On Kylie's Cornrows, Amandla, and the Politics of Hair

Did she really 'woke up like disss'? Does it matter?

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On Sunday, Kylie Jenner posted an image of herself wearing cornrows with a caption that read: ‘I woke up like disss…’ And not surprisingly, people had feelings about it. 

I woke up like disss

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Amandla Stenberg kicked the debate off with this, in response to a commenter who used the hashtag #whitegirlsdoitbetter:

Oop!!! The shade is real !!! #KylieJenner vs #AmandlaStenberg !! #ClapBackSeason

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Roughly 140K+ comments later, Justin Bieber weighed in with this:

#JustinBeiber backed up #KylieJenner on wearing her hair in cornrows

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And because the discussion wasn't tense enough, Bravo host Andy Cohen, Laverne Cox and Andre Leon Talley decided to take things to an especially classy level by participating in a gossip segment that declared Amandla a 'Jackhole of the Week'. 

We've seen these debates about cornrows pop up before, around Kendall, Cara, Kim, etc. And honestly I don't blame them for wanting to wear cornrows. Cornrows look awesome. It becomes a problem, however, when cornrows are reported on or discussed as being new or trendy, BECAUSE Kendall, or Cara or Kylie is wearing them. (Cornrows are in fact centuries-old, and they originated in Africa.) Case in point: Google 'The best cornrows on Instagram' and you get a photo of Kendall. So Amandla has a point here. That said, it's hard for me to see the value in engaging in an argument over a hairstyle a Jenner wore for less than 24 hours when we have black churches being burned across America, and black girls and boys being killed over the colour of their skin. 

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Don't get me wrong, Amandla is a really bright young voice. This is a 16-year-old girl who speaks out about identity in an intelligent, relatable way and that's an inspiring thing. The YouTube video she made back in April, 'Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows,' was a brilliant commentary on the history of black hair and the age-old, yet increasingly common practice of cultural appropriation.  Her voice is needed. But we've got bigger fires to put out right now. And those fires are literal. 

Besides, rather than devote any more Internet inches to how someone got cornrows wrong, I’d much rather scroll through images of girls who got it right. Here are some of my favourites. 

I love my forehead ...

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#chignon #mohawk #updo #protectivestyles #tresses #cornrows #twist #braider #dyacoiffure #gwada #971

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