African Student Union discusses cultural appropriation, appreciation

Within the last year, multiple celebrities have been called out for appropriating black culture. Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg made a video titled “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” that addressed the cultural appropriation of historically black hairstyles such as braids, twists and dreadlocks, and criticized other celebrities for not acknowledging the appropriation of black culture.

The members of the University of Miami’s African Student Union (ASU) took a different approach to the issue Wednesday night, questioning whether black Americans can appropriate African culture. A forum called “Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation” poised questions to the audience regarding black-American cultural appropriation and African cultural appropriation.

During the discussion about whether black-American culture was being appropriated by non-black people, most in the audience agreed that it was. When it came to the question of whether black Americans can appropriate African culture, the audience did not come to a clear consensus. However, they did agree that it was a slippery slope between appreciation and appropriation.

“People try and say that it’s appropriating, but it’s really appreciating, because black Americans are just trying to feel connected because they don’t have a belonging,” said freshman Courtney Hamilton. “They’re just trying to find their identity through the African garb, the African clothing, the African tradition, so they can’t steal something that’s already a part of them.”

Senior Miriam Jock was born and raised in Nigeria, coming to the United States for college. She said that black Americans have the right to appropriate African culture if they are doing it to accept the fact that they came from Africa and are trying to connect with their roots.

However, she stated that black Americans should be fully invested in Africa to avoid appropriation.

“Not just appropriate the good and leave the bad,” Jock said.

As the night continued, the conversation provided both sides with insight into the other’s perspective on the matter of cultural appropriation and appreciation.

“Normally, we have just Africans in the ASU, but talking to the black Americans I get a different perspective. It made me be less judgmental,” Jock said.