A video made by actress Amandla Stenberg, best known for playing Rue in The Hunger Games, is gaining traction online. Stenberg created the clip for a history class project and posted it to her Tumblr three months ago
In the video, Stenberg lays out a recent timeline of white celebrities—calling out Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Riff Raff, and Katy Perry, among others—whom she says have appropriated black culture in different ways, whether by wearing their hair in cornrows or using Ebonics in a music video. Stenberg also quotes at length from a radio interview in which rapper Azealia Banks explains why cultural appropriation, like white rapper Iggy Azalea’s hip-hop success, can send a problematic message to black youth.
Stenberg provides a clear definition of the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. “The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred,” she says. “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.”
Stenberg also addresses the murder of an unarmed South Carolina man by police, and ends her project with a resonant question: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?” We’re hoping she got a pretty good grade.
The actress’s reps did not immediately respond to request for comment.