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KENDI: An Open Response to the Instagram Comments on Adele’s Cultural Appropriation Post

Kendi K
Sep 5, 2020 - 11:00

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If you haven’t yet seen the controversial Instagram post from music artist Adele, I’ll give a short description. 

The caption reads “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London” British flag emoji. Jamaican flag emoji. 

The Notting Hill Carnival is an event that has taken place in London every year since 1966. It is a celebration of London’s Caribbean community and operates as a parade festival mix with thousands flocking to the streets in colorful costumes, singing, dancing and having an overall grand time celebrating their heritage. 

The caption is fine. It’s the image itself that stirred some ill feelings. 

In the picture, Adele, a British white woman, stands wearing a bikini top with the Jamaican flag printed across, a bright yellow feather piece attached to her back in bookbag fashion, and bantu knots in her dirty blonde hair. 

Bantu knots are a protective hairstyle typically worn by people with thick coily hair, meaning mostly Black / Afrikan people. Adele’s hairstyle sparked accusations of cultural appropriation, which is extremely fair considering the discrimination Black people have faced due to their natural hair.  

But I’m not here to debate or explain what counts as cultural appropriation. There’s enough articles, books and essays written on the subject. It’s what I read in the comments of the post that really disturbed me. 

Of the over 131,000 comments the post amassed, it was this comment that caught my attention. It went something along the lines of, 

“Only Black Americans are offended by this ‘cultural appropriation.’ Africans do not care. You all are insecure and don’t know your true culture. Go visit home.”

“Go visit home.” That’s the line that struck a chord. To dismiss the protest of Black Americans and excuse what was, at the very least, a questionable choice on Adele’s part by telling us to “go visit home” baffled me. 

What “home” was this comment referring to? 

The continent of Afrika of which I have no clue where exactly my people originate because they were stolen and their identities erased over years of enslavement? 

That home? 

The home I have tried desperately to pinpoint using the Ancestry DNA test I was so excited to take at twelve years old. The one that told me I may or may not have 26 different countries in my blood and keeps changing the results?

Those homes? Tell me, which of these maybe homes should I go visit first?

This comment and the thousands echoing its message not only invalidate the very real existence of Black American culture as it stands on its own, but it also fails to take into consideration the fact that most Black Americans have no way of knowing where their DNA deems “home.”

For me, visiting home means visiting Kentucky. The earliest relative my mother could find in her months of research was her great-great-great-great Grandfather Henry McAtee, an enslaved man who fought for our freedom in the Civil War.  He is my earliest notion of home. 

Yes, I will admit there is a level of pain in not knowing how deep my roots grow. 

I would give most anything to have the luxury of being able to trace my being back thousands of years to an Afrika untouched by colonization, but I am proud of the history I do have, the ancestors I do know.

They survived so much. 

They tore through tough soil to plant new roots, left room for me to continue their growth, to be the ancient ancestor I will never know but will one day be for someone else. 

So what I really want to say in response to the comment on Adele’s post, and the thousands like it, telling Black Americans to stifle their pain and protest and “go visit home,” I say I am so happy you have the privilege of knowing just where your home is. I say, since my great-great-great-great grandfather did not have the privilege of going back home, he made one for me here in America.

And it is imperfect. 

And I hate it so often I have thought of abandoning it time and time again. 

But a piece of this country was carved out by him just for me. So I will fight to make it better in the hopes that one day my great-great-great-great grandkids will have a country they are proud to call home. 

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