Everyone leaves comments on celebrity Instagram pictures. It's just a thing that people do now. Some leave pleasent comments, others leave hateful messages, and some try to use high profile accounts to promote themselves.
This doesn't exactly fall into one of those categories.Recently, Amandla Stenberg commented on a picture that Kylie Jenner posted, saying:
"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 brutatlity or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter."
Kylie's picture just so happened to have been posted around the same time that the hashtag #whitegirlsdoitbetter was trending on Twitter. Afterwards, Amandla posted a piece addressing the comments that she made:
words by me pic.twitter.com/g0HapkvfAt
— Amandla Stenberg (@amandlastenberg) July 13, 2015
Here are five issues I have with the reactions to this whole thing:
1. Media is framing this like it's a random fight between two teenage girls. Often times when women have discussions about serious topics, their words are brushed off. They're told that they are just being hormonal or too dramatic. In my experience, the same is even worse for teenage girls.
Teens in general are told that they shouldn't participate in conversations about tough topics, even if they affect us, like racism and sexism. I feel that Amandla's comments, and subsequent post, could have been grounds for a conversation about cultural appropriation and racism. But instead, it's presented as a fight in the school lockeroom.
2. Kylie's reaction. Though Amandla later cleared up her comments , Ms. Jenner responded with another Instagram comment:
"Mad if I don't, Mad if I do....Go hang w Jaden or something"
Okay? Should she go hang out with Jaden because he understands institutional racism?
3. People like Justin Bieber jumping in. A little while after the original post, Justin Bieber commented on the picture stating: "Guys leave her alone, were all trying to figure it out and she happens to be under a microscope! I'm the first to know this. But saying she's being racist because she wants her hair in braids is ridiculous. lets focus on the bigger picture and instead of fighting over something stupid lets do something about equality, but it doesn't start with blasting a 17 year old kid for wearing braids smh"
First of all? Amandla is sixteen, and has also been "blasted" for leaving that comment.
Second, white people don't have to do outwardly "racist" things in order to add to the culture of racism. Putting her hair in cornrows probably wasn't a big deal to Kylie, because she knew that people would tell her how beautiful she looked. When black women style their hair in cornrows, they're called "ghetto." This is just one example of the double standard when it comes to black and white women.
And anyway, what makes Justin Bieber the voice of reason in this situation? He wants to focus on "the issues," but how would he know them? Amandla is a young black woman. Why does he assume that he knows more about her struggle than she does?
There's this part, in the first Avengers movie, where there's this big battle scene with aliens. Captain America tells these police officers what he needs, and at first they don't want to help him. Once he proves himself to them by showing his power, they decide to follow his lead.
That's often how it feels to be a black woman. A lot of people start talking about "focusing on the real issues," but why wouldn't we be the ones to recognize them? We are living it, after all. But no, even though help is offered, we don't really get it. Often times we have to prove that our issues exist to get the help that we need to combat racism - but it can take forever for everyone to be convinced.
I totally understand wanting to protect your friends during a difficult time, but even if Kylie and Justin don't agree with what Amandla has to say, the least that they could do is listen.
4. Media framing Amandla as an angry black girl. I can't tell you how many articles, blog posts, I've seen that say Amandla is just blowing things out of proportion. That she's just angry for no reason. That she just wants to cry racism at everything that she sees. Those comments drive me crazy.
Amandla wrote a piece, made a video, and has spoken very often about cultural appropriation, as well as the way that it affects black women. But because she made Kylie Jenner and Justin Bieber upset, because she listed out reasons why they shouldn't wear cornrows, her anger isn't allowed. It's just pointless.
Why isn't anyone else saying that Kylie just got angry for no reason? Why is it that everyone sides with the white kids when they're upset, but roll their eyes at black girls when they're angry?
5. Even so, why is her anger invalidated? Why is she not allowed to be angry?
Lots of people are commenting and saying that Amandla is blowing this out of proportion. I feel that it's so incredibly easy to say as a person who isn't of color. Even though white people can understand the concept of racism, they don't experience it.
Things like this don't seem like racism to them. It's only the real intense stuff, the occurrences where someone does a hateful crime and explicitly states that it was because of race, that we are "allowed to pull the race card."
Why? What's so hard about listening?