Let Them Wear Cornrows at Their Own Risk: We Should Let White People Enjoy and Embrace Our Cultures As Long as They Don’t Exploit Them for Profit

A Reflection on Appropriation

Bridgette L. Hylton
8 min readMay 19, 2021

I have a unique take on cultural appropriation. I know it’s unique because every time I raise it around people of color, they look at me like I have two heads. Many people of color don’t want White people wearing our clothes, using our hairstyles, generally using our style to outpace us in the dating market, mimicking our slang and body language and dance styles, using gifs of us, acting like they “discovered,” á la Christopher Columbus, our food and style, or worse, profiting off any of these cultural symbols.

I get the collective frustration. All too often when White people interact with minority cultures it is either in a derogatory or exploitative way and this is painful for people of color. Sometimes White people get our cultures so wrong that it angers us. We feel unseen when the products of our identity are misrepresented. I have been there. Recently I walked into a coffee shop that I love that was advertising Jamaican style Lemonade-Coffee and I almost did a spit take. That’s not a thing, but somehow hanging this up was driving up sales for this coffee shop, which is owned by a White family, that was also playing reggae…