What Is Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices of a marginalized culture by a dominant culture without their input. This can include dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, and religious symbols. This term is generally used to describe Western appropriations of non-Western or non-White forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance. Those doing the exploiting lack understanding of what makes the cultural symbols, art forms and modes of expression significant. Africans, Asians, and Indigenous peoples are targeted groups. Some of the most common examples include:
- Black music and dance
- Indigenous fashions, decorations and symbols
- Asian martial arts and dress
Why It’s A Problem
Cultural appropriation robs marginalized cultures of the credit they deserve for the art, music and forms that originated with them. The dominant group is deemed as innovative and edgy, while the disadvantaged groups continue to face negative stereotypes that imply their lacking of intelligence and creativity. It also highlights the power imbalance that remains between those in power and those who’ve been historically marginalized. White people can freely do what people of colour were actively punished for doing . But on the other hand, White people end up having more access to coloured people’s practices than they do. In doing so, it prioritizes the feelings of privileged people over justice for marginalized people. As a matter of fact, claiming that the dominant culture has a right to take freely from disempowered groups is the same thing as colonization. This concept was used to claim that colonizers had a “duty” to take land, resources, and identity from Indigenous people – trying to justify everything from slavery to genocide.
Appropriation VS Assimilation
In society, not all cultures are perceived as equal. As a result, marginalized groups take on aspects of dominate cultures to survive, be accepted, and to be perceived as equals. These groups also didn’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun. For example, when the last living survivors of massacred Indigenous tribes were fighting to save their language, Native students were suspended for speaking in their own Indigenous languages at abusive residential and boarding schools. On the other hand, cultural appropriation sees dominate cultures taking on elements of a marginalized groups often for the sake of pleasure.
Appropriation VS Appreciation
In order to show love and admiration for a culture, you must take the time to learn and understand a culture. Once this is done, you may then take an educated decision to express the culture in way that does not offend or effect it in a negative way. Those living in western countries live with several cultures surrounding them. Therefore, as citizens we all have the responsibility to learn what we can about them.