What is Cultural Appropriation?

L – Rick Cruz

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of cultural content from its original creators (usually in the minority) into another ethnic group that commands a wider audience and influence to the masses, (the majority). It happens frequently in the music industry, like Elvis Presley appropriating rock and roll from black artists or the Kardashians selling shirts with the image of Tupac Shakur.

The frustration arises when these forms of expression are used by people without honoring either the roots of their intention or pay homage and respect to those that created it. With the modern westernization/appropriation of yoga, now a multi-billion-dollar industry, it created a bastardized version of this ancient old practice.

The purpose of yoga was a practice to help attain enlightenment, detach from earthly desires and materialism, and acquire superhuman traits through years of practice. There is very little recourse in cultural appropriation, it seems like appropriation is an inevitability, since the theft of ideas is rampant in today’s society.

I – Carmel R.

I believe that to a certain extent, cultural appropriation does not really exist. Individuals can certainly be disrespectful of one another’s culture–that goes without saying. But actually appropriating another individual’s culture purposefully is much more difficult to do. Let me give you an example: say Tessa decides that she is Peruvian, and tells people so. Tessa’s parents are of German and Italian descent, none of her friends are Peruvian, she has not been to Peru, and does not speak Spanish. For example, a white/ Caucasian girl gets henna done for her Coachella themed party, because it is aesthetic and really pretty. This is an example of stripping the nuances of an cultural element for superficiality.

Any stable person would agree that Tessa is delusional, and needs urgent mental help. But that is how I usually interpret situations that are deemed ‘appropriation;’ utterly ridiculous. A third of the time, it is an overreaction. Another third of the time, what is mislabeled as cultural appropriation is actually just disrespect. And the last third of the time? That is when cultural appropriation actually is cultural appropriation.

C – Adrian Wong

In its most basic sense, cultural appropriation occurs when one culture borrows something from another.  People of the culture whose idea was borrowed then complain and try and stop anyone else from using their idea.  Recently, Jeremy Lin of the Brooklyn Nets was called out by former player Kenyon Martin. Martin claimed that Lin’s dreads were cultural appropriation of black culture. Lin quickly responded by saying it was out of appreciation and pointed out that Martin has Chinese tattoos on his body.

In my opinion, ‘cultural appropriation’ should only be used when someone is clearly mocking a culture.  For example, when an Arizona State fraternity had a racist party on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day which mocked black culture, it is reasonable to accuse them of cultural appropriation.

On the other hand, I think it is ridiculous to accuse someone of digital blackface, or to be mad at a non-black person for making macaroni and cheese.  It should not be hard for one to understand the difference between someone mocking a culture, and someone simply enjoying something that was not created expressly by their culture.  People should be allowed to respectfully incorporate pieces of other cultures into their lives without any issue.

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