Let me get these annoyances off my mind. Ariana Grande’s finally pushed her culture appropriation to the limit and the Grammy’s disrespected Motown with that J. LO tribute. I get tired of seeing people disrespect Black American culture time and time again. We’re always being gaslighted into accepting this. “iT’S a foRM oF fLAttERy!” “tHErE iS nO SUCH tHInG aS BlACK OR wHItE CUlTuRE.” The thing is it’s not flattering to see someone watering down what your people have created, being credited for it and profiting from it. Especially considering that our culture has been slandered by the same people who claim to be influenced by it. Every ethnic group has their own culture. Every culture deserves to be respected. You can’t take pieces from every culture and claim it as “everyone’s,” because it is not. My issue is that there are no boundaries for Black American culture. Even people of color who understand culture appropriation, don’t carry the same rules when it comes to our culture.
Jennifer Lopez had no business performing a Motown tribute. Motown is a Black American music genre. If anyone should’ve performed the tribute, it should’ve been a Black American artist. Now, Smokey Robinson did choose J. LO to perform, but Black people enabling culture vultures has been a problem for a long time. Jennifer already used Black culture to put her on the map back in the late 90s and 2000s. She was hanging around Black celebrities like P. Diddy before she went mainstream. We didn’t forget about her thinking it was okay to say “nigga” in “I’m Real.” Or how Ashanti’s vocals were used in her songs. Like many non-Black artists, she used Black culture as a career boost and discarded it. Now here she is performing a tribute to these legendary and barrier breaking, Black artists. As anti-Black as the Latinx community is, could you imagine the backlash a Black entertainer would get for performing a tribute to some of their music? Even if the person is Afro-Latinx themselves?
Now onto Ariana Grande. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. She’s one of the few current pop artists I even listen to. She was always more on the side of cultural appreciation than culture appropriation. Ariana had a few R&B samples and rappers featured in her music. She has always showed appreciation for legendary Black singers like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Ariana was never disrespectful towards Black culture until she released her single, “7 Rings,” a few weeks ago. Rapping about her weaves with her bronzed skin and the Trap House museum in the background of her music video. Now the girl is using AAVE (incorrectly) non-stop. Ugh, I love Ariana Grande. But I have to say that I am bothered by her new “hood” aesthetic. She is tip-toeing into Miley Cyrus territory of cultural appropriation now. I think that because of her Black fans, like me, never seeing her appreciation for Black culture as offensive, she felt that she could continue pushing those boundaries. Her cultural appreciation has now turned into cultural appropriation. I can’t help but wonder if she will use this new “hood” persona as a phase then abandon it and dismiss it the same way Miley has.
There was a lot of backlash from the Jennifer Lopez tribute and Ariana Grande’s music video. But there are also people who cannot see the issue with it. I saw Latinx using their love for Motown music as justification. I saw Black people using Ariana’s use of R&B music in the past as justification. Someone’s love for our culture doesn’t give them permission to disrespect it. Like I’ve said before, Black American culture is seen as more of a “free-for-all,” than an actual culture. People can use it and discard it whenever they feel like it. Black people allow this because we see it as flattering. There are no boundaries or respect for our culture the same way there are for others.