Rasta Trent: Epitome of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: The unhealthy aspect of multiculti, where a more powerful culture raids a less powerful neighboring culture … and appropriates aspects of that culture without proper acknowledgment of the “home culture” or understanding the cultural context from which these aspects spring. Examples: yoga, Buddhism, hip hop and ebonics-derived slang, Asian and Tribal tattoos, etc.

To many, the term implies that culture can actually be “stolen” through cultural diffusion.

So this brings us toRasta Trent“, an amazing audiovisual clip from Saturday Night Live. Trent is a white boy from the suburbs, going to University, singing and posing as a Rastafarian. It is satire, yet the irony of it is that the cultural appropriation of a black culture by white people is so extremely prevalent and normalized in this society.

Here we have Trent, an all-American, blue-eyed, blonde-haired white kid, attempting to act like he’s a black Rastafarian from Jamaica.

It hits the spot for me, I can laugh at it because it is absolutely ridiculous. It is the epitome of offensive theft of an oppressed culture. Exposing how white boys want to be cool by acting like they belong to or can understand what it’s like to be apart of a black culture. All I see is blonde dreads, complete white/middle class privilege, and a total lack of awareness. The best part is when Rasta Trent is singing and he walks by a group of black Rastafarians, and suddenly gets really nervous and mumbles his words, then picks up again once he’s passed them. Talk about white guilt to bring you some self-awareness. Oh and WTF is Nayabingi!?!?

Watch the video of Ras Trent!!!


2 responses to “Rasta Trent: Epitome of Cultural Appropriation

  1. If a person gets dreads so they can “act black” or pretend to be rasta, then yeah, it’s cultural appropriation, and isn’t any more appropriate than somebody wearing a feathered headdress and dancing around in their back yard, pretending to be Native American. However, dreads themselves are not exclusive to rastas, and while they may be a religious symbol to some, many cultures, though most notably African ones, have worn them way before Rastafarianism even existed. If a non-black person wants to wear a hairstyle because they’re part of a certain modern subculture (for example, dreads are common in the Industrial and Metal subcultures), I don’t think it’s any sort of cultural appropriation. If a non-black person gets dreads because their hair is frizzy and they just don’t want to deal with it, I don’t think it’s any sort of cultural appropriation. But when they get them so they can play “African” or something of that sort, and they essentialize the culture of a whole continent into a fashion trend (like that “tribal chic” crap that currently is pretty big), then yeah, I think it’s wrong. Same goes for Mohawk haircuts. If you get the haircut so you can “play Indian” and pretend that you’re part of a certain culture that you know nothing about, it’s wrong. But if you get it because it’s comfortable and cool on your scalp, or just because you’re a punk and it’s not just a part of Mohawk culture, but a part of punk culture, it’s different. Intent and context are everything with this. Obviously, if it’s an object that is just a religious/sacred object used by only one culture/religion, it should be off-limits for fashion purposes (for example, wearing a rosary as a necklace, a sacred Native feathered headdress, or a yamaka because you think it’s cool), but if it’s something that isn’t viewed as sacred and you don’t wear it to mock or essentialize a whole culture/race, it should be fine and nobody should get beef about it.

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