Cultural Appropriation - What's the Hype?



Yes, we're judging you for that native American Halloween costume.



This term is thrown about a lot, but what does it actually mean and why should you care? Put simply, it's when features of a minority culture are adopted by the dominant culture. Unlike racism, it isn't solely perpetuated by white people (although they are the main culprits), as its the imbalanced dynamic that makes it problematic and so people of colour can be prone to it too.


For example, Nicki Minaj's 2018 video for her song "Chun-Li" featured her wearing traditional East-Asian dress with chopsticks in her hair. Fans defended the song's reference to the Street Fighter character named Chun-Li's costume, and claimed that the anti-Black sentiment within the Asian community cancelled out Nicki's actions, but for others, it was blatant, inexcusable appropriation. Repeat offenders often claim they are 'appreciating' the culture, but there are crucial differences to determine if that is actually true.


Mistake, misguided attempt or misbehaviour?


Firstly, adopting an immediately defensive stance rather than being open to criticism suggests it's likely to be cultural appropriation. Secondly, if said 'appreciation' doesn't actually benefit the minority culture, then it's closer to appropriation.


A prime example is Drake, who has been dubbed both an appropriator and a 'culture vulture', notably from the UK music scene - donning a London based accent and hilariously popping up whenever Black British celebrities are seen together. However, Drake has been a vocal, long time supporter of London/Black British culture instead of momentarily exploiting it; regularly bringing out UK acts during his performances and featuring on upcoming artists' tracks like Santan Dave's "Wanna Know". The jury is still out on this one, but when the notorious 'Drake effect' is an undeniable force, what's left to say?


It's not that deep


It may just seem like celebrities playing dress-up but cultural appropriation is something you should care about, actively oppose and definitely avoid doing. Unfortunately, everything (and we mean everything) stems from White supremacy and cultural appropriation is no exception. Don't believe it? Let's dive in deeper.


Class is in session


Appropriation enables the minority culture to be exploited, which worsens the backdrop of severe injustices they already face. The dominant culture will steal elements of the minority culture that they deem attractive and enviable, and of course, this is by Western beauty standards, which already excludes 80% of the global population.


A recent example is Awkwafina's 'blaccent', which she has repeatedly defended by saying her hometown (of Forest Hills, New York, where 2.5% of the 2010 population were Black) influenced the way she talks, but refuses to be what she deems as a 'minstrel', (her PR team must be tearing their hair out at this word choice) by acting in an Asian accent.


To top it all off, as Awkwafina's career has progressed from acting to directing, her 'Maybe She's Born With It' blaccent has disappeared. This is typical for an appropriator as they cherry-pick the traits of Black culture that they feel like wearing as a costume until it no longer suits their agenda, at which point, they will then revert back to their true characteristics.


This commercialises the Black experience, and reinforces that Black people and their personalities are unsuitable for certain environments. This ideology leaks into colourism, fetishisation and other concepts that need to be eradicated. Furthermore, the rest of us are stuck with the 'undesirable' aspects of a culture and the issues that come with being part of a minority, while the appropriators do nothing to raise awareness, alleviate pressures, or even offer understanding.


Altogether, it severely cheapens and dilutes a group's collective experience - with no respect to the fact that some traditions are sacred and simply shouldn't be shared.


They who shall not be named


There are plenty of other articles, videos, and journals that continue the implications of cultural appropriation conversation and it's good to gain perspective outside of your own circumstances.


It's important to continue celebrating diversity, but remaining respectful without entitlement ensures that the fun continues. Whether you are part of a dominant culture or a minority culture, finding out more about how the activities you partake in can impact others, can help ensure you don't cause offence.


And now, a round of applause to us for making it through the whole article without naming a family in particular who thrive off cultural appropriation, and the outrage that comes with it.

Nobody has the funds for a Kardashian-Jenner lawsuit.


Hopefully now you're knowledgeable enough to avoid a stunt as offensive as the Kardashians' notorious cornrows or lip fillers or tequila brand or Tupac inspired clothing line or...