It was senior year of college when I was working on a photography project with my Jamaican classmate. As we talked, music somehow became the focus of our conversation. She ended up playing some reggae which I didn’t really connect with since I couldn’t understand the words. She could tell by my reaction and remarked, “it’s not my fault you don’t have any culture.” As an African American, the comment aggravated me, because I’d heard comments like that my entire life. There is an idea that African Americans are culture-less. However, that is a flat-out lie. African Americans absolutely have culture. We have a culture that keeps getting stolen from us.
A discussion of African American history typically revolts around slavery and Jim Crow. There is more to the African American experience than being the target of oppression. African Americans are thought to be discounted from African culture, however, that’s not quite true. When they were taken from their homeland, African American slaves took their culture with them. While American colonizers attempted to erase their identities and force them to assimilate into Western culture, they could not completely take African culture from African slaves. This resulted in African American culture, which is a fusion of Western culture and African traditions. For instance soul food, which is a blend of African cooking techniques and ingredients found in North America.
All over America, there are some many variations of African American culture. Whether it is music, food, language, or fashion, the presence of our style is everywhere. Non-African American groups, however, decide to appropriate our culture when they want. Perhaps the biggest example of that is Rock N’ Roll. Black artists like Little Richard were the creators of Rock N Roll. However, once it started to grow in popularity, rock labels realized that it was marketable to a white audience. So, they used their money and influence to push out black rock musicians, and bring in, white artists. They managed to erase blackness from Rock N Roll and whitewash it.
So, it’s not that African Americans do not have a culture; It’s that outside groups keep ravaging African American culture for their own convenience. We created all American music yet we only get credit for a couple of genres. There are white people who wear our hairstyle, even though they are appropriating our culture. People who have never come an inch into our communities are using slang like squad goals and gang gang. People, who are not us, simply freely use our culture and claim it as their own.
If you like African American culture, then respect African Americans. Do not tell us that we don’t have a culture when it’s all around you.