My Culture and My Body Are Not Your Trends

We are always the trendsetters, those of us from marginalized communities who grew up and were told that we need to aspire to whiteness to be successful.
And you were told that. I promise. There’s a reason that none of the faces on magazine covers looked like yours, why news anchors never looked liked you, and why our features were never seen as being “enough.”
You can disagree with me, but it’s true. And look at us now. We see white girls in bindis, everyone practices yoga, and your neighbor down the street serves hummus with her meatloaf.  She takes bellydance classes every Saturday, and there’s a “Make a America Great Again” sign in her front yard.

Are we in a beautiful post-race age?  Not even close.

I would love to look beyond race and appropriation, but in order for that to happen someone needs to build a time machine and un-colonize the world. You could say that as human beings, we’ve been colonizing each other from time….but populations colonizing each other is different than ENTIRE COUNTRIES colonizing one another.
Columbus, thanks for ruining the world.
But back to trends…have you realized how everything comes full circle? As a kid, you were made fun of mercilessly for having a different sounding name…and now all those kids are literally competing with each other to find the most unique name for their kid.
“But Eman, maybe everyone is learning to appreciate culture,” you argue.
Nope sorry, too late for that. We bully minority populations that embrace their culture full throttle, and then when they assimilate, decide that we like “ethnic” as long as it’s on us. And the us is–let’s face it–white society.

Because let’s me honest, what’s “ trendy” right now is a black woman’s body, Middle Eastern-inspired makeup and East Indian culture. The catch is that these trends are only admired and appreciated on white bodies.

And when I say “white people” I don’t mean individuals, I mean the structure of the society that we live in that systemically oppresses non-white people.

People get very sensitive when you question their privilege, but making people comfortable is not my priority when it comes to justice and equality.

All my girls with thick bushy eyebrows, what was growing up like for you? Did you feel pressured to pluck and shape your beautiful brows? I remember as a kid on Eid, my mom wouldn’t let me wear henna to school because she was worried I would be made fun of. I’m East African; henna is a huge part of our culture, and my mother felt like she had to protect me from my identity in order for me to be safe at my all-white school.
Now those same kids that my mother thought she had to protect me from are advertising their henna-tattooing services on instagram.
Corn rows? Same deal. I’m a curly haired girl, and as a child corn-rows were the only way my mother could tame my hair. Kids are always mean, but they’re especially mean if you are different. Now THOSE SAME GIRLS are rocking my third grade hair and calling it Khloe Kardashian inspired braids.
My body is not a trend. My culture is not a trend. I will not pay $20 for coconut oil because white culture has suddenly discovered what my ancestors have been using from time, and let capitalism have their way with it.
We are the trend setters, all of us from marginalized communities. And it’s time that we start accepting our trends, our bodies, and our aesthetic without the approval of the white gaze.