Appropriation

First they’ll criticize our slang. Make us seem uneducated for using it, when the reality is they’re mad we can code switch. Then they’ll use our slang mockingly. Like they really don’t want to use it, but it’s so absurd they can’t help themselves. Then they’ll make money off our slang, t-shirts, cups, bracelets, etc. Then they’ll convince us it was never really ours. It’s been public domain forever.

Feel free to replace the word “Slang” with neighborhoods, and music too.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black...

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Just because they can dance, mimic our culture, and hang out with black people DOES NOT mean they are black. Being black is more than just our lit culture. They still get to go and get the jobs we will never get, see themselves represented in media, and receive all the perks of being white. So….

STOP. TELLING. YOUR. WHITE. FRIENDS. THAT. THEY. ARE. BLACK.

Cholas are more than Latina sidekicks for Lana Del Rey or concepts for Fergie’s music video. The chola aesthetic was first forged by the marginalized Mexican American youths of Southern California. It embodies the remarkable strength and creative independence it takes to survive in a society where your social mobility has been thwarted by racism. The chola identity was conceived by a culture that dealt with gang warfare, violence, and poverty on top of conservative gender roles. The clothes these women wore were more than a fashion statement—they were signifiers of their struggle and hard-won identity.

9 clueless things white people say when confronted with their own racism
July 11, 2014

Daring to talk about Iggy Azalea’s racism and cultural appropriation doesn’t make me a racist.

But judging from the tens of thousands of Web comments, tweets and Facebook posts about the piece, “How to talk to white people about Iggy Azalea,” those of us who dare criticize appropriation in hip-hop are part of the problem for “making this about race” and halting society from true progress on racial equity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s about time we unpack all of the clueless vitriol that often comes from white people when we dare to talk about race.

Unfortunately, this episode reinforces a dismal reality in our racial climate: We still haven’t arrived to a point where we can have an open, honest and productive conversation about racism. And, generally speaking, it’s really not anyone’s fault.

Unless you’ve gone to a university or a high school where the issue of privilege—racial and otherwise—has been the subject of a school workshop or a classroom discussion, reading articles about it on the Internet may very well be the first time you encounter the subject matter. And no one’s faulting you for that, because there’s even something to be said about the educational privilege that corresponds with having opportunities to access intellectually rigorous academic settings.

But now that we have the Internet, we have a community-sourced space to have these discussions organically. Because of the immense amount of information available, not just those long lists of cat GIFs, there’s not too much time left for excusing people who aren’t using it as a resource to learn about racial prejudice and white privilege.

It seems as though, when the conversation isn’t as clear cut, such as when whites use the n-word or refuse services based on skin color, just bringing up racism puts many on the defensive or prompts the angered denial of its existence. That’s the reaction many black and people of color are absolutely tired of receiving from so many people who have racial privilege, all of whom will never have any tangible idea of what it’s like to experience the daily social and institutional indignities of being non-white in America.

Many people of color want the space to discuss these issues within a culture where white voices are hyper-amplified––to have their voices heard and respected, even if the emotions come from a place of pain.

As people who benefit from racial privilege, whites can support the leadership of people of color by first challenging these deeply-ingrained myths about racism before entering into a conversation about it, especially with people of color:

1) “You’re racist for making this an issue of race.”

More often than not, when a person of color brings up racism, chances are there’s something problematic happening. It’d be naive to assume that people of color simply exist as opportunists who pounce on any single chance to make a big deal about racism. If you’re tired of hearing about racism, how tired do you think people of color are from having to live surrounded by racism in the first place?

2) “I don’t see race. I only see the human race.”

While this may sound revolutionary, so-called color-blindness is actually part of the problem. Not “seeing race” is simply a lazy coded phrase for deliberately ignoring the lingering elements of racism that actually need to be fixed and reinforces the privilege of being able to bypass the negative effects of racism in the first place. As the saying goes, “You can’t erase what you cannot face.”

3) “Talking about issues in terms of ‘white people’ and ‘white privilege’ is reverse racism.”

