Usually when the subject of cultural appropriation arises the culprit is a white designer or a white fashion magazine that’s suddenly deemed staples of the black community as “en vogue.” But what about when the person who the appropriation finger is being pointed at is a black woman? Are we as quick to call a spade a spade then?

Following the release of Coldplay’s latest music video, Hymm for the Weekend, which features a cameo from Beyonce, many are hurling accusations that could knock Queen Bey off her thrown. Unlike the laughable question of whether Beyonce, with her ever-lightening blonde hair is appropriating white culture, the appropriateness of the singer’s appearance in Hymm wearing traditional Desi adornment is worth pondering.

In the video, which was filmed in India, Beyonce portrays a Bollywood actress whom Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin goes to see in a cinema against a backdrop of city scenes featuring Indian men and women, including a true Bollywood star, actress Sonam Kapoor. Visually striking, it’s hard to deny the beauty of the colorful cinematography, but beyond that observation lies the question of whether Bey and Coldplay were showing appreciation for Indian culture or appropriating it?

The responses to that question have been mixed on Twitter, with reactions ranging from anger to defensiveness to plain boredom with stereotypical Indian representations and the discussion of cultural appropriation alike.

My personal rule of thumb is if the culture being represented is offended then their concerns must be heard and respected, but as @seauxmali pointed out, cultural appropriation is about more than dressing up as someone from another culture. By definition, a key element of cultural appropriation is that the culture being borrowed from is oppressed by the culture doing the borrowing. Perhaps one could argue the lack of inclusion of a true Desi artist in the project satisfies that requirement, but there’s a difference in a video and song being popular versus profiting off of a particular culture. Given the musical players in this specific case, the video could’ve been shot in a plain white room with nothing more than the artists and it still would’ve wowed the masses. A profit of some sort was inevitable, just how much the imagery of this video has to do with that is debatable.

But as black actors and actresses wage war on our right to tell our own stories in movies, a Teen Vogue writer wishes brown people of the east would be afforded that same right. When you consider her observation that “India has always been positioned as a shallow vessel that exists for Westerners to ‘find themselves,’ it makes you wonder if Coldplay and Beyonce were appreciating true Indian culture or Indian culture as they see it from their narrow, privileged, outsider eyes.

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