Kendall Jenner's New Fashion Campaign is Appropriative & Insensitive

It feels like just yesterday when the Internet was enraged over Kylie Jenner's wheelchair fashion shoot, but this time, it's Kendall who's in the hot seat. Kendall was recently named the face of Mango's new fashion line "Tribal Spirit," which is based upon influences from the African savanna.

Many have pointed out that Mango could have easily hired one of the many talented and beautiful women of color models for this, or even someone who's actually from Africa.


Wow. I bet the WoC in modeling are thrilled Kendall Jenner will Star in Mango’s ‘Tribal Spirit’ https://t.co/tjOk9YCITN (from @wwd)

— Amber Love (@elizabethamber) January 13, 2016

The images that have been released so far seem a lot more bohemian-themed than African savanna, but a tribal print dress will also be included, and the use of the word 'tribal' in itself is problematic. It lumps a variety of widely different cultures under one umbrella without regard for the people whose cultures it's appropriating. 


Fashion should ditch the 'tribal' trend altogether, because the entire trend is appropriative. Cultural appropriation is when the members of a culture, often those who have privilege, take elements from another culture, often a culture that is marginalized or oppressed. That's what it means when white fashionistas wear African or Native American tribal print, get Chinese character tattoos or don a sombrebo and call it a costume for Halloween. Those who are appropriating also often get it wrong, and their interpretations of the original culture lack the cultural background and nuance involved with actually being a member of said culture.

It may seem like a small complaint in comparison to acts of violent racism across the country, but cultural appropriation is a form of microaggression—a more subtle form of discrimination that is deeply embedded in the systemic oppression of marginalized groups. Microaggressions work hand-in-hand with more outward acts of racism and violence to keep the power imbalance between oppressed and privilege groups, and they need to be dismantled.

As someone with white privilege, it's my responsibility to stand up and say that I don't support cultural appropriation or any other form of discrimination. People of color have spoken out about cultural appropriation, and are often met with defensive attitudes. "Don't black people wear Americanized clothing? Don't they wear business suits, and haven't they adopted English as a language?" are among some of the common retorts. People try to claim 'reverse racism,' which does not exist. People of color are the oppressed group. They lack the systemic power that white people have in society. And because of colonialism and assimilation, they often have no choice but to wear Westernized clothing in order to fit in and avoid acts of violence. The only way to break down and dismantle racism is to point it out when we see it and continually examine our own actions and words. 

I'm happy that Kendall has been gaining roles as a model, but I'd love to see her speak up about Mango's line, and instead represent a fashion line—even another by the same brand—that isn't racist and offensive. As those with the privilege, white people need to be supportive allies to people of color by showing that we don't support cultural appropriation, and we won't have any part in it.