Andy Cohen and Laverne Cox are doubling down following a recent episode of “Watch What Happens Live.” Both Cox and Cohen were criticized, alongside fashion editor André Leon Talley, after Cohen called Stenberg a “jackhole” for her supposed Instagram “feud” with Kylie Jenner. In reality, Stenberg had simply commented on Jenner’s Instagram picture about the exploitation of black culture, after Jenner posted a sultry selfie, sporting some cornrows.
Neither Cox nor Talley decided to stick up for the teen, instead laughing along with Cohen’s joke.
Many people were understandably upset at a grown man calling a teenage girl names as other adults laughed along. Last night the hashtag #BoycottBravo starting trending, prompting a response from Cohen.
I want to apologize to Amandla. I didn’t understand the larger context of this cultural discussion and TRULY meant no disrespect to her or anyone else.
I want to apologize to Amandla. I didn't understand the larger context of this cultural discussion and TRULY (cont) http://t.co/zRSOm2rxtN
— Andy Cohen (@Andy) July 14, 2015
Cox also responded via Twitter, stating that she didn’t know who Amandla Stenberg was until after the show. She also posted a longer essay about cultural appropriation, to her Tumblr page, stating that she appreciated what Stenberg had to say on the subject, but did not apologize.
Many are taking me to task for not defending Amandla Stenberg who I now know is a 16 year old black actress known for her work in the “Hunger Games” who has spoken out quite eloquently on the topic of cultural appropriation. In researching Amandla’s work and words, I was very impressed with a video I saw from her on cultural appropriation where she chronicled a recent history of cultural appropriation and black hair specifically. (https://youtu.be/O1KJRRSB_XA)
I was most moved by the question she poses at the end of her video, a question I, too, have asked from lecture stages. “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
For me this is the question at the heart of the discussion about cultural appropriation. What of the people whose culture is being mined for the ingredients that can be used in mainstream contexts to spice up the otherwise familiar recipes?
Far too often culture is appropriated without an understanding of the history and hardships from which that culture emerges. How do we lovingly make people aware of that history and the potential affects of cultural appropriation that further marginalize and stigmatize those already the most adversely affected by systems that disadvantage certain experiences, bodies and identities over others? These are points Amandla makes beautifully in her video.
Both Cohen and Cox’s statements have garnered some understandably mixed reactions.