columbusing alert: gelled edges & big butts

just as christopher columbus “discovered” the new world, high fashion magazines and celebrities continue to appropriate black culture, naming things like big butts and gelled edges the newest trends.

despite vogue’s article titled ‘we’re officially in the era of the big booty‘ and gelled edges being spotted on this season’s runway shows, neither round backsides nor prominent baby hair is “new.” in fact, black folks kinda invented both.  while we appreciate the rare occasions when mainstream society recognizes our contribution to this country’s very existence, especially pop culture, the kind of appropriation pictured above is offensive. why? because it involves failing to recognize the history of an act, as if its originators are invisible.  this fact is especially problematic for black people who are often denigrated for the very things that white americans can espouse as displays of “coolness”.  using black vernacular, rocking gold grills, twerking — and now gelled edges and big butts — breed street cred for whites and limited socioeconomic opportunities for blacks.  this skewed dichotomy is emblematic of larger society and goes far beyond the fashion and entertainment industries.

despite columbusing’s macro origins, one chip in cultural appropriation’s armor could be having more black models, writers and bloggers to fact check these egregious claims and ensure a more responsible cultural exchange. however, until that happens, i’ll continue to feel mocked and exploited by katy perry’s braids and vogue’s recent “discovery” of the beauty of big butts.

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5 comments

  1. I really appreciate your blog for giving these issues the attention and unpacking they deserve. Though particularly egregious examples of “Columbusing” of Black culture have occurred in mainstream pop culture lately, I can think of other ethnic and racial groups who have been “Columbused” also. Representation of all people of color in positions of power and decision-making in media and entertainment are definitely a way this issue should be addressed. Let’s hope it happens in our lifetime.

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  2. Thank you SO much for giving voice to what translates on me to a twisted face expression and a resentful attitude.
    Finding my voice again about cultural and political issues that twist me up inside and this is one of them. Admire and appreciate your warrior word-stress skills.

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    1. I’m loving your blog sis! I agree 1000% with this article. (Not 100 but 1000) However, until the sick root of this country is dug up, our media outlets will continue to be fed with sick twisted fruit (which happens to be the images above). The devil doesn’t change its colors. (I am not calling all Whites the devil, I am using that term as a general statement).

      I am not angry because centuries of our labor, music, fashion, cooking etc., have all been treated like this. So I’m not surprised at all. No matter how many of us prove our brilliance and “crossover”, how does one undo a mentality of internalized superiority anchored by economic rape that’s protected by law (most of the time)? As individuals we can spend a lifetime dealing with and healing our own wounds, unhealthy patterns, and shortcomings. Imagine undoing hundreds of years of this! (I will always believe Rodney King’s beating was a modern version of a public lynching and torturing of a Black man. He fortunately was not murdered like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.)

      I also will not hold my breath waiting to be accepted and loved by them on any level. If we were given credit tomorrow, would this undo our disenfranchisement and create a color blind utopia?

      My solution is to continue to support sisters and brothers like you, Black artists, Black businesses as much as possible. Reading our history, digging for positive brothers and sisters, and supporting my own has given me an unwavering self pride and self love that a lily White vogue or establishment can’t shake. I find a way and make a way out of no way just like our ancestors always have. If we are able to create our own publications and support each other, then the need for being celebrated by Whites (within this supposed 21st century of integration and “freedom” which I truly question) will be non-existent.

      Much love to you sis!

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