Cultural Appropriation v. Cultural Appreciation

These two words sound similar, but they couldn't be more different.

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Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.

Cultural appropriation has become extremely prevalent in recent years, and has become more and more extreme as time goes on. It’s come to a point in which people are attacked for braiding their hair or doing their makeup a certain way.

There have been multiple instances in which a caucasian person wearing dreadlocks or cornrows has been publicly harassed for it. At first sight, it seems unwarranted and completely unreasonable; it’s just a hairstyle, right?

Wrong. For years, caucasians have been taking bits and pieces from people of color. Today, nobody really knows the ties rock and folk music have to people of color. African folk music, brought to America when slavery was in its height, influenced many of today’s modern music genres. Modern rock, folk, funk, and rap music all have ties to African folk.

When put into context, it isn’t difficult to see why dreads or cornrows could be offensive. With so much other African culture being whitewashed, it would be scary to see a culture slowly being taken away by the very people who have oppressed that group for centuries.

Even with all this stigma surrounding cultural appropriation, it isn’t all bad. There are several cultures that don’t mind appropriation, as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

For example, recently a museum in Boston was targeted for allowing people of all races to wear kimonos, which matched the theme for the museum’s current exhibit. This argument blew up on social media, up until a native Japanese put it to a halt. She said that she and others of her culture were honored that they were being appreciated from half a world away.

There’s cultural appropriation and then there is cultural appreciation. Many people see both in the negative light of cultural appropriation but they need to realize that not everyone is out to hurt those of other races or cultures.

It needs to be understood that if people are taking certain aspects of a culture it must be in appreciation of it, not hatred. Educating oneself on the culture and showing reverence before using an element from it is of utmost importance. So long as it is done as a compliment to the culture, it shouldn’t be seen as wrong.
When one disrespects a culture, or attempts to cover it with their own, it is extremely dishonorable. This is the type of cultural appropriation people are familiar with, which gives the words “cultural appropriation” such a negative connotation.

In summary, if one appreciates a culture and wants to honor it, there is no reason why doing so should be considered offensive. It’s only if one decides to disrespectfully represent the culture that cultural appropriation is not okay.

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