The Thing About Kylie Jenner’s Hair, Though

Alright, so congratulations to everybody: Kylie Jenner has dyed her hair a brilliant shade of red (although it’s probably a wig) and, because this is the first time she’s committed this hard, the internet is losing their shit.

Which is fair and cool! Great colour, Kylie. Live your life. But K-Jen: you have to stop with the cultural appropriation.


A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

Here’s the thing about Kylie’s new red hair: it’s a new colour (congrats!) but she’s wearing it in corn rows (opposite of congrats). Which is something she’s done before, and is also something that led to Amandla Stenberg rightfully calling her out back in the spring.

“When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter,” Stenberg wrote in a comment.

Jenner didn’t take it very well and wrote back, “Mad if I don’t, Mad if I don’t. Go hang with Jaden or something.” And that is weak at best. Especially since, despite her young age, Kylie knows better. You may love the Kardashians and Jenners with every inch of your heart, but we have — have — to admit that when it comes to cultural appropriation, they know what is and what isn’t and when they show up in cornrows, they know what they’re doing. They are not stupid people. They are not making mistakes. They just don’t care.

Which is willful ignorance. To flip your hair (or Instagram it) and dismiss important criticism by saying “Well I can’t win regardless, so I’ll just do me” is an invalid argument — particularly when a person of colour is saying, “You are appropriating my culture” and a white person, says, “…”

Ultimately, Stenberg laid it out a perfectly a few months ago. By choosing to monopolize on black culture without using her privilege to help spur change (like, at the very, very, very least), Kylie is telling us she’s choosing to dip in and out of the cultural pool because she can. And that’s the worst because she’s not bothering to think about why what she’s adopting are part of cultural identity or what happens when she rips them off. She’s disrespecting the culture surrounding them. She’s disrespecting black people. Culture is not a buffet. You don’t get to comb through what you like and what you don’t and make up a plate for a casual meal.

Today Kylie Jenner turns 19 and I hope that with age comes the willingness to learn. We have all made mistakes and we’ve all been dicks, but it’s our job as actual humans to check those things and realize that cultural appropriation is shitty and hugely damaging. And Kylie is sitting atop a huge throne of privilege. So let’s hope her new year brings revelations that privilege does not mean easy access to the appropriation of culture, but the ability to use her global influence for something bigger than she is.

Or, at the very least, to say “Holy shit, I never thought of that and I’m so sorry” when she’s being criticized.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue

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