Pop Culture, Race & Politics

I Do This For (Your) Culture?

That's the same thing I did Mr. Benjamin.

I saw the movie Marci X this past weekend. My random movie game is not to be trifled with. Not a bad movie, but not exactly one I’d recommend anybody spend time watching. Of course, if you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do, there are much worse movies you can watch than Marci X like say Who Made The Potato Salad?

Well, in the movie, Lisa Kudrow stars as the billionaire heiress to a music company mogul who is trying to get Damon Wayans (his name is Dr. S in the movie) to apologize for some of his brash lyrics. Well, they end up dating and the plan is for him to go and apologize for his lyrics at the MTV Music awards.

Well, as Damon Wayans date to the awards show, Lisa Kudrow’s character does what any white woman dating a thugged out Black man would do…

…she dresses like an Erykah Badu knockoff.

Say heffa say what???

Oh no she didn’t.

She was fully garbed in a headwrap, a kinte cloth wrap dress, some beads, and I could have sworn I saw an African medallion somewhere. Pure and utter non-sense. And it wasn’t offensive or anything, just overdone. Totally overdone.

It got me to thinking about the asstastic mess of a job people do when they’re trying to emulate another culture in attempts to assimilate or show support. And yes, we do a horrible job, regardless of race. This means Black people too. This isn’t just a white thing…this spans ALL cultures.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how people can really be so oblivious to the fact that in our attempts to show support or “understanding” of another culture, we completely turn ourselves into caricatures. For instance, when white people try to emulate Black culture, have you noticed that they pick the most extreme examples of Black culture to embrace? I’m talking gold or platinum chains that hang down to their ankles, doo-rags when they have straight hair, hiphop gear that nobody even remotely attached to Black culture would wear. Hell, sometimes I think that most companies make “hiphop” clothing specifically for the leagues of white people who want to be cool between the ages of 13-24 and think that “Black” culture is the way to go.

And it isn’t like everything is off. It just seems like people take that one extra step that would normally have you falling off a cliff and getting caught by your toenails on a broken bottle of Absolut Vodka hanging out of the side of a mountain.

Let’s not just stop with white people though. Let’s talk about Black folks. Yes, Black folks who think they are doing a service to Africa by wearing sh*t Africans wouldn’t be caught dead in. Have you ever noticed how ridiculous a lot of Black folks look when they are paying tribute to “mother Africa”?

Me too.

Hell, it offends me sometimes. Throwing on some kinte clothe pants some slippers exposing your flour-powered toes and putting on an “African” hat you purchased from an Arab guy in your local mall doesn’t exhibit support. It exhibits an exhibit of what not to do when trying to show support to your African brothers and sisters, most of whom you’ll never actually meet.

Hmm…I wonder. Has anybody ever thought to ask an African what they would wear at some sort of traditional ceremony in their home country?? It seems as if the biggest problem we have is that none of us ever ASKS a person of the culture we’re attempting to copy what THEY would wear.

And that includes Africans too.

I’m not sure whose worse in this case, white people or Africans. See, it would seem that Africans get their Black fashion ideas from the same place white people do.

Television and other white people.

And I’m just not quite sure which shows either of them are watching.


Africans that try to dress like Black Americans miss the mark so hard you have to wonder where they were shooting. It’s the same problem white people have, and its the same problem Black Americans have when trying to be more “African.”

Just makes you want to slap everybody.

For some reason, in our attempts to show support we end up mocking the very thing we want to support. How dumb is that? Thats why I don’t wear anything traditionally African now. Hell, I don’t want to walk outside and offend an African. Some years ago I bought a shirt that said “I (Heart) Afrikan People.”


It was a good idea when I bought it. Then I thought about it, even wore it once, and felt a whole lot of weird because I’m not African. Well, not in the traditional sense. I’m clearly of African descent.

But the fact is, wearing a shirt that says I Love African People isn’t exactly showing love, it feels more like a mockery. I can wear a shirt talking about I love Black people because well…I’m a Black dude. I associate with Black people. (Allegedly) African people view me as Black. Basically, its like a white person wearing a shirt that says I Love Black People. The right sentiments might be there, but truth be told, it almost looks like a slap in the face. That’s some shit you say after you say something ignorant to attempt to cover your tracks.

And I’m ignorant…so I know what you say when trying to cover your tracks.

I keed I keed.

Back to the point here…it’s interesting how in our attempts to show support we often end up mocking other cultures, openly.

What makes it even more f*cked up is this. In the movie, Lisa Kudrow dressed up as a stereotypic “down-to-earth soul” sistah, kind of chick. Damon Wayans…was a gansta rapper. That shit doesn’t match. Which highlights another problem. Not only do folks not know what they’re doing…they don’t even know WHEN to not know what they’re doing!

So the next time you see a white chick in a headwrap with some Ankh earrings or a Black guy wearing a kinte cloth dashiki with a map of the middle passage adorning the front…

…slap the living shit out of them then tell them the good news.

You just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to Geico.

Seriously though, why do you think that we people, as a rule, generally do such a terrible job of emulating and/or supporting other cultures?

Inquiring minds would like to know?


PS: VSB recently teamed up with Coliseum Apparel to do a limited run of VSB branded crewneck sweaters. These joints are dope and I’ve already been rocking them about town. It’s still perfect weather for them as well. #teamVSB. Go on over to Coliseum Apparel’s site to check them out and cop you one! They’re going to go fast!!!!

