Why Cultural Appropriation Matters
A couple posts ago, I talked about some of your problematic favorite artists. A few of them were labeled problematic due to cultural appropriation and although this is something people hear about a lot, there are still a lot of people that don’t understand why it matters. So, allow me to shine some light on the subject.
It’s funny because one of the people that I named, Miley Cyrus, received extreme backlash a few weeks later for cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when someone or a group of people steal something that is significant to someone’s culture and try to pass it off as their own or blend in without showing that they respect the culture or its people. A lot of people think that cultural appropriation is something that only white people do but, obviously this is not true. Black people getting henna is cultural appropriation and k pop appropriates elements of black culture and R&B like no tomorrow.
However, it is extremely harmful when white people appropriate cultures at least in the U.S. because they set the standard for what is the norm due to the vast control they have over the government and the media. Most things that are culturally significant to different cultures like curry or kimchi are made fun of by others in social settings like schools due to western conditioning. Then, 15 years later, white controlled media outlets like Buzzfeed decide that beef patties are the next hot thing. OR the hot summer look is a kimono. People seem not to understand that significant items like kimonos have a cultural history and wearing it as a costume or a trend is insulting. Is it too much to ask to respect the history?
Black people in America deal with cultural appropriation often especially because we are American and people think that things we start/do here should be shared with all. Since I was a little girl, I had seen black women be parodied on tv shows including cartoons for having big butts and big lips. Before Beyonce and Jay Z’s baby, Blue Ivy was born people were making jokes about her being born with “Jay Z lips”. Now the Kardashians/Jenners have them and it’s the hot new trend that everyone wants. Big lips are associated with Kylie while big butts are associated with Kim.
Afros in America are political ( no really, they are). In the 1970’s afros were a huge part of the Black is Beautiful movement. Prior to the 1970s (in the 60s) black people felt pressure to assimilate by doing things like straighten their hair to fit a standard of beauty set by a white society. Something that is still prevalent today. Afros were the Black Panthers way of rejecting that. So when you may have seen people pissed to see stupid GiGi Hadid in an afro, I hope the outrage makes a little more sense. Especially because the publication could have used a real black girl with a real afro and the fact that they didn’t shows how much more they value our culture than they value us.
I was just using black people as an example. People of color face cultural appropriation all the time from people who completely disregard us just as often. Just because you don’t understand why it may be important to someone’s culture, doesn’t mean that you should completely disregard what they are saying. Educate yourself instead of running around calling people “snowflakes” or “too sensitive” just because they are unwilling to accept your blatant disrespect.