By Grace Parsons ’23
The difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation is often misunderstood. Becoming educated and respecting the people who practice a culture can help avoid the appropriation of any culture. Though not always intentional, not understanding a culture’s significance can easily become harmful.
Around the world, there is a multitude of people who practice different religions. Many want to share their heritage and cultural background with tourists. However, visitors don’t know it’s acceptable to indulge in a country’s culture. This is because they are worried about misusing a culture without even realizing it. We see this misuse a lot in our society, where people will use a culture’s clothing without knowing its significance. This is a widespread problem due to the lack of education on the subject.
In our society, celebrities have been called out for appropriating cultures too many times to count. This includes numerous topics such as clothing, hairstyles, accessories, and genres of music. One example of this would be Kim Kardashian wearing Fulani braids but calling them “Bo Derek braids” because she used the same braid patterns. Celebrities not educating themselves can be damaging to their fans, especially if their following is young and impressionable. This teaches younger generations that it’s okay to appropriate and mock another’s culture. When being called out for their actions, some will take accountability while others will choose to remain ignorant.
Some people use other cultures to portray their dislike of their own. They are, in many ways, mocking and harming others with their actions. Even if they believe they are doing right by themselves through these actions. Connie Wang, from New York Times, said, “On some level, it doesn’t feel right to call what Afropunk attendees and Japanese cholas do ‘cultural appropriation.’” Afropunk are Black people who get their style from Punk rock, while Japanese cholas get their style from stereotypes of other cultures or people. Hearing their side of the appropriation of cultures for their benefit, Wang was not able to explain whether their actions were justified or not.
Many individuals overlook the fact that appropriating a culture can truly harm the people who are a part of it. By educating ourselves and respecting everyone in our world, the appropriation of cultures will become less of an issue. With this knowledge, we can learn to appreciate cultures without appropriating them.