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.


Can't Truss It?

  • https://twitter.com/#!/cnote220 Cheech

    The so -called African name thing….That ish kills me. I understand you want to understand another culture but for the love of everything holy, naming your kid dashikl brown just seems culturally confused…

  • Mo-VSS

    When I was in 7th grade, I new a white girl named Nicole. She was cool, but she was the white girl who loved all things black. I was always wondering what kind of gel she used to get her hair so slick and shiny to a fault. One day I asked her. Her reply? Grease…Blue Magic to be exact. I was thoroughly confused and just walked away. I wasn’t offended, I just knew her hair texture was definitely not the type grease was made for. Wow…

    I don’t see too many other cultures being…oh wait. As I was typing I thought of Asian culture and then immediately thought of Wu-tang clan and really bad karate flicks. So, yeah…yeah. Lol

  • LiveFromDa215

    You make some good points.I was just discussing White people who have dreads with a friend of mine last night. They confuse me.

  • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

    Black people (and those of the Diaspora) have been appropriating cultures from the continent of Africa sense Marcus Garvey’s terrible misguided “Back to Africa” project. I think people do a terrible job of paying homage because they believe that JUST showing you like someone else’s culture should flatter them regardless of the accuracy or results. Like white people and anything related to Native Americans. It’s complete arrogance. Granted Americans don’t really grow up thinking they have a “culture” in the same sense that every one else in the world does.

  • http://Www.thinkprettysmart.com Ms. Smart

    A chick dating Black men who does the whole ‘Mother Africa’ thing probably doesn’t pay attention to many Black people on a day-to-day basis. Black people may not exist to her except in the context of her life. Does that make sense? She remembers what the Black people looked like who made her laugh or stood out. But she didn’t pay attention to the Black people she sees at the Whole Foods or Banana Republic.

    I think this is just the case across the board. Extremes get normalized to the point that we allow then to shape reality–if we aren’t careful. For example, loud Black women don’t represent all or most Black women. But since they are so loud, they are the ones who are noticed and addressed most often.

  • That Ugly Kid

    I said this same thing about white people who wore “We Are Trayvon” shirts. Sorry, it doesn’t sit well with me. A middle-class white person was born into privelage, and therefore couldn’t possibly truly understand what’s like to be a black person in this country. This is no fault of their own, as we can’t choose who our parents are. I understand your intent, but you’re execution is wrong. You are not Trayvon and you never will be. Be happy about this.

    Now, black people dressing up in African attire only bother me when they try to make me feel like sh*t because I have no will to visit Africa. The same continent that, during European occupation and slavery, sold their own people to make profit/save themselves? Yea, excuse me if I’m not overjoyed to go back to a continent that possibly sold my ancestors into slavery. If I ever travel outside the country, the FIRST place I’m going to is Brazil. Followed by Japan. Africa though? Probably not. Besides lions, Africa has nothing that interests me. Oh well.

  • Loving Me

    Good post… I dress for myself, I emulate (insert my govt name here) and I leave it at that BUT I will admit that the times I’ve tried to be the down to earth, soul, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, other black natural women in the media, I’ve looked a damn fool because… it’s just not me and everyone around me can see it. I hate when white people wear dreads. To me that is the biggest insult and most nastiest, ignorant statement that can be made. I’d rather see suburban kids with gold fronts and waxed up braids with their pants to their knees than a white person with dreads. I also hate when people make generic statements about their random black friends just because I’m around even though it has nothing to do with what we’re talking about:

    Me: I’m thinking of going to the mall and getting some new shoes
    Random white friend: Me and all my black friends love shopping for shoes. One day it was like 50 of us, I was the only white guy, in line for some Jordans

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Thank you very much for having touched upon this DIRE issue. I too have qualms with the following groups of people:

    1.) My African brethren emulating Black culture, and miserably failing at it.
    -Oh I cannot begin to talk of the horrors of it all. some African brothers are especially notorious for doing this, especially those that are fresh off the boat. They have the habit of instantaneously adopting fake black accents and for some reason thinking that white chicks are the shit and the urine, while we their sisters-who have borne and fed them are actually bull fecal matters. I remember in undergrad, this Naija broda who had a thick accent that pronounced the word carpenter as CAR-POONTA and insisted on ebonifying his African English. Oh my word! I held a council meeting with my fellow African girls, so that we could strategize the way forward with our broda. We were tired of being embarrassed by his stoooooooopidity. To make matters worse, he thought that it was very black of him to sag his pants and date white chicks recklessly. Oh mi gosh! At the rate he was going, he was going to catch a charge! Needless to say, we did talk to him and proud that, by the time of his graduation he had seen the error of his ways. Had somewhat gone back to embracing his African roots, and stopped the madness with white chicks.

    2.) Today at the bus stop. This white dude who was dressed like his favorite white rapper, Eminem and some Latino looking type of dude dapped @ other-using the “wassup my n-word”-I stared in horror at how that term casually rolled out their tongues. They proceeded to update each other on some rap battle that was going to take place over the weekend, and continued n-wording their entire conversation…..

    3.) Clueless folks both white and black about Africa. The motherland is not a monolith. Don’t ask STOOPID questions #that’s all.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    C’mon slaves are free!!!!!! Stop massaing my comments. URRRRGH!

  • Royale W. Cheese

    This blog post immediately brought this incident to mind…


    …because the effort was earnest, but a disaster.

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