At the end of Black History Month, social media exploded when news of Bhad Bhabie’s feud with Disney Channel actress Skai Jackson hit our newsfeeds.
For those who are fortunately unfamiliar with Bhad Bhabie, whose real name is Danielle Bregoli, the young lady earned multiple appearances on the Dr. Phil show for disrespecting her mother and catapulted to fame in late 2016. If that wasn’t enough to assist our favorite Gen Z culture vulture in climbing the ranks of notoriety, it was most likely her signature phrase, “Cash me outside; how 'bout dat?” said in response to Dr. Phil’s audience, who chuckled at her during the segment. Due to her best “Blaccent” attempt, she quickly became known as the “Cash Me Outside” girl. Despite the pathetic display, she soon became a viral internet sensation and was even offered a record deal with Atlantic under the rap alias Bhad Bhabie.
On Monday, February 24, via her Instagram account, Bregoli threatened to murder Jackson while calling her a number of expletives, including a “Disney thot.” Jackson responded to the threat by filing a restraining order against Bregoli. This beef seems largely one-sided as Jackson has yet to make a direct response. Now, we really should be able to agree that the culture-appropriating musician is a bit controversial — and I’m not referencing her violent criminal past, which includes physically attacking passengers on a Spirit Airlines flight, tossing drinks on to fellow culture vulture Iggy Azalea, illegal marijuana possession and even grand theft auto. While those problematic acts are indeed alarming and literally criminal, I’m referring to her antics this past December, when she went on one of her signature rants. The cause of this one? To express her disdain concerning the versatility of Black women’s hair.
After receiving flack for donning box braids, a prominent hairstyle in the Black community that spans thousands of years, Bhad Bhabie went on to suggest that Black women shouldn’t be offended because they wear hair from various cultures by way of wigs and sew-in weaves. Bhad Bhabie's consistent ignorance ignites a great deal of anger in me. When I think about her existence, I automatically deflect to a phrase that our community has coined in recent years; “You’re invited to the cookout.”
All too often, I see many of us giving unwarranted grace to white people by extending them invites to our culture — as if there is some sort of cheap entry fee. Why is that? To further complicate matters, these white people that we cape so hard for, usually pass through a number of offensive steps.
1. They get praised for appropriating facets of Black culture that we have long been crucified for.
2. They profit off of the adulation they receive from our community, then denounce Black culture once they’ve reached the point of fame they were always looking for.
3. They continue to camouflage themselves under the guises of activism and allyship, eventually slipping up and revealing their true racist undertones.
There is so much beauty in upholding the richness and legacy found within our specially curated Black spaces. From historically Black institutions and Black fraternities and sororities to Black Twitter, it’s important to take pride in those spaces. Taking pride can and should be realizing that we are among the dopest humans on the face of this Earth, and we should be the only ones who have ownership in our culture.
In my opinion, white people are supposed to be allies. It is their responsibility to aid us in dismantling white supremacy — the monster that they’ve created. Does that deserve a reward? No. Like Rihanna said, we need to encourage them and people of other races who claim to love us so much to advocate alongside us when injustice occurs.
With all this said, what would accountability look like in situations like this? Maybe we could have conversations with our respective white colleagues and friends about the importance of not using Black culture for their personal gain. Conversations like this should include the long-standing history of how doing this can garner them praise, even if we've been ridiculed for centuries for just being us. Accountability can also look like us continuing to call out women like Bregoli, Kim Kardashian or Billie Eilish who have profited off incorporating aesthetics of Black women into their appearance without giving proper credit.
Is it our fault that Bregoli has been able to transform her criminal past, in all of its disrespectfulness, into a platform of cultural appropriation? Of course not. Can we work harder toward making sure that we hold Bregoli and other toxic white people accountable? Of course, we can. It’s up to us to preserve the sacredness of the “cookout” by not allowing white people to pass an entry test that includes being a basic human being, using their best Blaccent and knowing a few Roddy Rich songs. Our culture is all that we have and it’s worth considerably more than the cheap invitations we dole out.