NBC is reporting that Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as “Rue” in The Hunger Games, has been the cause of much controversy after taking the lead on the conversation of race and culture in America.
Recently, the 16-year-old actress posted a school video project on her Tumblr account, entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows: A Crash Discourse on Black Culture.” In the video, Stenberg discusses the meaning of cultural appropriation and race in pop culture.
In the video, Stenberg acknowledges that it is not always easy to say what is admiration and what is appropriation, but Stenberg attempts to clear the distinction between the two. The actress says:
“The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred. But here’s the thing: Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture that they are partaking in. Hip-hop stems from a black struggle. It stems from jazz and blues, styles of music that African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity, which itself stems from songs used during slavery to communicate and survive. On a smaller scale but in a similar vein, braids and cornrows are not merely stylistic. They are necessary to keep black hair neat.”
This was not Stenberg’s first role in the debate of race relations. Stenberg’s first take on race came soon after the airing of the first Hunger Games movie. Finding that “Rue” was black, many Hunger Game fans found themselves disgruntled and took to the internet airing their disbelief that the young heroine, as well as other key protagonists, were black. One fan even went as far to say, “Why did the producer make all the good characters black?”
In her video Stendberg goes on to discuss the recent cases of police brutality against those in the black community and raises the question: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?”
For more information visit NBC.
This post was written by Reginald Calhoun, editorial assistant for the Burton Wire. He is a junior Mass Media Arts major at Clark Atlanta University. Follow him on Twitter @IRMarsean.