This 2015 video from MTV News weekly series Decoded features Franchesca Ramsey breaking down 7 myths about cultural appropriation, or where dominant groups “borrow” or capitalize upon cultural practices or expressions from marginalized groups who are not similarly celebrated, but rather face oppression or are stigmatized for their cultural practices and expressions. An example she uses is how cornrows and other natural Black hairstyles become “edgy” and “cool” when White celebrities don them, whereas Black women and men have a long history of styling their hair in cornrows, locks, and braids, and are often penalized in schools and workplaces for wearing their hair in these natural styles. Franchesca also goes on to discuss the lines between cultural appreciation, exchange, and appropriation and addresses common points of contention around critiques of cultural appropriation, including, 1) You’re just looking for something to be offended by. It’s just clothing, hairstyles, decorations, whatever…Don’t you have something better to worry about?, 2) I’m just showing appreciation for the culture, 3) I don’t find it offensive, and I asked someone from that culture and they said it was ok, 4) Fashion, art, film, music always borrows from other sources. It doesn’t hurt anybody, 5) You’re just trying to tell everyone what to think, 6) So because I’m white, I’m automatically racist?, and 7) If Chinese people wear blue jeans, aren’t they appropriating my culture? Or what about Black girls wearing blond weaves? Or how about speaking English? After discussing the differences between assimilation and appropriation, she ends the video discussing potential avenues for cultural appreciation and exchange.
In Febuary 2015, Upworthy published a video that brought together actors of color to describe their experiences at auditions for the U.S. entertainment industry. The actors recount being told by casting directors to act in a stereotypical fashion and being typecasted based on their race and ethnicity. The clip uses personal stories to challenge accusations that the film industry is too Eurocentric and therefore, leaves few roles for actors of color to audition for. The clip cites various studies supporting the use of diverse casts stating that nearly 70% of casting calls prefer white actors, that films with relatively diverse casts excel at the box office and in returns on investment, and that television shows reflecting the nation’s diversity excel in ratings. So with potential for better ratings and better returns, the video asks viewers, “What’s the new excuse?” Upworthy is a website for viral content that promotes progressive stories tackling political and social issues.
In this clip from cycle 13 of America’s Next Top Model, the final six contestants travel to Maui, Hawaii – Tyra’s chosen “exotic” location for the second half of the season. This photo shoot is held in a sugar cane field, and each of the six girls is asked represent the cultures of “two very distinct races” – for example, Botswanan and Polynesian, Tibetan and Egyptian, Mexican and Greek. Tyra and Jay explain that their inspiration for the setting and theme of the shoot is the “hapa” or multiracial heritage of the Hawaiian Islands.
In this video, we meet Ramiro Gomez, an artist working in Los Angeles. Ramiro shares his story of growing up with parents who immigrated from Mexico. While he had always wanted to pursue art, he first took a job providing in-home childcare in the Hollywood Hills. He explains that his parents had also worked in the domestic service industry, and they were unhappy that Ramiro was following the same path. However, Ramiro says this work inspired him; through his art, he explored the experiences of LA’s many immigrant domestic service workers. He now creates art pieces, including life size portraits inserted into public space, that make visible the labor that goes into maintaining the homes and gardens of Los Angeles. He explains that he hopes his art will make those who see it think about and discuss the contribution of these workers, the challenges they face including wage theft, and the sacrifices they make for young people in his generation.
This video features the voices of a diverse group of 12-year-olds from West Side Collaborative Middle School in New York City talking about their experiences with race, racial identity, and racism. The featured students speak about their backgrounds, families, experiences with discrimination and stereotyping, and the confusion, fears, anxieties, and racial injustices they face in their everyday lives. The video is part of a multimedia project called Being 12: The Year Everything Changes, produced by pubic radio station WNYC.