What was the reason?
On Monday morning top US Democrats introduced a police reform bill in response to nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black people at the hands of police.
Before presenting the bill, several officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Corey Booker and Kamala Harris knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in a clear tribute to the life of George Floyd who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for that exact amount of time.
What everyone seems to be less clear on however, is why they decided to do so while wearing kente cloth stoles.
House and Senate Democrats kneel for an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence for George Floyd. pic.twitter.com/so3S7eBtna
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) June 8, 2020
Since videos showing the Democratic leaders donning kente began circulating online, the internet has been ablaze with hilarious responses to their unprovoked “fashion statement.” So much so, that the word “kente” began trending on Twitter shortly after.
While the politicians may have felt they were thoughtfully acknowledging Black heritage, the move came off instead as an empty gesture and was quite frankly—corny.
As fashion historian Shelby Ivey Christie points out via Twitter, the use of kente cloth is “protected as an expression of folklore” according to Ghana’s Copyright Act of 2005. It’s use by politicians during a press conference as a form of intentionally conspicuous “activism” hardly feels as though it falls into any of the categories authorized for intellectual property use. Instead of representing the culture through kente cloth, they’ve done more to undermine it by ignoring its intended cultural use.
While many Black people are advocating for the complete defunding and abolishment of the police as an institution, the Democrats proposed bill would “make dramatic changes to police policy across the country and undo decades-old laws,” according to Politico. But for many, mere “reform” of the existing police force, feels unsubstantial considering the violence police have wreaked on Black lives for centuries.
While advocates continue to push for more radical action to be taken in order to upend current systems, the kente cloth faux pas has led to hilarious jokes at a time when we could all use a laugh. Enjoy some remarks below.
Ghanaians🇬🇭 kindly requesting back the Kente. Plsssss 😭🤷🏿♂️ pic.twitter.com/WP8xY9ExkY
— Joshua Kissi (@JoshuaKissi) June 8, 2020
imagine a white congressional aide laying out that kente cloth for them all to pick up on their way in 😭 real selina meyer shit i cant
— positive attitude hunter™️ (@hunteryharris) June 8, 2020
Please, please people, we must hide the rest of the kente cloth before Joe Biden gets to it
— Jay Smooth (@jsmooth995) June 8, 2020
Are these motherfuckers really wearing kente cloth https://t.co/O5QD7L0Kqx
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) June 8, 2020
y’all think they had that box of kente cloths laying around the office already or this was a special order? they had to be on deck, right?
— bomani (@bomani_jones) June 8, 2020
If there was every a time for Ghana to enforce their intellectual property copyright of protection over kente + adinkra textiles the time is NOW cuz……………. pic.twitter.com/FlNW3uj1Ff
— Shelby Ivey Christie (@bronze_bombSHEL) June 8, 2020
Racism is solved pic.twitter.com/oPQPxJtx64
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) June 8, 2020
The black intern pressing “purchase” on the kente cloth order pic.twitter.com/FtqiDOJGeU
— View-Nah (@Mr_DePHInition) June 8, 2020
I know we are in unexpected times and anything is possible but listen man I did not have “Pelosi in Kente cloth” on the bingo card
— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) June 8, 2020