Over the weekend, Kylie Jenner, a member of the Kardashian empire with an elusive capability to remain relevant, stirred up a cultural appropriation conversation when she posted a picture to her Instagram account with her hair in cornrows.
The 17-year-old captioned the picture "I woke up like disss" and, within moments, people became infuriated by the presumed cultural appropriation of her cornrow hairstyle.
Alongside generating the trending hashtag #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter, many weighed in on the controversy through social media, including Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg, who took on the reality TV star's photo:
But Justin Bieber, a longtime friend of Jenner with a bit of a background in being personally scrutinized thanks to his worldwide following, also shared his two cents, defending Jenner and attempting to put the conversation in perspective:
The quote reads:
"Guys leave her alone, were all trying to figure it out and she happens to be under a microscope! I'm the first to know this. But saying she's racist because she wants her hair in braids is ridiculous. lets focus on the bigger picture instead of fighting over something stupid lets do something about equality, but it doesn't start here blasting a 17-year-old kid for wearing braids smh"
While Stenberg's point is an important one, Bieber's should be heard as well. Though Jenner is a major figure in pop culture with access to a loud microphone to talk about important issues, it doesn't necessarily follow that she should be expected to do so at every possible moment. She is, after all, a teenager.
But more specifically, though cultural appropriation is undoubtedly a problem in pop culture, especially in fashion and music, putting one's hair into cornrows doesn't equal racism. And, as Bieber points out, unfortunately these kinds of conversations can turn attention away from the much larger societal problems of countless instances of racial inequality. Though events like the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner and the subsequent rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have reinvigorated a national conversation about racial inequality in the U.S., there's still a long way to go. Focusing on those issues should be the priority.