Cultural Appropriation: Is TikTok Normalizing the Harmful Practice?

A TikTok video went viral over the weekend as viewers claimed it glamorized cultural appropriation. The video shows an Asian hairstylist with braids using various techniques to imitate type 4 hair on her client while “Dead Man Walking” by S3nsi Molly plays in the back. The TikTok is making the rounds on Twitter and Instagram, and many are saying social media is further normalizing cultural appropriation.

For every viewer who is appalled by the appropriation, there is seemingly another who wants to copy that look. A quick YouTube search will give results showing how to use Bantu knots and perm techniques to curl straight hair. Tutorials show how to use moisturizing products typically used by Black women and men to protect their hair, to achieve the perfect faux-fro.

Imitating type 4 hair and appropriating historically Black hairstyles has received attention in the media, too. While more and more Black women are proudly wearing their natural hair and fighting against hair discrimination, people who appropriate Black hairstyles and culture are starting to get called out for it.

Cultural appropriation is when certain aspects of someone’s culture are mocked and used against people of that culture, but later mimicked by others, typically white people, and lauded as cool with no respect for the origins of that trend. While type 4 hair has historically been marginalized and called “bad hair” and Black women and men have been punished for wearing their natural hair, white women like Kim Kardashian attribute cornrows to Bo Derek and are celebrated. That’s appropriation.

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