About that reverse racism thing… it doesn’t exist. It’s no secret that it is humanly possible for a person of color to be prejudiced against whites. Sometimes, it’s an attitude that develops over time because their experience with racism has drawn them to the conclusion that no “good” white people exist in the world. And although there’s a lot of healing that needs to happen in that much more seldom instance of prejudice, the attitude itself doesn’t come with an entire system of benefits and institutional power that being white affords in America. That’s the difference between racism and prejudice, because racism at its root is about supremacy.

4) “You [person of color] clearly don’t know what racism is. According to Webster’s Dictionary…”

Don’t do it. Step away from this infantilizing situation to avoid being a white person dictating how racism works to a person of color, despite their actual lived experiences with it. As for how Webster’s and other dictionaries defines the issue? The oversimplification is a topic that merits an entire thesis.

5) “You [person of color] said something about white people doing racist things, so I demand you explain this to me right now.”

People of color are not on-demand racial justice educators, especially if they have no relationship or affinity with someone seeking the knowledge. In the age of the Internet, if you don’t know someone from a particular community you can speak with, you can likely find those voices on blogs, on Twitter, or even in columns and news articles, talking about the very things you’re seeking to understand. Instead of taxing the already tapped reserves of people of color when dealing with racism, try self-educating before knocking on someone’s door.

6) “But my [person of color] friend said it was OK if I did it [racially problematic thing].”

Still, it’s not the best idea to apply that relational dynamic with one friend to an entire group of people, many of whom have a different relationship with certain words, phrases or actions. Would you touch the hair of a black female stranger just because your black female friend allows you to touch hers?

7) “Stop attacking me for having privileges just because I’m white. It’s racist and hurtful.”

When people critique racism and white privilege in America, they’re speaking generally about a system and not the individual. Unless, that is, an individual instance merits the person being held accountable for their actions (i.e. Donald SterlingPaula DeenIggy Azalea).

8) “I’m sick of pretending that [people of color] need special rights and programs just because they aren’t white. We have problems too, you know.”

To have problems in life is an inherent part of the human condition. But it takes humility, grace and empathy to take the time and space for reflection and self-examination to truly understand that some of us have it much better than others—despite our often half-hearted efforts to ensure equal opportunities for everyone, especially blacks and people of color. Yes, whites can be poor, or female, or LGBT, or immigrants, or have white skin but actually be multi-ethnic, the list goes on. That’s why intersectionality matters, and it includes an interrogation of racial privilege.

9) [Insert tear-filled expression of white privilege guilt or denial here.]

First, it’s okay to have emotions and to feel genuinely remorseful when it’s clear that a cruelly reprehensible system has been perpetuated in a word or an action. Emotional policing isn’t cool, and people of color know it all too well. However, more often than not, when the tears flow, they correlate with an outright rejection of the idea that whiteness in America is privileged and normalized in virtually every social and institutional structure. In this instance, instead of centering the many, intensely hurtful experiences of people of color, the person has derailed the conversation and made it completely about them.

It not only shifts accountability in a way that’s been historically dangerous, it also reinforces the very privilege being interrogated: Because these white tears and white feelings are often prioritized above the lived struggles of non-white people.

Derrick Clifton is a NYC-based journalist and writer primarily covering race, gender and LGBT issues, and their intersections with politics. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, or visit derrickclifton.com for more information on his work.

Photo via Iggy Azalea/YouTube

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Spoon Theory & “Appropriation”

So since Tumblr decided to drop this the first time that I posted it, here’s a briefer version of this:

I’ve been seeing it go ‘round the internets that ‘using the spoon theory when you are not disabled is appropriation.’

Lemme be the first person to say that a) that is not a universally-held view in the spoonie community b) we don’t have any universally-held views, c) I actually think that view is actively harmful and d) I’m not interested in arguing about it, just please stop saying “this is so.”

This is not so. You are not the gatekeeper to who can or cannot use a word. Unless you are the writer of the original spoon theory essay, you cannot say who can and cannot use that phrase.

Now, on to why I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

1) As neologisms become more common, they become more useful. If an able-bodied friend says “I’m running low on people spoons, can we skip the next thing?” I say “sweet, yes, I was feeling the same thing, let’s go home and watch TV.” Those able-bodied people are speaking my language, and they understand what I mean when I say spoons, and that’s because they’ve taken the time to figure out what that phrase means and how it works and how to use it. HOO-FUCKING-RAY.

