While reading the post above, I went back & forth over what I thought about this example. On the one hand, cultural appropriation is typically frowned upon by most people I know. Yet, on the other hand, something about this example of “appropriation” doesn’t seem as offensive, if at all, when compared to the likes of Iggy Azalea.
OPPRESSOR APPROPRIATION – A METAPHOR FOR OTHER STOLEN ITEMS
The biggest reason it’s different is that when someone of “white” culture uses symbols of a group whose resources and people have been robbed or victimized, it’s akin to throwing salt on to a wound. No, Iggy did not enslave millions or lynch anyone, yet she is a symbol of that system, and has certainly benefited from it. Imagine if there was a child whose family was brutally beaten and some murdered. Would we ask that child to allow the murderer’s child to wear his/her mother’s wedding dress?
That’s what cultural appropriation by a descendant of oppressors feels like to the children of the oppressed, and that’s the 1st reason why Beyonce’s use of Desi clothing is not offensive to me.
BUT I DISAGREE WITH ONE POINT FROM THE KINFOLK COLLECTIVE
Racism in India is not a justification for negative feeling toward the Tweeters expressing their negative feelings about appropriation by “white” artists. Nor is it acceptable to not support South Asians in their battle against oppression in all its forms.
Yes, there are people in South Asia who remain focused on “whiter” skin as more beautiful than dark. It’s a sad legacy of European imperialism. However, movements such as “Dark is Beautiful” are working at changing the perception of dark skin in that area.
So while I agree Beyonce’s usage of this clothing is not offensive, I disagree with not supporting South Asians in their fight against appropriation by white artists, and the continued racism they face in that region within their own communities and from outsiders.
BEYONCE SUPPORTS DARK IS BEAUTIFUL FOR DESI CULTURE
While I’m not sure of her intention, seeing a beautiful woman with a caramel skin tone in Desi clothing and jewelry can send the right and supportive message to the many beautiful brown women of South Asia. When images of Beyonce reach that region, her beauty will be undeniable, and will be seen by many beautiful South Asian women.
They will then be uplifted by seeing that somewhere, someone acknowledges that “Dark Is Beautiful,” and millions of others around the world agree.
DARK IS BEAUTIFUL
No matter the shade of brown that adorns our skin, we are beautiful.
Obviously I support Beyonce’s choice of attire. But back to this Iggy and Jenner thing: Showing support for those oppressed in one region opens up the opportunity for connection. Were the women in South Asia aware they had permission to speak out against Iggy and Jenner’s appropriation of black culture? How were these images shown in South Asia, and were they seen there at all?
We cannot judge what they did or did not know. So before we say “we will not support your battle against something,” we have to ask why they didn’t speak out. Otherwise we damn ourselves to remaining divided in our battle against the same enemy/ obstacle.