Beautifully Blurred Brown World
Amandla Stenberg‘s video, Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows, is a powerful testament of the need to have open cultural conversations with persons old and young. Languaging which makes use of the terms “blurred” and “cultural appropriation” perhaps incite trepidation in the casual viewer, though I propose the scarier thing is to ignore them altogether.
Amandla asks a question that has been circulating around the world for what seems to my millenial mind to be an endless amount of time:
“What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
As Amandla is well spoken and astute, though perhaps lacking in a multitude of different perspectives, I decided to write her a letter. I hope she finds it someday.
As a United Methodist Minister (and even just as a student at Vanderbilt in Tennesee), my father set up many of the first inter-racial and inter-faith counsels of the 1960s. His legacy lives on through me and it lives on through my six children. Please know that not everyone is as ignorant as the people you mentioned. I suspect you know this. But do others? I worry about the “role models” our children have to look up to. Will they follow the circus or will they dig deeper and desire to understand what creates a culture? Your statement that “the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred” is so profound. The scope of this cannot be measured by what we see in the media. I believe that most people see Madonna and Miley Cyrus as pop “clowns” rather than icons to follow. …I hope this is the case at any rate. The last words I remember my father telling me before I never had a chance to hear him speak again were these:
“The most beautiful world I can imagine is a brown world where nobody judges anybody by anything but by their heart because we’ll have mixed so perfectly.”
I think he was speaking about what you mention briefly: cultural exchange. I’m sometimes jealous of the African-American culture because I feel like I have nothing with as strong of roots. I’m what some people call a “Heinz-57,” though in my heart I just feel like a human trying to find my way as much as you are – and as much as generations after us will do. Thank you for putting this out there in the Universe. The only way to change the future is to begin with talking about today.