2) Using “appropriation” in relation to a word that is younger than my middle dog is, uh, not good, y’all. Appropriation is for white people wearing dreadlocks and girls at Coachella wearing bindis and fucking Chief Illiniwek and the Redskins. Appropriation is for Whole Foods putting peanuts in collard greens and white girls with no training or appreciation painting their hands with random hearts and flowers in henna and buying cheap-ass turquoise jewelry made in China rather than getting it from Native artists. 

Spoonie culture is a baby culture. (Note: this does not apply to all disabled culture, for example D/deaf culture is pretty long-lived.) We should maybe just chill the fuck out before we start yelling appropriation! because yes our problems are many but people using spoon theory to describe how tired they are is not one of them. 

3) AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: By saying “able-bodied people should not use this,” you are setting yourself and other visibly or openly disabled persons as gatekeepers for the use of this term. You are saying: “you better be out about your disability or you can’t use it, because we’re gonna drag you/call you out about it.”

No one - not you, not me, not anybody else - gets to check anybody’s Cripple Card ™, unless it’s the police literally checking to see if I have my wallet card for my disability placard with me. No one does. No one gets to say “nah, you’ve only got anxiety, you’re not disabled enough.” No one gets to say “you have to disclose your disability or you do not get to use this term.”

Because that’s basically what the upshot of this is: unless you are openly out as disabled, you will not be able to use this term without fear of repercussion – and this site especially is fucking heartlessly beastly sometimes. We eat our own, especially in this baby community of spoonies where we should take best care of each other. 

So, tl;dr: please stop saying ‘this is appropriative’ like we had some spoonie meeting and decided on it, because we didn’t; use of a term makes it more accessible; appropriation as a term doesn’t actually belong to us, we should kinda stay in our lanes here; and please think through what it means when you say ‘no one able-bodied should use this.’ It means you’re saying you feel like you get to determine who can use a term, therefore who is disabled enough, therefore you’re gonna be checking Cripple Cards™ at the door.

No you’re not. 

(Yes, I realize some disabled persons feel Cripple is a slur. I use it as a word of pride. I will not star it out. If it offends you, I’m sorry for the hurt that causes you, but I will not stop using it.)

kansas' anti-gay law is fucked up but let's nip this whole appropriating-60s-civil-rights-terminology thing in the bud please

this is not the “anti-gay jim crow”

jim crow is not a generic term and in general we need to stop doing the gay-rights-is-the-new-black-rights thing 

while we’re trying to discuss queerness in america we don’t need to be reinforcing antiblackness by perpetuating the idea that racism ended in the 60s

okay thanks

What Iggy Azalea fails to understand is that people’s issues with her are not necessarily about her being white or a woman—but rather, the cultural and historical significance her presence as a white woman in hip-hop holds. Statements by Questlove were right in suggesting that hip hop isn’t a monolith and that “you have to let go of something you love,” meaning that part of the power of hip hop lies in its global appeal. It can’t be denied as an art form that provides millions of people from around the world and from various backgrounds with a way to express and give voice to their lived experiences and the issues they face. Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. is a great example of the power of hip hop, as she uses the genre to talk about her unique background.

However, Iggy Azalea has done none of this. Instead, she has performed a caricature of hip hop, basing her rap persona on stereotypes of Southern Black women—using Black women’s language, getting praised for having the same physical attributes that millions of Black women have, but we are still deemed as undesirable. And this is what many people find to be problematic about her. That she tries to peddle herself off as an emcee who cares about feminism and women’s empowerment, as she insults and disrespects millions of Black women daily, is why many of us can’t get down with her.

Dear white girl with a bindi…

Sara Alfageeh’s other work for Coming of Faith can be found here.

anonymous asked:

There's been an ongoing conversation about the usage of black slang(like "fam" and "woke") by non-black people, and I was wondering what is your opinion on it? Is it okay to use slang/vernacular from a culture that isn't yours? I'd never thought about where I get the words I use before, but now I wonder whether the slang I've subconsciously learned on Internet is cultural appropriation.

I’m sure I don’t have the answer on this, and I’d love to hear from @allthingslinguistic and @superlinguo, as they’ll have a better idea how academic linguistics weighs in on this.

