As An Asian American, I Am Conflicted About Cultural Appropriation

As An Asian American, I Am Conflicted About Cultural Appropriation

Where is the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation?

According to Wikipedia, cultural appropriation deals with “the adoption of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.”

Today, this term is often used to describe someone’s misuse of an aspect of another culture. Usually, the someone is a caucasian and the other culture is a minority culture. Cultural appropriation is a highly debated topic that shows up in news and media almost daily, yet no one really agrees on where that fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is.

To me, the difference between the two is that the cultural appropriation we widely condemn today plucks an important aspect of a minority culture that has traditionally been viewed as inferior and turns that aspect into something that’s suddenly “fashionable” and “trendy”, while cultural appreciation could take that same aspect and showcase it with respect, attributing credit to the original culture.

I’ve seen many posts addressing blatant cultural appropriation.

For example, a Caucasian wearing Native American headdress to Coachella is undeniably cultural appropriation. There is no way anyone can suddenly decide that a culture they had killed and exiled for centuries was suddenly trendy and that the previously mocked culture is now suddenly a way for corporations to profit off of. Blackface, yellowface, and redface are all openly racist and deserve the criticism it has received. There may even be more action necessary to combat these actions.

While most accusations of cultural appropriation in our society today are fully justified, I can’t help but feel like some accusations have gone overboard.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise racist cultural appropriation and misinterpretations of my culture, and I would never hesitate to stick up for it.

However, to me, just because someone adopts an element of another culture, that does not mean it is automatically the cultural appropriation we attack today. If we define cultural appropriation using Wikipedia’s definition, then it is not only inevitable but also not inherently racist. There are ways to appropriate elements of a culture and to show respect for it at the same time.

A few years ago, a mother was accused of cultural appropriation for throwing her daughter a Japanese themed party. People called her a racist and told her to educate herself about cultural appropriation.

However, most people who protested this example of a Caucasian wearing a Japanese kimono were not Japanese or of Japanese descent and were actually highly misinformed about the kimono.

Contrary to these criticisms, opinion polls in Japan, as well as the overall mindset in the kimono industry, actually do not view Caucasians wearing kimonos as cultural appropriation. In fact, many in the kimono industry and many Japanese encourage this kind of practice so that there could be higher sales in the industry and higher awareness of Japanese culture.

Recently, students have started to claim that their college dining halls were culturally appropriating their food. These dining halls would claim to serve “ramen” or “banh mi”, but the actual food served ends up not resembling nor tasting like these foods.

While some call this cultural appropriation, I view this as simply the college’s genuine attempt to try to be more inclusive and diversify the food that they served. Personally, when my school’s dining hall claims to be serving fried rice, I know that the food would definitely not taste like the fried rice I eat at home or in Taiwan, but I still appreciate my school’s efforts recognize my culture on campus.

This is why I have my reservations about our society’s current interpretation of cultural appropriation.

Cultural exchange and cultural appreciation are crucial to a wider mutual understanding among races, yet we’re seeing instances where white kids are afraid to dress up as Moana for Halloween in fear of being accused of cultural appropriation. If someone adopts an element of another culture while being respectful about it, taking the time to learn about the history and meaning of it, they should be able to do so.

So, while Karlie Kloss’s Indian headdress at the Victoria Secret’s fashion show depicts blatant cultural appropriation, we should not criticize every instance of one people adopting another culture without understanding how these people are doing so.

Cover Image Credit: New York Apparel

Popular Right Now

20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.

Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

I Asked 20 People If They Have Ever Experienced Or Whitnessed Racism And Here Are Their Responses

Modern day racism is a thing.

It is 2018 and we are still faced with the issue of racism. Many people don't recognize it as a major issue and no one is doing anything about it. At a time like this, rather than teaching our kids to be extra careful because of the color of their skin, we should teach them love and acceptance.

People are taught racism. People are taught racist stereotypes and "jokes." People are taught ignorance.

I asked 20 college-aged people if they've ever experienced or witnessed racism, and these were their responses.

