A group of House Democrats staged a Capitol Hill photo-op on Monday in which they got down on one knee while wearing kente cloth, a traditional African fabric that originated in Ghana, according to The Washington Post.
But while the gesture was presumably intended to show solidarity with those protesting the death of George Floyd, observers on both sides of the ideological aisle slammed the spectacle, labeling it everything from cultural appropriation to shameless virtue signaling, as Forbes noted.
Pelosi slammed over kente cloth
Among the most vocal detractors regarding the event was conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, whom Fox News quoted as saying: “Nancy Pelosi is a terrible speaker of the House, but Nancy Pelosi is very good at coordinating outfits with the Democratic Power Rangers.”
Fox News also posted a tweet in which Shaprio juxtaposed a picture of senior Democrats wearing kente cloth and female lawmakers who were dressed in white for President Trump’s State of the Union address to, as Shapiro put it, “demonstrate the purity of feminism”
“All these old white people putting on kente cloths to symbolize how much they care about black Americans,” Shapiro said. “How do you not find this culturally appropriating?
“Last I checked,” he added, “Democrats in Congress are supposed to be passing legislation to help fix the ‘systemic racism of the United States.'”
Shapiro wasn’t alone in his criticism, however. Fox News also quoted author Obianuju Ekeocha as condemning Pelosi and other Democrats for treating “Africans like we’re children.”
“These fabrics and these colorful things that we have within our culture and tradition, they all mean something to us,” Ekeocha said.
She went on: “I know you look at us and you say, ‘Oh, Africans are so cute in all of your colorful dresses.’ Well, some of those dresses and patterns and colors and fabrics actually do mean something to us.”
GQ contributor Rachel Tashjian wasn’t impressed either, writing that “when the camera panned out to show Democrats taking a knee in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd, the image of congressmen, including several older white men, wearing a traditional African textile made for an odd sight.”
“The Kente confusion is the latest example of politicians using clothing to convey what they feel they cannot, should not, or will not say,” she explained, adding:
It is what’s commonly called “fashion diplomacy.” It has become one of the most prominent features of our increasingly visual American democracy over the past decade. And it needs to end.
Prominent? Perhaps. Embarrassing? Absolutely.