One thing to keep in mind throughout the following discussion: No one owns a language.

Language is a tough nut to crack because it simply is. The natural languages on Earth weren’t created by any one person—or any group of people—and they simply evolved into different forms, with no cutoff between one language being one thing (e.g. Old English) and then something else (e.g. Modern English). If you want a very cut and dried example of appropriation and its effects, there’s a wonderful (and short) example in the movie Bring It On (the cheerleading one starring Kirsten Dunst).

For those who haven’t seen it, Kirsten Dunst plays a white cheerleader at a high school in San Diego. Eliza Dushku plays a new recruit who transfers from a school in LA. On viewing their practice Dushku calls out Kirsten, saying that all of their routines have been stolen from a black cheerleading squad at a high school she’s familiar with in Compton. Kirsten is unaware of this—as is everyone on the team—because it’s their coach that stole the routines and presented them as something new and original. Once they realize this—and meet the squad they’ve unwittingly disenfranchised—they determine to create new original routines.

This is a handy example because it’s nice and neat: The white group stole something from the black group that the white group would not have come up with on their own. Furthermore, the theft is demonstrably detrimental, as the white group is at a school famous for its cheerleading which has a lot more visibility on the national stage, so they’re a shoe-in for competitions; the black group is not. Also it’s very clear that the white group itself isn’t at fault: there was a single person at fault (the coach), and the group was unaware. Making things even better, once the group is made aware, they make the conscious decision to abandon the stolen routines, and even manage, via their status, to raise the visibility of the disenfranchised group, allowing them to compete on the national stage (and, as I recall, they win, too—the group from Compton).

Now let’s move back to language. Part of what makes language muddy and situations like the one in Bring It On simple is everything can be identified in the latter: The group from Compton created the routines; one single person was responsible for stealing the routines; it is easily demonstrable that the theft benefits the privileged group and disenfranchises the original creators. With language, it’s rarely ever clear who invented what. It’s also rarely ever clear who was responsible for a linguistic element moving from the in group to the out group. It’s also near impossible to say what the damage is when some word or phrase moves from one group to another. Only one thing is clear: Everyone is Kirsten Dunst in this scenario. Language comes and you use it. You don’t know where it came from or why: It’s just there.

Take the examples you listed above—“fam” and “woke”, or another one of my favorites, “bae”. No one can say where precisely they came from, but I can tell you this: If you know those words it is already too late. They’re out. They’ve hopped the fence. No one can control them anymore. This article cites a website that tracks the use of words in rap songs, and it claims that “bae” has been showing up in rap songs since 2005.

Let me say that again: In rap songs. Published rap songs that anyone can listen to. Unless the first rapper to use it in a song actually invented it, it seems likely that the word was already in use and had spread quite a bit. If it started out as a regionalism, it was now a colloquialism. When it gets to a popular medium like music, though, it’s likely that someone will hear it and not know that it started out as a regionalism. If you hear a word you don’t know all you know is that you don’t know it. Once you know it, though, you can use it. And unless someone specifically tells you not, you will.

Now, when can someone tell you not to use a word? That’s an interesting question. I always rely on the general tenet that one shouldn’t make fun of or disparage others. If it can be demonstrated that using a word does precisely that, intentionally or unintentionally, that’s reason enough to tell someone not to use a word (ahem, Washington football team). Furthermore, these things can be successful. Stewardess is one example (a gendered and, given the associations, a somewhat disparaging word). When I was growing up, everyone used it. Now no one does: Everyone uses flight attendant. I don’t know how it happened, but it did, and it was damn effective. Same thing happened with gyp (meaning to cheat). I used this all the time as a kid, because I learned it and used it. Everyone did. I had absolutely no idea that “gyp” was short for “gypsy”, and that the etymology was “to behave like a gypsy towards someone”. If you’d asked me then, I probably would’ve thought you spelled it jip, because institutional racism against the Roma people is so much more prevalent in Europe than it is in the United States. When someone finally told me that that’s where that word came from, I was shocked, because the notion is so remote to most Americans. But I did immediately stop using it. And I’ve noticed it’s simply not common anymore, which is a good thing. I’m in California, so I can’t speak for the rest of the US, but I don’t see it a lot online, either.

