We should not let the Attack of Cultural Appropriation goes to far

Opinions on Debatable Issues #39

Cultural appropriation is “the adoption, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers from subcultures or minority communities into mainstream culture by people with a relatively privileged status”, according to dictionary.com. With the effects of racism and post-colonialization damage become heated issues globally, more came under attack as offensively taking ideas from other, usually minority cultures.

Cultural appropriation: don't be an invader

No doubt inappropriately utilizing other cultures, especially the more marginalized group is disrespecting diversity and violating human dignity. However, a problem arises when people distort cultural appropriation and generalize it to taking something from another less dominant culture in a way that some members of that culture or just anyone who feels that it might be offensive find it undesirable. Following this reasoning, anyone can commit cultural appropriation without knowing and be criticized. This oversensitivity incurs fear of accidentally committing cultural appropriation and induces avoidance of necessary exchange of culture that benefits blending and antiracism attempts. If we stop incorporating different cultures because of fear that I might offend someone, there is nothing that one can do with cultures that is not one’s own.

An example is when Justin Bieber shared a picture of him with a braided hairstyle typically wore by Black people, he was accused of cultural appropriation. The major criticizer said “You can’t just wear something so historically significant and ignore the struggles behind what the hairstyle purports,” according to the guardian. Some people might feel uncomfortable with a white celebrity wearing a hairstyle, but they cannot deny that it helps more people to get to know Black people’s culture. Also, despite a hairstyle may have historical significance but it does not mean people wearing it without knowing the historical background are exploiting it or wear it with ill intents. It is not hard to comprehend that exchange and sharing help build a relationship. If I wear a specific hairstyle, I show that I appreciate it and it can become a starting point of a friendship.

Jazz Age - Wikipedia

Jazz would not have spread to the whole US without white men embracing this new type of music populated by people of color during the Gilded Age. I recognize that many white men have taken credit unjustly for the great pieces of music created by African American musicians, I want to use this example to point out the importance of sharing ideas with the entire human race even when at the expense of the weaker group, which is not preferred but inevitable.

Some people argue that minority groups feel offended by certain behaviors, so we should prevent those actions. However, I think it is necessary to separate “discriminatory” actions that reinforce systemic racism or oppression from freely expressed ideas that are sensitive but not ill-intended or detrimental. Many are citing “cultural appropriation” to deny others the freedom to speak, to wear clothes they like, and even lifestyle. That is too much. This overreaction evokes a negative encounter between people when harmonious conversations can be encouraged by pointing out some misunderstanding without criminalizing ignorance or pcontroversial ersonal choices.

Psychologists: 'There is no alternative to free speech' | Cornell Chronicle
Corhell Chronicle – Cornell University

The fear of committing cultural appropriation deters rather than promotes cultural blending, harmony, and awareness. For the record, I am not encouraging cultural appropriation. I think respecting the opinions of the cultural owner is a must and that giving credit is primary when taking inspiration from others’ cultures. What I am arguing is that the definition of and power of “cultural appropriation” has been distorted to the point where anyone can accuse anyone’s behavior (usually celebrities) of being socially acceptable when they are at a controversial place without actually examining the effects and the intent behind those actions. Similar to the witchhunt during McCarthyism when people who advocate for helping the poor, alleviating the wealth gap, and necessary social welfare programs provided by Government are labeled as “communists”. People who simply want to get to know the other culture and simply dipping their toes into the water are now discouraged from pursuing this interest because they fear committing cultural appropriation. And the effects? They miss great opportunities of seeing another group’s cultural, historical background and distinct stories.

In short the fear of committing cultural appropriation can make people avoid cultural appreciation, which is seeking to understand and learn about another culture to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally, according to Greenheart.org. Some ways people learn is to get Festive for the Holidays, wear representative symbols, talk about symbolic stories, and so on. If such things all fell victim to fear, we have to avoid all kinds of foreign or different lifestyles and knowledge in our daily life. How are going to recognize each other’s culture as respectable and equally valuable if we limit our exposure to them?

Column: Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Appreciation? - The Huntington  News
The Hungtington News


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