There is a social media trend that has been circulating that is one of the best hashtag categories around and it surrounds an extremely important topic: melanin. The most common hashtags include: #IsYourMelaninOnFleek, #MelaninMondays, #MelaninCrushMondays, #MelaninPoppin, and #MelaninOnFleek. There are two reasons why it is different from other fads: 1) it recognizes melanin in a positive light, and 2) it is one of the popular trends that cannot be claimed by white people. So much of Black culture has been appropriated by white folks.
On Melanin #MelaninMondays #MelaninOnFleek #MelaninPoppin #MelaninCrushMondays
3 things: melanin, cultural appropriation, why they are important and what that means with these hashtags
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture. This phenomenon has a history that stems back to the toxic elements of colonization and imperialism that have essentially corrupted the entirety of the world. The historic atrocities that follow the thievery and consequent annihilation of cultures and peoples around the world have been perpetuated through cultural appropriation in the modern age of the United States. Through the monster that is capitalism, cultural appropriation is an effective tool in carrying out the oppressor’s goal of removing elements (people, cultures, etc.) through excessive dilution in order to control the masses of its population. This has been seen in so much of popular culture from hairstyles to language to natural remedies, there has been a trend of primary condemnation, subsequent intense shaming, and finally a marketable and diluted version of the original. The goal of cultural appropriation is still basically the same as colonization in the core idea of what both concepts strive to achieve.
As a Black woman in the U.S., it’s so hard to not see and be angry or peeved about the aspects of my culture that have been compromised by the “Culture Vultures.” I appreciate this hashtag theme so much because unlike many of the other parts of my culture, this choice of lingo can not be compromised without creating a dangerous position for those who identify as White.
What is melanin? The common dictionary definition of melanin states that: Melanin is the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people have. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. Not only is melanin an important factor in the extraneous characteristics of humans, it’s an essential component of the inner workings of the human body. Each of the major organs including the brain and the heart contain melanin which allows those parts to function. Melanin is such an important element in the body because it allows humans to absorb sunlight and produce a natural source of vitamin D while also serving as a natural barrier towards harmful UV rays. Vitamin D is a vital vitamin for every type of tissue in our bodies which means that it is required for optimal bodily function. As mentioned in the dictionary definition, people with darker skin have more melanin, thus they are naturally able to absorb more sunlight, which means that their bodies can create more natural vitamin D.
Understanding the scientific importance of melanin is key to breaking down the ways that it has been strategically demonized and underrepresented in most areas of society. Part of the belittling of melanin is a tactic to underplay the fact that it is not only a biologically vital ingredient, but it also has historically spiritual qualities as well. Many cultures credit melanin as being the spice that aids in reaching higher levels of enlightenment. (Quotes from the Bible repeatedly mention the “burnished bronze” color of Jesus’ skin.)
Blackness and darkness have been demonized for so long as being the root of evil as well as a multitude of other negative qualities. In reality, all things are born out of darkness thus it truly is the birthplace of life itself. This hatred of Blackness permeates all races, religions, ethnicities, and creeds and has shamed so many people into finding any way possible to deny and rebuke that which makes them who they are. Many have said that this generation doesn’t use our tools wisely, but I this hashtag shows that there is a claiming of Black Pride especially in response to the horrible grievances that have been committed on the Black Nation. Unlike many trends like, “on fleek” and “twerking” that were popularized by white media, if #MelaninPoppin had the chance of not only being on the hipster radar but also being co-opted by it, it would destroy the subtle yet entrenched and veiled role that racism plays in perpetuating systemic racism.
Recognizing and appreciating the qualities of melanin is a major component in creating a culture of self-love and awareness as a people. The reclaiming of Blackness in a positive light needs to be a top priority. We must debunk white supremacies myth of us being inferior.
-Minkah Smith, student at UC Berkeley.