Have you ever heard of “Thug Day”? Ya, neither have we until Memorial High School in Houston, Texas, came up on google.
Students in the predominantly white school had been wearing attire from cornrows, sagging pants, depicting “Thugs,” creating the question of cultural appropriation towards the black community.
In high schools across the United States, cultural appropriation in the context of hair has been a growing issue. From influencers such as Kim Kardashian to Justin Bieber, Adam Levine, along with the notorious Woah Vicky, a similarity they all acquire is receiving backlash for culturally appropriating through the hairstyles they’ve obtained.
But what is this, “cultural appropriation,” you may ask? According to Everyday Feminism, “Cultural Appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own.” A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”
Take, for example, when Zendaya was questioned on her cultural status and ethnicity as well as judged as not looking “professional” for wearing dreadlocks at the Oscars. Where was the criticism when Miley Cyrus wears corns and is considered a “trendsetter” for a style that’s been in black culture for years.
Ancient stone paintings depict women in North Africa with beautiful braids dating back thousands of years. Some specific hairstyles could mean your clan, your identity, or your marital status or age.
Recently California Governor Gavin Newsom has officially signed the Crown Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) into law banning employers and schools from discriminating against natural hair.
According to the beauty brand Dove, it has been the Crown Act’s most prominent supporter; Black women are 50% more likely to be sent home from work because of their hairstyle because it is seen as “ghetto.” They’re also 80% more likely to change their hair by straightening or relaxing it so their peers can more accept them at work.
Students are not aware enough on the offense of wearing such hairstyles, which can create conflict within classrooms. Within our own Westbrook High School, there have been multiple encounters of non-black identifying students wearing cornrows and not understanding the offense that others may feel from it.