Black racial identity in America is a complex thing, to say the least. While there is no single black culture, as black people as a group are extremely diverse, there is generally a considerable measure of pride and protectiveness that is inherent in black identity. This is the reason why many of us cringe at Macklemore being chosen over Kendrick Lamar in a “hip hop” category, why we celebrated so hard for Obama, and why we have no problem deleting childhood friends from our social media accounts if they post pics of themselves in blackface for Halloween.
It is for these reasons that we may not know how to feel about B-Stylers, a subculture of Japanese young adults who idolize “black culture,” and show it by tanning their skin weekly/ applying dark foundation, wearing “urban” attire, and having African hairstylists braid their hair or insert coarse weaves.
While there is a part of us that may be flattered by a group that so clearly idolizes a certain segment of black culture, there is another part of us that may be troubled by others performing blackness as a fad– a costume to be worn during a phase, and discarded when it no longer suits the wearer.
Some may ask how B-Stylers differ from black women who straighten their hair, go to SoulCycle, or “perform whiteness” in other ways. Maybe there is no difference. After all, do we not all have the right to break free from uniformity and embrace aspects of other cultures that we admire? Sure we do. But as in all things, the key to successful navigation of these waters will be to do so with respect, and with a nuanced understanding of the culture that you seek to emulate, steering clear of oversimplifications of what it means to be a member of a given race. In other words, keep the weave, lose the Black for Life t-shirt?