Cultural appropriation happens when someone takes things from a culture that is experiencing oppression. Furthermore, appropriation refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systemically oppressed by that dominant group.
Learn the difference:
Cultural appreciation: Appreciation is honouring and respecting another culture and its practices, as a way to gain knowledge and understand.
Cultural appropriation: The ‘cherry picking’ or selecting of certain aspects of culture, whilst ignoring their original significance for the purpose of belittling it as a trend.
Examples of cultural appropriation:
- Excessive fake tan
- Wearing bindis at festivals
- White women altering their body to get a big bum, bigger lips and a smaller waist
- Cornrows, dreads and Bantu knots
- Wearing Native American headdresses at festivals
- Halloween costumes that depict cultural stereotypes
- Themed parties that exoticise other cultures
- Use of ‘spirit animal’
How can you Appreciate without Appropriating?
- Consider the context: don’t adopt sacred artifacts or practices as accessories
- Do your research: fully understand the cultural, historical and religious significance of the items and actions you are engaging with
- Put your money where your mouth is: if you want to participate in an aspect of a different culture, do it by supporting people and businesses that belong to that culture
- Engage with a culture on more that and aesthetic level: don’t ‘cherry pick’ only the elements that you find fashionable
Resources for further learning:
- “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal its Harm” by Maisha Z. Johnson for Everyday Feminism
- “What is Cultural Appropriation?” a video from Origin of Everything
- “Cultural Appropriation Viewing Guide” from PBS
- Dear White People (Netflix)
- White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men
- yellow apparel: when the coolie becomes cool
- Cultural Appropriation Bingo Card by Dr. Sheila Addison, LMFT