got off. Everything about her is a manufactured bastardized approximation of Blackness made more palatable to the masses on a white woman. She DGAF about Black people, Black culture, Black lives, or her Black ass husband.

Appropriation, on the grounds of….duh.

Teena Marie – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Teena Marie loved us and we loved her back. Every Black household owned a record that had Teena Marie on it and we never doubted if she was coming from a good place. She is universally accepted as our White Soul Sister because she respected the culture and the art and it was evident in everything she did.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “You respect my shit, I’ll respect your shit.”

Eminem – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Eminem is one of the best rappers of all time, as he should be. If you are going to be white and venture into hip-hop, take it seriously. Study your craft. Be the best rapper you can possibly be. Don’t make it into a joke, don’t make it into a cash grab, and give it your all. Every Black kid learns that to make it into America you have to try twice as hard to get half as far. When a white kid decides to go into rap music, they need to try twice as hard (to get twice as far tbh, because white people love Black culture in white packages, but still…)

Appreciation, on the grounds of “I worked hard for this.”

Madonna – Appreciation or Appropriation?

“Vogue” is one of the biggest singles of all time and it brought ballroom out of the shadows and into the light in a way nothing had been able to do before, because the biggest white pop star on the planet was holding the lantern. Madonna cut her teeth in the East Village and Lower East Side with Black and Latino performers. Her first single didn’t have her face on it because it was sent to Black radio, and DJs didn’t necessarily know she was white. A few albums and mega singles later, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Madonna would put “Vogue” out there because she wasn’t a stranger to the community — it’s where she started. Still, this cis straight white woman was reaping the benefits of an artform created for and by the Black & Brown queer community. She used a culture she was only loosely familiar with and made millions while the people who lived the life were left behind.

Appropriation & Appreciation, on the grounds of “Sometimes you love it so you participate in it but you don’t do enough to support the people who made it.”

So, Adele wearing Bantu knots…

Adele ain’t stupid and I’m sure Adele was prepared to be dragged and she did it anyway because Adele loves Black art and entertainment, generally minds her business, and shows her stan card for every Black woman in the industry. If Adele decided to release a rap single and throw some Bantu knots in there for the video, I’m upset. That’s appropriation. She, in her whiteness, is stepping into a highly competitive arena that does not belong to her and she’s putting on Blackness for capital gain. Adele doing rap music would shove her to the forefront of the genre because white buyers love when white women do hip-hop, whether it’s good or not. That’s appropriation. Adele participating in a celebration of Blackness (because she literally celebrates Blackness publicly and regularly) is appreciation, regardless of how awkward it is.

It’s not “look at my new style.” It’s “look at this style I’m wearing in appreciation for this event taking place.”

It’s not “Kim Culture Vulture Kardashian inventing cornrows on a Tuesday for Instagram likes.” It’s “Adele Mildy Awkward Akinds celebrating Carnival to the fullest.”

I’m not mad. She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “It’s just a white lady celebrating us who does so regularly.”

 

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History

Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.

I have a master’s degree, and I failed on the first question.

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I know what a literacy test is, but sadly, I’d never looked one up to see what the questions were like. During Jim Crow, they were used to keep Black people from voting. Some poor and illiterate whites got caught in the net as well, and that makes sense for a country who, when founded, only gave voting rights to landowning whites, but the purpose was to keep Black people from being heard. Former congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr. posted a literacy test today, and you can’t pass it. I can’t pass it. No one can pass it.

This particular test from Louisiana in 1964 was to be administered to anyone who could not prove they had finished 5th grade or higher, which would overwhelmingly apply to more Black people. We had less access to education and were more likely to quit school in order to work the land and help our parents keep a meager roof over the family’s head back when so many Black people were sharecroppers.

And there’s no uniform key for this test. The white registrar reads the answers and decides whether you answered correctly or not. I’m sure this test, on the rare occasion it was given to white people at all, was graded more leniently when the hand turning it in wasn’t colored.

So. Take it and see if you would be able to vote in Louisiana in 1964, less than 60 years ago.

