White people take everything. You call it corn; we call it appropriation. Let's start with the hair.
Zach DeLaRocha, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine and that yahoo from Counting Crows come to mind. And, no, Bo Derek did not invent nor did she do anything to heighten the beauty of cornrows or braids.
Attend any Hip Hop or Jazz concert, in Cincinnati anyway, and a large segment of the audience comprises majority people. Why is that? Well, black folks are notorious for taking our own culture for granted. Some of us would much rather spend Benjamins on nails, hair, rims, Timberlands, ice-encrusted platinum and bootleg CDs and videos rather than plop it down to experience culture in the flesh.
Then we complain about the lack of black-centered events brought here. It's not that they're that few and far between — we're just broke when they do come down the pike, having spent all our ends on what we're wearing and driving.
Further, many blacks hold narrow definitions of culture. The symphony? The opera? They hold little appeal. Meanwhile, boat rides and dances sponsored by mediocre black radio stations sell out. Emphasis on "sell out." (Oh, but the ride is phat!)
Another thing is that the average, working-hump black person will squeeze a dollar 'til it hollers and that's because, although we've got major spending power now, we haven't always.
So when a concert comes and it's only one act and the price of the ticket is more than 20 bucks, we start trippin'. But while we sit at home fuming over ticket prices, allowing our priorities to meander out of whack, white folks fill clubs and concert halls, absorbing our culture and end up superficially knowing more about us than we know of ourselves.
Some of this, I think has to do with two things. First, white America has very little original culture of its own, so it must take what's not its own. Again, appropriation.
Second, blacks are embarrassed by and therefore frightened at what we really embody, like the Blues. And I don't mean no Eric Clapton. I mean the Blues.
For an upwardly mobile black family living in West Chester with two kids and two SUVs, the Blues is scary. It requires too much work; there's too much remembering.
So add the lack of cultural originality to self-hatred, and you get a gaping hole. And then whites fill the hole with a cartoon — a caricature, really — of who and what they think we as black folks are.
As blacks, we chuck into this hole our own apathy, a treadmill-like quest for material wealth and constant comparisons of ourselves to elusive and silly white standards.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't mix. Some of my best friends are white. (Insert laugh here.)
What I am saying is that before we complain about this being a white world or that the white man's got his size 11D planted firmly and knowingly on our collective neck, we need to get off our duffs and back up our own arts. That means snuffing out the expectation that support from non-blacks will keep our arts and us alive and vital. (Note: This means more than donning your Sunday-go-to-meetin'-Color Purple clothes for one of those My Man Done Done Me Wrong or Mamma, I Wanna Sing Gospel "plays" at the Taft.)
And white folks, before you grow those mangy dreadlocks, pull your pants down past your ass and then mean-mug a sista for staring or pump your fists at a Hip Hop show, please stop.
Stop and think about how many close and sincere black friends you have or what your real interaction with blacks outside the office is based on. What's your motivation? Are blacks welcome at your dinner table, in your son's or daughter's bed or in your grandchildren's bloodline?
Think about how much black literature is on your bookshelf. How much black history do you know? How do you spend Martin Luther King's birthday? Do you appropriate because you're bored, because it's funny, because it's hip or because you don't know any better?
Or are you really down?
If so, I wanna be like you. White and a'ight.