Appropriate or Not: A Lesson in Culture Appropriation

Its almost October, which means it is about that time when everyone is trying to figure out what they are going to be for Halloween. This is time to dress up in a silly costume and get candy or depending on your age then you will go to parties. Everyone loves to have an outrageous funny outfit that makes everyone laugh. I think that is a big part of the holiday, but a lot of the time the “funny or cool” costume isn’t really funny or cool at all. By this I mean that this is also the time that I see the most cultural appropriation out in the open. Cultural appropriation is when a member of a dominant culture steals elements of a systematically oppressed group’s culture and claims or uses those elements in a negative fashion.

Think of it like this, what if you wrote a fifty page paper for your class and the teacher gives you an F, but than someone else takes your paper and just crosses out your name and gets an A. It is the same thing that you presented, but they get the praise and recognition as if they wrote it. Cultural appropriation is like that example, but way more serious. If a group of people tell you that you are ugly, stupid, or even less than for something that you were born with and than they go and take that thing they tormented you about and  they get positive attention for, how would you feel about that? Cultural appropriation could also be wearing a bindi and you are not Hindu, or doing something as racist as wearing yellow or black face. It definitely is when Hollywood makes a movie set in Egypt and put dark makeup on an all white cast a to pretend they are African instead of actually casting Egyptian people.

You see this when you look at sports teams like the Redskins, when the mascot or fans wear a headdress and makeup like Native Americans are a costume (Sexy Native American girl for Halloween is still racist, we were not praising their dresses when the genocide killed thousands of their people, so don’t wear it). Also you see it when celebrities like Kylie Jenner get lip and butt enhancers when black people have been told all throughout history that their lips and butts are ugly and too big. And most recently when someone like Miley Cyrus wears dreadlocks and is said to “Rock a new cute hairdo” and when a young black actress Zendaya wears them she’s portrayed as dirty and ghetto.

You may not be trying to make fun or steal someone’s culture, but cultural appropriation allows people to “show love” to a culture with out them actually caring about the people in that culture. Wearing a sombrero and poncho to a Cinco de Mayo party (dogs too?) FullSizeRender-7

or dressing up as Pocahontas for Halloween is devaluing the people in that culture to just a costume to entertain or make you laugh. These cultures should not be reduced to just a costume that people wear on October 31. So when you are looking for something to wear for Halloween this year, make sure you keep in mind that other people’s culture is not a costume.

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