Bey Been On Or Has She? Can Black People Appropriate Black Culture?

There has been a lot of talk about Miley Cyrus and her sudden in black ratchet culture. Although I have strong opinions about her, she won’t be mentioned pass this paragraph. I already wrote an article about white girl cultural appropriation. This post was sparked by a tweet I saw that insinuated black people could appropriate black culture. My knee-jerk reaction caused me to deny that possibility. As I continued to think about it, I can to the conclusion that it could be a possibility.

Beyonce was the first person that came to mind. Months ago, Beyonce caused a heap of controversy when she released her single I Been On (Bow Down). This song showed a side of Bey that people have never seen before. She was brash, arrogant and….ratchet? At least, that’s the image she wanted to project.


I love me some Bey but frankly, she aint about that life and never has been. Unlike Jay-Z, who grew up in Marcy Projects and had to sling rocks back in the day, Beyonce had a relatively privilege upbringing. She lived in a big house with her parents, attended private school and was a pageant princess. Marrying Jay-Z is the closest she has been to the hood. It is definitely arguable that she is appropriating a culture that is regularly attributed to people way below her income bracket. Still, I have apprehensions about calling her a cultural appropriator. After all, ratchet culture is still black culture and it is also arguable that automatically attributing it to lower income people is problematic since it is normally seen as something negative. So what do we do? Do we call out Bey for claiming something she doesn’t know much about a la Miley Cyrus or do we take another approach?

In case you haven’t noticed, I have no clue how to tackle this so I will cut this post short and open it up for discussion. What do you think?


5 thoughts on “Bey Been On Or Has She? Can Black People Appropriate Black Culture?

  1. Wil says:

    Huh. Interesting take. If anything, Beyonce and President Barack Obama represent the slice of black life that the “mainstream” overlooks: the upper-class African American.
    It goes to show you that no group is a monolith, and yet we’re all capable of enjoying some manner of privilege that benefits us.

    I just hope Bey doesn’t try to overexpose this new persona to the point of mirroring all lower income black people this way, because there will always be those ready to believe that “all those people act like this.” Indeed, Miley wanting a “black sound,” to market off a “mature” image is indeed similar, and yet white culture is already including it into their dictionaries while some either claim it’s based on a German phrase or do the exact opposite and associated twerking to all black people.

    I’m all for people loving black culture; it’s always happened in society. But putting one group of people into a box is dangerous if not one-sided.

  2. Alexandria Adair Vasquez says:

    I think there is danger in classifying this as merely an issue of race. While it’s true that we’re talking about cultural appropriation here, I feel like you mentioned it yourself in this article — the real problem is that of Beyonce appropriating the culture of people who are of a LOWER INCOME than she is.

    Class plays a way bigger role in the situation than I think a lot of people notice or want to admit. It’s not just a “black thing” to act ratchet….it’s actually just a “poor thing.” Which is why Beyonce and Barack Obama come off as fake when they want to be down with the homies.

  3. niksmit says:

    The problem I have with this idea is that I don’t think the Black middle class is as insulated from the lower class as other groups. In the case of Beyonce, didn’t her mother own a salon? Who knows what she grew up around and how behavior went down within the walls of that salon. Salons are special places that bring together people and there is a code switching that goes on. I also don’t know where she went to church. I’d like to know who her grandparents are/were and the status of any first cousins, because it matters.

    Destiny’s Child was not doing the pretend thing that Whitney Houston did with her persona when they came out so this really is not new to me. I just feel she took it to another level and crossed a line. They did not seem to be what I read about in Our Kind of People.

  4. niksmit says:

    All that text and I forgot to add that I do believe that this Black appropriation happens. I have witnessed it, but I’m not sure that Beyonce is a good example.

  5. Jasmine says:

    I am not black, I am native. I see this happening in my community. I myself have been guilty of appropriating the swag of lower socio-economic status sub communities in my community.
    Really gave me something to think about.
    I see it all the time from leaders in my community, playing poor to seem relevant.
    I definitely have a lot to think about on this. I still haven’t come to a clear resolution of how I feel on it. Thanks for bringing this up.


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