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​laverne cox clarifies her thoughts on cultural appropriation

The Orange Is The New Black actress apologizes to Amandla Stenberg and quotes bell hooks in new Tumblr post.

by i-D Staff
|
Jul 15 2015, 12:01pm

Laverne Cox has clarified her thoughts on cultural appropriation after some online commentators felt she side-stepped the issue during a recent TV appearance. During Sunday night's episode of Bravo chatshow Watch What Happens Live, host Andy Cohen branded Amandla Stenberg, the 16-year-old Hunger Games actress, his "Jackhole of the Day" for accusing Kylie Jenner of "cultural appropriation" with a recent Instagram snap in which she wore her hair in cornrows.

Cohen then invited his guests, Cox and Vogue's Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley, for their thoughts on the matter, asking: "White girls in cornrows ... is it OK or nay?"

"To me, it's fine," Talley replied, while Cox simply said: "Um... Bo Derek," in reference to the actress who famously sported cornrows in the 1979 film 10.

Following calls for #BoycottBravo and criticism from some viewers, who felt she should have called out Cohen and defended Stenberg, Cox has written a lengthy Tumblr post titled "My Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation". In the post, Cox explains that she made her "Bo Derek" comment partly to avoid wading into a celebrity feud that she didn't fully understand, and partly because "cultural appropriation needs way more than the 10 seconds or less I had to respond at the end of the show".

Cox proceeds to praise Stenberg for a video in which the actress "chronicled a recent history of cultural appropriation and black hair specifically", then insists she understood the full connotations of her "Bo Derek" comment, citing the work of US social activist bell hooks.

Cox explains: "That look on her subsequently becoming a cultural phenomenon when the black folks who had been rocking cornrows for decades before her had not similarly become a sensation is an example of the ways in which what bell hooks calls imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal systems privilege certain bodies' performances of cultural traditions over others. This is when cultural appropriation can tend to erase the marginalized people from whom the culture emerges."

Meanwhile, Cohen has apologized to Stenberg for branding her a "Jackhole", writing on Twitter: "I want to apologize to Amandla. I didn't understand the larger context of this cultural discussion and TRULY meant no disrespect to her or anyone else."

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Tagged:
cornrows
Kylie Jenner
Cultural Appropriation
Laverne Cox
amandle stenberg