Beyoncé and Chris Martin of UK band Coldplay are causing a dust-up on social media over claims that the band’s “Hymm for the Weekend” video “appropriates” Indian culture. Beyoncé is decked out in Hindu garb. Is it the same as wearing blackface?
The issue of “cultural appropriation is a little like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s all in your perspective.
Social media critics were quick to jump on the singer for donning Henna tattoos and “dressing up” as a Hindu goddess for her cameo in the video. But others said her dress represented “cultural appreciation.”
Still others took issue with the video because India’s culture was being used for “profit.”
Of course, the most egregious form of cultural appropriation took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. White minstrels and Vaudeville song and dance men wore blackface to appear as though they were African American.
I think it's so funny that beyonce can get away with cultural appropriation just bc she's beyonce ?
— mal (@chicityhockey) January 29, 2016
Pretty disappointed in Beyonce for that appropriation of Indian culture. Good thing I wasn't planning to listen to the song anyway.
— Meek from Statefarm (@ifthisworldwere) January 29, 2016
when Kylie wears a bindi its appropriation but when Beyoncé is in full blown desi attire its appreciation??? ok
— Syeda (@syedaaaa_) January 29, 2016
Beyond that, defining “cultural appropriation” becomes murky.
George Washington Carver, an African American, invented peanut butter. Does that mean anyone else who eats it is engaging in cultural appropriation?
James Naismith, a white college professor invented the game of basketball in 1891, and he wasn’t even American. He was born in Canada. Does that mean anyone who isn’t white or Canadian is engaging in cultural appropriation?
You get the picture. The argument gets pretty ridiculous pretty fast.
Cultural appropriation is also a loaded issue because it can be interpreted as a code word for segregation. For years African American’s were barred from major league baseball, because it was considered a “white man’s game.”
Yet today, pro baseball is fully integrated. Is it being culturally appropriated?
Selena Gomez caused a similar uproar when she wore a bindi, a Hindu religious symbol, in one of her music videos. Because of its religious significance, it could be considered a misuse of the forehead jewel.
Katy Perry has also been criticized for dressing as a Japanese Geisha.
Coldplay was also involved in another controversy three years ago. Rihanna was featured wearing Chinese ceremonial robes in the band’s “Princess in China” video. Critics claimed she was fostering Asian stereotypes.
Probably the best test to determine the inappropriate use of another’s cultural heritage is whether it’s offensive or misused. Blackface clearly is. Beyoncé in Hindu garb, Rihanna in Chinese ceremonial dress and Katy Perry as a Geisha not so much.
“Hymn For The Weekend” is the second single from the band’s seventh album, A Head Full Of Dreams. Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars are lined up to play Super Bowl 50’s halftime show on Febr 7th.
Check out the videos below. Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest in ridiculous controversies.