A new powerful photo series captures the emotions black women can have -- but don't always get to express -- when their bodies are appropriated.
College freshman Imani Diltz's assignment, which has since garnered a lot attention outside of the classroom, was to explore one of the seven deadly sins. She chose lust. But the kind of lust she wanted to underscore was the appropriative lust that makes the features on black women -- big lips, larger butts, traditional hairstyles and even darker skin -- undesirable unless they're on white women.
"There are these blatant robberies of culture that are taken and made trendy and conglomerated by white society," Diltz, who was the model for this project, told The Huffington Post. She pointed to celebrities like the Kardashian sisters as culprits. "[It's] something that I was really fed up with."
She said her project, titled "Erosion," is meant to show the sheer discomfort black women face when their features are fetishized. In the four photos, white hands pull and grab at Diltz as they try to manhandle her hips, butt, hair and more.
When shooting photos, Diltz and her photographer, Daniel Stewart, took everything into consideration, from Diltz's facial expressions to the people whose arms appear in the photos, ensuring that they were white people who understood how destructive cultural appropriation is.
"The facial expressions [in the photos] weren’t indicative of being in that situation," Stewart told HuffPost, explaining that black women can't always react the way they want to. "We wanted to make sure that these photos were something that… women [who] do go through could connect with and know that they’re not alone."
Stewart said he often hears his peers say they love black women's features but only when they see them on white women. This mindset frustrates Diltz, she said. Though these features aren't exclusive to black women, she finds it irksome when cornrows, big lips and big butts only get accreditation and praise when a white celebrity rocks them, especially when they've surgically modified their bodies to appear this way.
Diltz said it takes an emotional toll when black women constantly see synthetic attributes meant to mimic their natural bodies being uplifted while their natural bodies are ridiculed. This is why she titled this project "Erosion."
While this project is meant to shine a light on this problem, Diltz wants to ensure that it's also empowering for women.
"It’s a celebration of all types of black women and black women’s bodies who do go through this experience," Diltz said. "You don’t have to just have confidence in your body because all these other people want to appropriate your features. You can have confidence in your body because you are amazing people."