The Brouhaha of Cultural Appropriation

I was talking with some Boomers in my life this past Halloween when somebody brought up how the holiday’s been “politicized.” I personally don’t think there’s anything “political” about treating a culture with human dignity, but somewhere along the line, somebody trivialized the act of being inclusive into a political construct. These boomers I know are good, kind, generous people who I think just haven’t considered the implications of cultural appropriation past the context of something childlike and innocent, like playing “cowboys and indians.”

I know anybody who’s reading this post of their own free will and volition is doing it because they probably agree with what I’m saying. That’s the first step, but carrying the belief of respecting other cultures and other peoples’ full humanity is lifelong practice! We all need call-outs and call-ins, and I want to continue to challenge us all to work towards these values. Also consider sharing this with somebody else who might need a little clarification in their life!

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking something sacred from another culture and donning it for aesthetic reasons while remaining willfully ignorant of the culture from which you are drawing. Usually, the culture being appropriated has faced pressure to assimilate with western ideals, dress, and religion. On a much less subtle note, cultural appropriation is also dressing up like a stereotype of culture. It’s a form of mockery and it’s overtly racist.

We are living in a politically volatile era right now. Duh. We are a polarized society, so when we take something and claim it’s “political,” we’re setting everyone up to brace for a fight, either in defense of a point of view or against it. However, as second-wave feminist writer Carol Hanisch wrote in 1969, “the personal is political,” and the experiences lived by cultures different from traditional western culture deserve to be acknowledged. If a group of people that western culture has objectively forced into assimilation says, “You are taking something important to us and using it for your own benefits while negating the strife that your culture has caused ours throughout history,” we should listen. If we approach cultural appropriation with respect for our neighbors, I think we’ll have a much better understanding of what, exactly, cultural appropriation is and why it is something that we should be mindfully avoid.

Kat Blaque’s got a pretty great video that discusses cultural appropriation in greater detail. Check it out here