January 31, 2016
Can a Black person be accused of cultural appropriation?
This is the question that’s arisen from Coldplay’s new video “Hymn for the Weekend” that features Beyoncé dressed as an Indian woman. Upon the debut of the video on Friday, a conversation quickly began, focused on Queen Bey’s sari, bindi and henna look.
As noted by The Root’s Angela Bronner Helm: The issue for some is that Beyoncé was making all sorts of twirling hand gestures that apparently don’t really mean anything and have no connection to authentic Indian dance. Additionally, there was a real Bollywood actress, Sonam Kapoor, in the video, but she plays the back significantly.
The conundrum in the controversy is that African-Americans, who are constant victims of cultural appropriation, aren’t often publicly on the other end of the offense. In their 2012 video for “Princess of China” Coldplay tapped Rihanna to be the lead, dressed in tradition Chinese attire. That video sparked controversy as well for mimicking a culture neither band nor featured singer were a part of.
In both videos the lead singer Chris Martin is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with no discerning cultural pickups.
We’re starting to see a trend here…
While the conversation is still going on, we should note that art is subjective. But on the same note, art can also be incredibly offensive.