Ten minutes to complete 30 questions is about twenty seconds per question, and you have to get every single one correct. If this was an actual literacy test, I would pass with flying colors, because I can read well enough to know that some of these questions are unanswerable, but it’s not about literacy. It’s about creating a standard that no one can meet and then applying it unfairly to Black people. It’s giving Black people additional burdens to be perfect that white people don’t have. It’s disparaging Michelle Obama for showing her arms in her White House portrait even though Melania has nude photoshoots online. It’s arresting Black people for marijuana at 3 times the rate of white people, even though the same percentage of Black people smoke weed as white people. (x) It’s Black college students being just as likely to find employment as white people who didn’t even finish high school. (x) It’s cops shooting unarmed Black people and taking a white mass shooter to Burger King. (x)

A lot of Black kids heard this refrain from our parents growing up: You have to be twice as good as the white folks to get half as far. However. When the judge and jury of your achievement is White America, you can still fail the test they never even have to take.

 

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Race

A moment for Gwen Berry

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It’s so funny to me that Conservatives think we care what they have to say about Gwen Berry being unpatriotic when those same people don’t care that the Capitol was stormed and vandalized.

One of these is a protest.

The other is a crime.

**Black lady turns away from the flag.**

WHAT A DISGRACE TO AMERICA!

**White people break into the Capitol and erect a gallows to hang elected officials.**

awwww economic anxiety 🥺🥺🥺🥺

 

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Race

France is giving the United States another Statue of Liberty.

Another symbol of liberty to a country that’s still oppressing its people.

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NYC has another Statue of Liberty on the way. France is sending us a smaller version to be placed on Ellis Island just across the water from Liberty Island where the original stands as a beacon to freedom…or something.

This new bronze statue, nicknamed the “little sister,” is one-sixteenth the size of the world-famous one that stands on Liberty Island.

“The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world,” said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM [National Museum of Arts and Crafts]. “We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship.”

(cont. CNN)

If you want to put a symbol of “freedom and light” anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the United States.

If you want to give the Statue of Liberty to the United States all over again anyway, give it in the spirit with which it was originally intended in the first place — as a gift to celebrate Black Americans.

I grew up with the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants. “Give us your tired, your poor…” and all that, but Lady Liberty had been there for twenty years before those lines by Emma Lazarus were inscribed onto a plaque and installed at the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration (the voluntary kind, not the shackled and chained way most Black people got here) for two reasons. One, immigrants latched onto the massive sculpture, which is understandable because she was the first image of New York for most European immigrants arriving by boat on the way to be processed at nearby Ellis Island. Two, the creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, pitched the idea to raise funding from Americans in the most general terms of “liberty” without specifically referencing Black Americans. His plan worked since the United States did indeed agree to pay for the pedestal if France paid for the actual statue, but it was a pivot away from the original idea.

Édouard de Laboulaye was a French abolitionist and it was he, along with his social circle of abolitionists, who conceived of a massive gift to present to the United States after the Civil War — once slavery was outlawed. The proposal of Lady Liberty initially held broken and shackles to signify the broken chains of slavery instead of the tablet she holds today. The chains eventually made their way into the final version down around her feet, the original significance lost to most people and barely noticed.

The years immediately following the Civil War were filled with promise for Black Americans and de Laboulaye wanted to recognize that. We made great strides in education, civic engagement, and politics, but the South regained its footing and struck a compromise in the 1876 Presidential Election that saw federal troops removed from the Old Confederacy. Black people were back in chains, invisible shackles placed on our communities through coalitions built between lawmakers and law enforcement, private businesses and private citizens. When Bartholdi finished Lady Liberty, there was no way to “sell” the idea to the United States as a celebration of slavery’s end. Black America hated the idea, because we were being oppressed, terrorized, and murdered, and White America would’ve scoffed, because they were doing the terrorizing. She was pitched as a symbol of liberty, immigrants saw her as the first welcoming image of the United States, and then the government solidified that feeling by using words from Emma Lazarus.

Today, it’s more important than ever to remember why the Statue of Liberty was conceived in the first place, not a symbol of general liberty and freedom, but as a symbol of Black liberty and freedom. We are still fighting to have our history accurately taught in schools. We are still fighting to be the country de Laboulaye thought we were becoming when slavery ended. And we are still fighting to live up to the promise Lady Liberty has symbolized to millions of immigrants. This little sister will probably be all over the news as we get closer to July 4th, so whenever you see her, make sure you remind somebody that the Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a gift to celebrate the end of slavery, but the US put Black people back in chains too quickly for her to actually symbolize liberty and freedom for us.

 

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