Not so appropriate

It's a culture, not a costume.

Ivanna Rea, Staff Writer

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How ironic - Steer clear from wearing any clothing or accessories from a culture for the purpose of being fashionable.

Ivanna Rea
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Because we go to a Catholic school, we know what the Eucharist means and how important it actually is. Now imagine people eating the sacred Eucharist on a day-to-day basis like a bag of Doritos, as if it were normal and acceptable.

What the heck, right? If something holds a lot of spiritual value to me, having an ignorant person treat it like it’s worthless is aggravating. This type of disregard towards the various cultures and different customs of our world today is what has caused appropriation of culture.

Cultural appropriation is the act of a dominant group exploiting a culture that has been historically oppressed or was a targeted minority. And in some cases, it occurs with little understanding of the minority’s history, experience and traditions.

Manipulating sacred objects and turning them into cheap costumes or fashion accessories does not only stereotype the culture or religion, but it strips away its important meaning.

You might be thinking, “People evolve and take from other cultures, it’s basically human nature.”

That may be true, but not all cultures exploit what they take. While many cultures have acquired traditions from others, much of the cultural appropriation we see stems from the idea of “white privilege” — that those of European descent receive special economic, social and political privileges.

The issue of cultural appropriation mostly comes down to its origin. For instance, when Europeans came to colonize North America, millions of Native Americans were either brutally killed or forced to leave their customs and practices. In modern times, some of European ancestry flaunt war bonnets or headdresses like accessories claiming it’s “boho.” And the list goes on — bindis, saris, kimonos, et cetera.

The colonization done by Europeans around the world automatically puts them in a favored status, which makes their culture more powerful. By stealing other cultures,  this dominant group is classified as innovative and powerful while the oppressed group continues to face negative stereotypes.

“[Blues] music actually came from terrible times under European suppression,” said sophomore Hannah Barnes. “They ended up taking even that for themselves, receiving all the credit.”

It’s okay to sing along to the music you please, just remember where it comes from and don’t take it for your own.

This applies even to popular artists such as Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus who have all been guilty of stereotyping a culture and perpetuating solely Western views.

Now, there’s a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. Appropriation is an unequal exchange between Western culture and a marginalized culture. However, when there’s an equitable exchange between any two cultures, both cultures engage in each other’s ideas and customs in a respectful and humble manner. When it’s a misrepresentation of another culture’s views, that’s when it crosses the line.

“If I ever wanted to immerse myself in a culture, I would try to do it in the most respectful way possible,” said junior Aashi Patel. “If I was trying to do something within [another] culture and I realized something had a religious meaning behind it, I would attempt to understand the meaning behind it and learn its cultural value so I don’t end up exploiting it.”

There’s a fine line between what is and isn’t cultural appropriation. So many things have been tossed and mixed together to make up the Western culture that we live in today. When something is labeled as cultural appropriation, it all comes down to the ancient history of exploitation done from a dominant group to a minority group. Think of it this way: using someone’s culture to satisfy a personal need is a matter of superiority and therefore wrong and unfair to the victimized culture.

“When I was in Jamaica, I saw this little girl who was blonde and had light skin getting corn rows from a Jamaican woman,” Barnes said. “It was weird, like, stay in your lane.”

So if you’re feeling guilty that you’ve been one of the many who’s appropriated a culture, don’t. If anything may seem controversial or you don’t seem to know much about a culture you are representing, get the facts straight before undermining a minority. Learn from your mistakes, keep your mind open and listen to the  people who aren’t always given a voice.

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