1. “I told a friend of mine that I liked a guy who’s black and she said that I ‘shouldn’t date anyone black around here because they all dress and act kinda thuggy.’” - female, Caucasian

2. "A girl told me ‘I would date you because you act white’” - male, African American

3. "One of our friends informed the rest of us that her friend had been in a car accident that morning. We were obviously all concerned so I asked her if they knew who the other person in the accident was, when this girl proceeded to say that it was probably 'some n*****s'.'” – female, Caucasian

4. “A female’s father didn’t allow her to date me in high school because of my skin color. She was just like my dad said we can’t date so we just stopped talking to each other.” - male, African American

5. “I had just gotten my honors tassel and National Honors Society sash and the boy that was next to me said, ‘You’re smart? I didn’t know Mexicans could be smarter than me’” - female, Mexican

6. "I had people tell me that I was dating a 'mix breed' and a 'mutt.'”- female, Caucasian

7. “At school I went to get some water and above the small one was labeled ‘blacks’ and the big one was labeled ‘whites’” - male, African American

8. “I was falsely accused of sexual harassment and this white female only had her word, I had evidence, witnesses, and proof counteracting her accusations but all they decided to do was effective immediately throw me out on the streets, ban me from campus, my job on campus, ban me from all eating establishments on campus, and expect me to continue to go to class because that’s all I’m allowed to do.” - male, African American

9. “My friend was getting arrested and my other friend said ‘all these n*****s’. Not knowing I was right behind him.” - male, African American

10. “I had a woman tell me at my job I needed to go back where I came from because in the US we 'speak English not Mexican' just because I was speaking Spanish to little kids” - female, Columbian

11. “I was in class and we were watching a movie about racism and a white male leaned over and said to me “I’m gonna make you my slave like all the other n*****s” . So I informed the teacher and the principal escorted him out and he was suspended, but I was harassed for months by his friends” - female, African American

12. “I’ve been told that I ‘spoke well for a black guy’” - male, African American

13. “People ask me if me or my parents are illegal immigrants, and then I’ve gotten 'you’re pretty for a Hispanic girl'" - female, Hispanic

14. “My grandmother on my dad’s side always says racist remarks around my mom who is Filipino” - female, Filipino and Caucasian

15. “I remember specifically walking out of school one day and hearing a male voice shout “N***** lover” and very loud laughs and screams.” - female, Caucasian

16. "I was at Walmart and a black woman was yelling at kids she had with her for misbehaving. They were genuinely being crazy, but most 5 year olds are! An elderly woman in front of me said 'maybe if she didn’t have that many kids for a government check, she wouldn’t have that problem.'”

17. "And my only response was, 'Are you sure they are all hers? Would you say that If she was white!?' And the woman couldn’t respond. I told the mom I respected how she was trying to keep her kids well behaved in a store. She told me only ONE was hers and the other three were from a brother who was in school trying to earn a degree and get a job. " - female, Caucasian

18. "This girl named Holly told me that I was 'pretty for a black girl' and tried to touch my hair." - female, African American

19. "There are several, which is sad, but I’ll just share one. I’m really involved in theater and after a show one day a bunch of people from the cast went out to Texas Roadhouse and I remember these two men sitting across from me and they just had this look of disgust one their faces and I kept wondering why they were looking like that. I was the only person of color at the table and I remember that night I walked out to my car and they were right beside it my friend walked with me and then to his car. The whole time I was kind of tense because I had the gut feeling that these men had something against me and I couldn’t figure out why until racial slurs flew out of their drunken mouths and I don’t think I’ve ever feared for my life more than I did in that moment." - female, African American

20. "Sometimes when I go out into public, people use their fingers to squint their eyes or they tell me 'ching chong'" - female, Korean

Many of these stories describe experiences in which a family member or friend were the ones being racially insensitive. People have gotten too comfortable being racist and treating it like a joke. Teach love, not hate.

When you catch someone making a racial comment that makes you or someone around you uncomfortable, address it.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Related Content

Facebook Comments