These movements can also be overt, and can often be effective. When I was in high school, “gay” as an insult was extremely common. There were groups that actively campaigned against that, though (as a basketball fan, I loved that this commercial was played regularly during games), and, YouTube comments aside, it’s been pretty effective. “Gay” as an insult is nowhere near as common as it was. In short, if it’s a societal push, you can actually banish words from the lexicon.

Back to the question that opened the previous paragraph, should we not be using “bae”? Tough to say if it’s hard to say who “we” is. That is, using “gay” as an insult is clearly disparaging to homosexuals. Using “bae” for one’s significant other, though, doesn’t really disparage anybody. That is, unless one is using the word to mock a hypothetical black user of the word, in which case the message shouldn’t be don’t use “bae”, but rather, uh, don’t mock anyone for the way they speak. When it comes to teasing people for comedy, they’d better be on even footing with you (so it’s just as likely that they could be teasing you), and you shouldn’t ever mock something someone has absolutely no control over, such as the circumstances of their birth, the color of their skin, or the way they speak their own language.

This should, in my opinion, take precedence over trying to puzzle out who came up with which word, and whether or not one is sufficiently a part of a given group to use it. Especially in casual usage, it’s not clear what advantages a non-black English speaker is gaining by using a word like “bae” that a black English speaker is missing out on. Being a rapper paid to use language is one thing; being a person with a Tumblr is another.

Also it’s important to separate vocabulary from grammar. AAE isn’t just a set of vocabulary: It’s a distinct and consistent way of speaking the English language. One can use a noun or two without coming anywhere close to trying to use AAE.

Also when it comes to vocabulary it’s important to have a bit of perspective. Words like “fam” and “woke” and “bae” are quite new in the general public consciousness. They may be here to stay; they may not. Other words from AAE and elsewhere have come and gone, and others have come and stayed, but no one is complaining about those that have stayed. For example, both “old school” and “back in the day” are from black English—and fairly recently, too—but they are absolutely a part of English now. You can’t even say “back in the old days” or “way back when” anymore without it sounding folksy. I knew “back in the day” had moved into common parlance when I met my wife @thisallegra who used it all the time, but who apparently had no idea it came from black English (I, of course, remembered it from the song, which is the first place I heard it, since I listened almost exclusively to rap between 1991 and 1994). If she was just using it without any idea that it should be tagged as a regionalism, it was already on its way to becoming standard English.

I do have a theory as to why it stuck around, though, and this’ll take me to “bae”. “Back in the old days” has always suggested old-timeyness. You could say it, and it conveyed the same meaning, but it carried a sense of…not disparagement, but non-seriousness with it. That is, if you say “back in the old days”, you can expect whoever you’re talking to to take what you’re saying with a grain of salt. There’s actually no such judgment with “back in the day”. If anything, it suggests reverence. I don’t recall any such expression that existed before that (or nothing as compact), meaning that the expression filled a gap: It was useful. That’s why it made the jump.

And that brings us to bae. The most common way to refer to one’s significant other is “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. These are gendered terms. Of late, we’ve been pushing to find non-gendered terms for roles and words that, previously, have been gendered. What doe sone do for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? What’s English got? Significant other? Too clunky. Boyfriend or girlfriend? I’ve seen it (e.g. “Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?”), but it’s both clunky and exclusive (it refers to someone that is either male or female and that’s it). S.O.? I’ve seen it, but it’s not common. Baby? Still reads as female, most of the time (one of the many words that isn’t gendered but still has de facto gender coding). So what else is there? Using someone like honey? Too specific.

Think about it. This was a pretty serious gap in English. We just didn’t have a good word to refer to a significant other without referring to their gender. Pretty lame. English speakers the world over have had ample opportunity to come up with something to fill this gap. No one did. Until bae.

Is it any wonder that people everywhere are using “bae” now? It seriously codes as completely gender-irrelevant. It’s pretty useful that way (e.g. I’ve seen that meme where it says “when you’re waiting for bae to text you back”, and it can pair with any image, regardless of gender. It’s great!). And my read on it (feel free to comment) is that there is absolutely no default gender for “bae”. It’s not a term that mainly refers to men that can be used for women, or vice-versa. You can use it to refer to any person who identifies as any gender. Far from worrying about whether or not we should use it on account of cultural appropriation, we should find the person(s) who invented it and give them a damn medal. Since it’s language, though, we’ll likely never know.

