I personally feel like understanding cultural appropriation is pretty simple, but there are a few that still do not understand it, so I’m going to try to explain it.

What Is Culture Appropriation?

Everything to do with race is about power. When we speak about cultural appropriation it is important to keep the word “power” in mind. Think of who holds the power in the situation and you will quickly realise why there is an issue. 

Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant cultureIt is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power – Wikipedia Definition

Appreciation Vs Appropriation

Appreciation is normally mutually acknowledged, when someone or something is appreciated it benefits both parties. Whereas appropriation tends to be a one sided deal, one party benefits from the appropriation, poorly disguised as appreciation.

A lot of the time people who call out cultural appropriation are faced with the question – Is it not appreciation to use part of someones culture? You really have to ask yourself who actually benefits from this so called appreciation? And are you paying homage to those who created the culture you so desperately want to appreciate?.

A large amount of the time money or social praise is attached to those who culturally appropriate. And when those two factors are involved the situation becomes a serious problem.

Are We Being Selfish?

When it comes to sharing culture I honestly don’t believe the word selfish can or should be used. It suggests that we one cannot have anything for ourselves and that we are not allowed to have a say on what is ours. We are not being selfish, we aren’t segregating ourselves, we are protecting what is ours, and what is meaningful to us.

What some white people fail to understand is that the people within the culture have be made fun of for their culture. There are certain traditions or traditional clothing that is constantly under attack. So when something like a turban or a bindi is placed onto a white person and is turned into something “trendy”, you can see why theses people within the culture would feel some type of way about it.

Braids have been a protective style that has been used for years within the black community and a lot of the time they were referred to as ghetto or unprofessional. So again when braids are made trendy by white people who have no interest in the culture of braids and turn it into something as insignificant as a trend, you can see why there is an issue.

Would you not feel reluctant to share parts of your culture with people who have done nothing but make fun of it and attach it to a bunch of negative things that have an impact on their ability to work, gain education and live a fruitful life?

Instead of being defensive about the issue; stop and think about who is truly benefiting from it. Not everything is for everyone, if it’s part of someones culture then they have the right not to want to share it with people who are just going to represent it badly.

There are plenty of things Poc have willingly shared with other cultures, so not wanting to share parts of our culture is not selfish at all, but very necessary.

Why Social & Financial Gain Is An Issue

There are people profiting from selling bindis to white girls for festivals, when Indian women and girls are doing it as part of their culture, get ridiculed for it. How is that right?

Wearing a bindi, headdress or headpiece to a festival isn’t appreciating any one’s cultural it’s all for fashion. What has a headdress and bindi got to do with you getting drunk listening to drake in a muddy field?

Black people need to protect their hair from the elements and need to maintain healthy hair and in order to do that we wear braids. Braids protect our ends to prevent them from breaking and it also allows our hair to grow and get healthy. Yes we do it for the purpose of style as well, the same goes for weaves and wigs.

Every time cultural appropriation is brought up the same thing gets brought up…

“what about black girls/women wearing blonde weave?”

Straight and blonde hair is not exclusive to white people, and straight blonde hair has nothing to do with culture but more genetics than anything else so this comment will always be void. In order to live a life without constantly being treated like some type of foreign specimen. POC assimilated to be able to simply earn a living and survive. This involved putting our health at risk to chemically straighten our hair, to restrict our mother tongue to our homes and in a lot of cases change our names.

The main message is to think twice before doing something culturally insensitive. There are plenty of ways to appreciate ones culture, that doesn’t involve you profiting from it.

 If you want to appreciate something then show it in it’s true form. You want to appreciate how beautiful bindis are then show an Indian girl wearing one and you want to show Instagram how cool you think braids are then post a picture of a black woman with braids. Show respect and give credit where it is due and that is what cultural appreciation is.

Relevant links:

7 myths about cultural appropriation

Amandla Stenberg Don’t cash crop on my cornrows

White women with black hairstyles


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4 thoughts on “Understanding Cultural Appropriation

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