Florence Pugh owns up to past cultural appropriation, says she was uneducated and 'stupid doesn’t even cut it'
She admitted to getting cornrows, appropriating Indian culture, and even Rastafarian culture when she was young
Florence Pugh of ‘Midsommar’ and ‘Little Women’ fame, apologized for appropriating cultures when she was younger, apologizing in a lengthy statement on Instagram, on Saturday, June 27. In the last few weeks, there has been a wave of acknowledgment from entertainers, regarding culturally and racially problematic behavior in the past. Pugh is the latest to own up.
The 24-year-old British actor said that she had spent the past month trying to learn as much as possible, and promises to pass that information along. She wrote, “These last four weeks have been huge. The world is trying to make a change and I'm learning a tidal wave of information that frankly, was always there but I wasn't aware of.”
She said that in order to confront racism, “We have to look at ourselves and see how we were adding to this problem,” adding that she was “uneducated” and “unread” in the past, and has now learned to silence her “white fragility”.
“I’ve read, listened, signed, donated, read again, ssh’d [sic] my white fragility and really wanted to trace instances in my life where I have been guilty,” Pugh wrote. “One part I have identified in my own actions is cultural appropriation.”
Pugh, in the Instagram post, recounted discussing cultural appropriation for the first time with a friend when she was 18 after she had styled her hair into cornrows. She recalled being shocked to discover that the hairstyle had been banned at her friend's school because of cultural appropriation. “She began to explain to me what cultural appropriation was, the history and heartbreak over how when black girls do it they're mocked and judged, but when white girls do it, it's only then perceived as cool,” wrote the ‘Lady Macbeth’ actor.
“It was true. I could see how black culture was being so obviously exploited. I was defensive and confused, white fragility coming out, plain and simple,” she further said, and also reflected on her love of henna and wearing bindis as a child after an Indian shop owner began sharing her culture with her. “She was excited to share her culture and I was excited to learn.”
“Over the summer of 2017, Bindis and henna became a trend. Every top high street shop was selling their reimagined versions of this culture,” she wrote. She noted, however, that she now understands how hennas, bindis, and other aspects of Indian culture, have been exploited for profit: “No one cared about the origin, a culture was being abused for profit. I felt embarrassed. I felt sadness for the small family-run Indian shops all over the country, seeing their culture and religion cheapened everywhere.”
“I wore this culture on my terms only, to parties, at dinner. I too was disrespecting the beauty of the religion that had been taught to me those years ago," she further said.
Pugh also apologized for appropriating Rastafarian culture as a teenager: “I braided my hair and painted a beanie with the Jamaican flag colors and went to a friend’s house; proud of my Rastafarian creation. I then posted about it the next day with a caption that paraphrased the lyrics to Shaggy’s song ‘Boombastic’. I am ashamed of so many things in those few sentences.”
“At the time, I honestly did not think that I was doing anything wrong. Growing up as white and privileged allowed me to get that far and not know,” she explained, noting, “Stupid doesn’t even cut it, I was uneducated. I was unread.”
She further said, “Black, Indian, Native American and Asian cultures and religions are constantly used and abused every new shopping season. It’s not wrong to appreciate the beauty of a culture but rebranding them for the sake of a fashion trend and a $ most certainly is.”
She ended her post with, “I cannot dismiss the actions I bought into years ago, but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognize them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege, and I apologize profusely it took this long.”
Pugh's statement was received positively on social media. A Twitter user wrote, “Florence Pugh publicly acknowledging her mistakes and what she’s learned is something I respect so much. I won’t praise her, but I am grateful for her words and believe cultural appropriation should be addressed way more than it is. Hopefully, this can spark more conversations.”
Another wrote, “It wasn’t just a random ‘I’ve been bad in the past but now I’ve changed’. But a detailed explanation of how she was wrong. That means she spent a lot of time digging in her memories and writing this. She doesn’t deserve praise but I appreciated it.”