The youngest starlet from the Kardashian/Jenner family finds herself in the middle of another controversy. But this time, it’s not about her admitted collagen-filled pout or her preference for slightly older West Coast rappers. It’s about her hair.
The 16-year-old actress wrote in Jenner’s comments stating:
“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.”
The comments come on the heels of the controversial hashtag: #whitegirlsdoitbetter, which popped off last Friday on Twitter by user @sadblackcat, a White girl, who tweeted: “Mispronouncing words from other cultures. #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter.”
Mispronouncing words from other cultures. #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter
— ♀cyberbean♀ (@sadblackcat) July 10, 2015
The hashtag took a sharp turn, co-opted by Black Twitter users who fired back with responses like:
mock black women for their full lips and thick bodies then go get their flat lips and asses injected with false hope #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter
— bonnetbabe (@YANIELISE) July 10, 2015
Stenberg’s use of the hashtag, still in action on Twitter, sealed the lid on her criticism of the youngest Jenner and her ongoing preference for trending African-American beauty optics—cornrows and nail extensions included.
Jenner responded to Stenberg’s comments, writing: “@amandlastenberg Mad if I don’t, Mad if I do…. Go hang out w Jaden or something.” Jaden Smith accompanied Stenberg to her prom in May.
It wasn’t the first time the vocal young starlet took on Black cultural appropriation. Stenberg posted a video on YouTube in April educating people on the meaning of Black appropriation and why it’s problematic. The video was widely celebrated throughout media, but her recent criticism of young Jenner has become polarizing to say the least.
Bravo host Andy Cohen brought up the teen beef on his show “Watch What Happens Live.” During Cohen’s popular segment “Jackhole of the Day,” he asked guests Andre Leon Talley and “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox about Jenner’s cornrows.
Talley responded, “To me, it’s fine.” Cox chimed in, “Umm…Bo Derek,” referring to the 58-year-old actress who was popular throughout the ’70s and ’80s and most remembered for wearing cornrows in the 1979 film 10. Derek wore the style with beads at the ends of her braids, a look that was trending for Blacks in America throughout the ‘70s, while wearing a nude swimsuit in a steamy dream sequence.
The actress continued with the look a bit after the film in shoots for advertisements and on the red carpet. By the time the actress appeared in Tarzan-focused flick A Change of Seasons, she shed her cornrows for her usual sleek beach-blonde tresses.
Derek is a known activist, but one could hardly claim she “uses her position of power to help Black Americans.”
The actress is an Independent who voted for Senior Bush in both of his terms and even campaigned for Junior in 2000 and 2004. Although she stated she voted for president Barack Obama in 2008, she openly endorsed Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012.
It’s pretty safe to say Bo Derek is no Rachel Dolezal, or anything remote.
Talley recently made his appearance in Kim Kardashian’s popular game app, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.” It’s not shocking the legendary fashion editor, who’s been largely vocal on the absence of Black women on fashion runways, would take a hands-off stance when it came to young Jenner.
Seems viewers expected something different from Cox, though.
The celebrated trans rights activist’s mention of Derek was a moot point, considering Derek’s aforementioned political leanings, and Black Twitter was pretty disgusted, even calling for the boycott of the TV network.
— Jihan Forbes (@ItsJihanM) July 14, 2015
— Lisa Nelson-Haynes (@momsamango) July 14, 2015
Cox had something to say Tuesday morning. While she didn’t defend her comments, she tweeted she wasn’t familiar with Stenberg before her “Watch What Happens Live” appearance and said she was moved by Stenberg’s words.
But what is it exactly that brings us to such a broil when it comes to Kylie Jenner and her clear adoration for Blackness?
Seems the mere existence of anyone in the Kardashian Klan bothers most people. The family filled with professional celebrities came for fame and fortune like a thief in the night with no real assets (read: traditional talent).
But yet the world clocks their every move and anticipates all they do, from their street style to their next Black beau.
If Kylie Jenner were apart of a different family, would we receive her borrowing of Black hairstyles differently?
Is there an ounce of consideration in our criticism that can understand why a 17-year-old White girl would be fascinated by Black culture?
Jenner is a 17-year-old young White woman living in a world where being Black and all of its cultural accessories are the shit.
She’s also the impressionable younger sister of two women who also have a style partiality for all things Black—not to mention a very influential Black brother-in-law who’s words on race, fashion and everything in between, become monuments of their own, etch-a-sketched into pop culture.
There’s a long line of White people in the public eye who made Black culture their bitch, or their personal kind of stock room of coolness they get to pull from whenever it moves them without ever restocking it—from Elvis Presley to Justin Timberlake.
But when Timberlake sonically riffs on Black soul men with handy puppet stringing courtesy of Timbaland—and even his own stint with cornrows—we don’t assess his latest contributions to Black Lives Matter movement, we blast his songs at towering volumes in our vehicles and day parties. We crowd surf to “Suit and Tie” at his live concerts.
But both Timberlake and Eminem, exert their cultural Blackness with skill and trained rigor. They are artists who sell millions of records and are given trophies for their exhaustive creative efforts.
Seemingly talented White men accepted into the sacred confines of cultural Blackness get a pass, while White women like Jenner, Miley Cyrus—who also recently received backlash for posting a selfie wearing cornrows—are chastised and roll-called for their attendance in Black social media activism.
Let’s be honest, fam, how much of this young Jenner hair debate is about her being the underage youngin in the Kardashian Klan with the gall to date the 25-year-old ex of Black Chyna?
And the more urgent question is, what kind of activism or “help for Black Americans” do we really expect from the 17-year-old?
Jenner and Cyrus are but two representations of scores of young White women navigating a world where looking Black is not only the shit, it’s the aesthetic standard—well in compartments. Like an À la carte menu, many will order the ass but not the nose. Some will take the braids but clearly not the roots.
It’s pretty fucked up, Black cultural optics are accepted while Black bodies are not—from fashion runways to Silicon Valley. It’s even more fucked up that Black hair and big butts can be co-opted in a world where being young and Black aren’t safe in neighborhood pools or while carrying Skittles.
But do we expect White girls—so young, their bras still in training—to lead the effort on re-directing this?
Black cultural appropriation is as much a part of America as hot dogs and ripped denim and can be traced back to the late 19th century—why do we expect it’s sudden erasure now?
I applaud Stenberg for her bravery at 16, and for intelligently articulating her angst on race, when focusing on the next public appearance with Jaden Smith would be considered more business savvy for her growing Hollywood career on all accounts.
But for those of us who have been around the carousel of American disappointment, double standards and double consciousness happen again and again, and it’s all business as usual.