In case you haven’t heard, the white celebrities of the world continue to get called out for ‘cultural appropriation’- borrowing an aspect of a minority culture, potentially making it popular but, as many arguments forget, not acknowledging the people it came from.
I believe, for instance, the more accurate form of cultural appropriation is when a designer uses African, Asian or Native American influences heavily but fails to use a single model of that ethnicity in their show. In its simplicity, it feels like cultural appropriation is when a popular entity says, “Ooh your stuff is pretty, you’re ugly though.”
I also believe that sometimes we underestimate genuine issues of representation and a history of discrimination, crying ‘cultural appropriation’ at every sight of white cornrows. Yes, it’s annoying when something becomes a global trend only after a Caucasian influencer does/wears it (Timberlands, twerking), and it is a huge frustration when traditional pieces are regarded as costumes or promoted with words like, “tribal”, “primitive”, or “native”.
However, I don’t expect everyone to write a social studies essay every time they see someone wearing a head-dress or print to a party. I think culture is meant to be celebrated and shared (respectfully), and everyone should get a piece of the pie in its representation.
But let’s bring it home for a minute. We have a diverse culture that is blended up and made popular for commercial use and tourism. We’ve all seen the fake dreadlocks and Bob Marley emblazoned paraphernalia, ‘tropical’ prints that no one in the West Indies actually wears, red green, yellow and black…everything.
So how do we feel about cultural appropriation in general and in our specific context?