So, long answer to a short question, this is about where I land on the issue. Ask yourself: Am I actively disparaging or mocking someone by using a particular word? If not, does the word ultimately derive from a slur or insult? If not, am I capitalizing on someone else’s work and benefitting from it? If not, am I misrepresenting myself and the way I ordinarily speak? If the answer to all those questions is “no”, you should be good. That’s my 2¢. I look forward to hearing what others in or adjacent to linguistics have to say.

10

Assorted work by Chad Wys (web/tumblr/fb)

  • Opus 2 (Arrangement In Skintones), digital chromogenic print, 2012
  • Castrophia, paint on laser print, 2012
  • The Girl With Stars In Her Eyes, paint on found ceramic bust, 2014
  • Garage Sale Painting Of Peasants With Color Bars, paint on found painting and frame, 2011
  • Portrait Of A Woman With Deletions, paint on found print, 2010
  • Nocturne 109, digital chromogenic print, 2011
  • Thrift Store Landscape With A Color Test, paint on found canvas and frame, 2009
  • A Grecian Bust With Color Tests, paint on found stone sculpture, 2013
  • Brutalized Gainsborough 2, paint on laser print, 2009
  • Hymn 32, digital chromogenic print, 2013
Learning a sign language is NOT cultural appropriation.

That might be the most backwards possible way of looking at it, and I seriously doubt it has ever been said by an actual Deaf person.

Sign language is necessary for interacting with the Deaf community in any really efficient way, which is the same way it works for any other linguistic minority. Deaf people benefit from as many people knowing sign language as possible.

The only way sign language could be appropriative is if you are only learning it to make fun of it, for example if you only learn how to sign about sex, bathroom use, and profanity. Turning it into an accessory is one definition of appropriation.

Actual appropriation of Deaf culture would look like:

  • Giving out sign names in ways that are not culturally expected
  • Wearing hearing aids or the exterior parts of cochlear implants as fashion accessories
  • Voicing with a fake deaf accent

I was one of the first black women in the country, more years ago than I care to remember, who wore an afro ‘outside,’ in public. This was way before Star Trek. I wore one of the biggest afros in New York, but I wore it with Dior and Chanel suits. One of the other persons who was the first to wear an afro, but she cut it very short, was Cicely Tyson.

But when it came time to do the Star Trek movie, I had to fight for that afro. It was nothing against the afro, but the feeling was that the afro had become so very popular that it looked too contemporary.

I said, 'However, the afro is not modern, the afro has been around for at least not less than 5,000 years and probably at least 10,000. I’m not sure how long we’ve been on the planet, but as long as there have been black people the afro has been around.’

Then they said, 'Well, it can’t be the big bubble, so let’s try to get a more “Uhura’ style.” I said, 'What are you going to do, deny her race and make her hair straight again? If we’re going to have to live through that again…’ They assured me that what they had in mind was more of a balance, and we agreed.

We said, 'OK, women in the future will do all kinds of things, as they have in the past. For 5,000 years and more they’ve straightened their hair and curled it and rolled it and twisted it and braided it and twirled it and shaved it off and done everything under the sun. And so, in the future, it’s very conceivable that, just as we do today, black people will do these twirly-curl kind of things, and point their bangs, and this would be peculiar to Uhura: the pointed bangs and long sideburns.’

[…] To tell the truth, I really wanted cornrow braids. And don’t you dare call them 'Bo Derek braids!’ That’s something that we’ve been doing for thousands of years before she was born!

— 

Nichelle Nichols in Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek The Motion Picture. h/t the Women of Star Trek Facebook page.

I love this so, so much. It really speaks to issues that black women in Hollywood and everyday life are still facing today around the shaming of natural hair that comes with the assumption that the beauty standard to appeal to is that of white women’s hair. And it touches on cultural appropriation of black hairstyles like cornrows by white people! Nichelle Nichols is so the most amazing.