Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation has been around for centuries and is when a culture adopts an aspect or various aspects from another culture. It is typically when dominant races adopt aspects of culture from cultures or a group of people that are seen as inferior. For instance, many minority groups believe cultural appropriation as inappropriate, or wrong. Given the context of the situation of the dominant race (typically the white race), cultural appropriation would demean their culture as lesser. The argument on how one deciphers whether or not cultural appropriation is mockful raises the question on how to avoid appropriation of a culture.

Jaidyn Tibeau, junior at Black Hills High School, believes cultural appropriation is ridiculing. Tibeau regards people who recklessly adopt another’s culture and ignore the significance, if any, of that aspect as “…not only disrespectful, but a conflation of culture that falls under racism.” Racism is to discriminate against another race or culture due to the belief of one’s culture to be superior. In which, various minority groups suffer from discrimination due to their traditions, appearance, or simply their ancestry. Ridiculing someone for their culture “…is not ‘style,’ it is simply uncivil,” argued Tibeau.

Ellysa Wood, senior at V. Sue Cleveland High School, considers both viewpoints when regarding cultural appropriation as both positive and negative. For instance, a positive factor would be “…the spreading of awareness of other cultures to the world.” This allows one to be involved and learn about the different cultures of the world. It gives them the opportunity to appreciate the culture and ridding any ignorance they had, whereas a negative factor would be that “a lot of people see it as a joke… it’s disgraceful… not respecting the culture of other people.” There are some instances where someone would mock one’s culture, in which Wood argues that if one does not “…completely respect it and does not see the beauty of it, then you shouldn’t even speak upon their culture.”

Eli DeChenne, senior at Black Hills High School, also believes cultural appropriation can be both positive and negative. For instance, a negative component could be “…if a group of people were to take something like a holiday and try to make it their own and exclude the group they took it from.” An example could be seen as the Native American groups argue that Columbus Day be changed to Indigenous People’s Day. That the holiday should celebrate the Natives rather than Christopher Columbus who brought cruelty and genocide upon the indigenous people in the Americas. However, DeChenne explains that a positive view would be “…if they decided to participate in the holiday in a respectful manner.” People should participate in understanding the culture rather than trying to claim it as their own.

Malachy Stiefel, senior at Interior Distance Education of Alaska, believes the concept of adopting aspects from another culture to be negative. For instance, taking something without regard of the significance of the element such as: “…a white person with tribal tattoos.” Tribal tattoos typically hold deep meaning due to it being a representation of one’s tribe, legends, or social status. Adopting particular element of a culture and lacking the knowledge of the history behind it impacts how those of the culture perspectives. In which, being ignorant towards the culture could be seen as mocking or disrespectful. Stiefel believes the issue should be regarded with sensitivity considering the “…history of blackface and Native American appropriation” is an example of ridiculing one’s culture.

The argument on cultural appropriation is still viewed as an issue within society due to its concept of “borrowing” or “adopting” aspects of a culture dismisses credit where credit is due. In which, the dominant group would ‘borrow’ or ‘exploit’ aspects they took from another culture without giving any acknowledgement of the other culture.

By Janae Attao



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