BLACK VOICES
08/13/2015 12:20 pm ET

The Fine Line Between Cultural Appreciation And Appropriation

It all comes down to understanding history.

Black Twitter eviscerated Allure magazine's tone deaf afro hair tutorial earlier this month and reignited the ongoing conversation about the fine line between appreciation and appropriation of another culture. Allure's article, which showcased a white woman feigning an afro with corkscrew curls, was widely criticized for the latter.

HuffPost culture writer Zeba Blay told HuffPost Live this week the publication "completely missed the ball" with their piece.

"The problem with appropriating cultures is that you take on the afro or the cornrow or the box braid without understanding the history behind it," Blay told host Nancy Redd. "And when you don't understand the history behind something, you don't understand the context in which it's done, and that's what makes it offensive."

Image activist Michaela Angela Davis spoke out against those who, in an attempt to deem the cultural appropriation critique hypocritical, liken white women who wear traditionally black hair styles to black women who wear their hair straight. Davis urged people to understand the context behind the issue, which has been fueled, in part, by the pressure to assimilate.

"White women were never persecuted for their hair," Davis explained. "For black people to adjust their hair, whatever color, whatever extension -- whether it's a weave or a wig or a braid, or all of it at the same damn time -- that is really a way that we culturally express, and some of it is historically to fit in, to be part of the mainstream. And some of it is just because we're fly."   

Although Allure responded to the outrage over the piece in a statement to The Huffington Post, Davis said the magazine missed an opportunity with its "very weak" reply. 

"The fact that they sort of doubled down, defended themselves, did not really listen, then didn't even expand on it was where they missed out, just as journalists," she added. 

For those who are still unsure about the difference between appreciation and appropriation, Derrick Clifton, the deputy opinion editor at The Daily Dot, offered some words of advice:

I don't think the burden should only be on black people and people of color to let a mainstream white audience know how they can proactively appreciate a culture. I think if you're going to approach a culture in a tradition that is not your own, there needs to be some level of respect and deference for ... the people for whom that's their history.

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about cultural appropriation here

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before.

Also on HuffPost: 

Black Hair Icons

CONVERSATIONS