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

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Throwing Shade At Makeup Companies For Their Inequality

Why should shades of makeup be limited to a particular race or gender?

I love makeup. It is something that I have fallen in love with over the years.

It gave me the boost of confidence I needed when I was feeling insecure, and it allowed me to be creative. Many other men and women have used makeup to find for the same reasons. People of different backgrounds, genders, race, and social classes.

But for some reason, we have only opened up the color range of foundation to the middle group of people.

Recently, Tarte released their Shape Tape Hydrating and Matte Foundation. They shared a picture that had 11 light shades, two medium shades, and two dark shades.

Excuse my language, but this is complete bullshit. The lack of darker shades is a slap in the face to so many people and so many other lovers of makeup.

Personally, I have never experienced this. I fall in the 11 light shades. Yeah, my shade has been sold out, but I could always order or get it somehow, but a brand has never made my shade entirely.

Even the shades names are exclusive to one race. In the hydration and matte foundation, they have three fair shades for each. Then for a light category, there are five light shades in the hydration foundation and 4 in the matte foundation.

If you are keeping count all together that is 15 shades for pale, white people. Different undertones and small differences between the shades, just for Caucasians.

Now getting into the medium skin tones that still include a lot of white people with tanner skin. Between both foundations, there are ten shades.

Right now, we are at a whopping 25 shades for white people or people that have medium skin tones.

Now for anyone darker than that there are five shades between both foundations for you to pick from and none that include different skin tones or shade names that guide you to select your shade.

Please, someone, inform me what shade Mahogany looks like because if someone gave me a name of a word to describe my shade name out of 30 different shades, I would be lost.

For a brand to be adamant about treating animals fairly and making sure their products are vegan — I would assume include all races in their product range.

For a brand which is making a way and encouraging men in makeup, I would assume again; they would include all races in their product range.

For a brand who sends YouTubers and Bloggers with deeper skin tones on brand trips to Bora Bora, I would assume they would include all races in their product range.

This has to change. Everyone deserves to have a shade that makes them feel beautiful. No matter backgrounds, genders, race, and social classes, everyone should have their shade.

Being a makeup lover, I would rather wait years for a full shade range to release than get a crap release for only white people to get to.

Tarte and several other brands have to step up their game because these shit releases are getting old.

Cover Image Credit: Maeve Armstrong

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A POC Response To 'Being A White Female In Today's Society Is Not All Fun And Games'

Freedom of speech does not excuse this article.

Note: I am not here to bully anyone, I’m actually here to educate. I’ve taken many classes regarding colorblind issues like this. Prior to this article, I did have a conversation with this author and it has pushed me to write a response in order for her to realize what she has said.

* * *

In response to: "Being A White Female In Today's Society Is Not All Fun And Games, Fact"

The minute I read the title of this article, I knew it was going to be very colorblind. What’s funny is that I do not get what you were trying to say, but it had nothing to do with you being white, and it was a “woe is me” article.

“Being a white girl living in the middle class makes these situations that occur in society much more difficult. We are held to a certain standard, life stories are assumed about us, stereotypes and stigmas are enforced without any valid reasoning.”

So, the stereotypes, stigmas, and life stories assumed about people of color are validated? Because those aren’t either, there are stereotypes for everyone.

In America, white is not considered a color, it’s normal. Being of a different color is considered a disability — unless it’s for sports, math or to clean.

You go on a tangent about people holding you to a stigma because you’re a white woman and your major is engineering. You’re also considered a “minority” because there are not many women in your career.

It also seems that being a minority is considered at a lower level than your male counterparts, this is what it feels like to be of a different color surrounded by those who are of the majority, lower-level.

“In most of my classes, there will be a mere four or five in a classroom of 30 or more people. Most people have said that I am at an advantage because I am a "minority" attempting to succeed in this career field. I do not feel that is true. I feel that, as a female, I need to prove myself more than my male peers, that I have to make a name for myself and show others that I can succeed, regardless of how much I may struggle.

No one is saying you do not work hard.

The reason there are fewer women than men in your class is that society pushes women towards dolls, easy-bake ovens, and toy kitchens. Whereas boys are given toolsets and cars, which can later develop into a career interest. Kudos to you for overcoming the manipulation of gender roles.

“Yes, I have a scholarship that allows me to have some comfort in paying my tuition. But, I have never received a scholarship for the color of my skin or my gender.”

Neither have I, neither have most of the people at school and if they have it’s because over 65% of FGCU’s student body is of Caucasian descent.

This comment can be considered as a macroaggression, looking down on others for getting a scholarship based on the color of their skin and assuming they haven’t worked for it.

You don’t seem to think that being a white woman is an advantage because of the struggles that all women go through. Being cat-called, inequality, and sexism.

My friends and I are affected by inequality every day because of the color of our skin. Some of us are not considered pretty because of the lack of western features. Some of us are sexualized by the media for looking the way we do.

Newsflash, white women are not the only women who get cat-called.

“I am here to explain how every culture and gender and background and community has their own ups and downs. One community should never be targeted for a specific situation or event. A small group of individuals should never define a whole community. I was called vulnerable for the way I portray myself through my writing, and I take an immense amount of pride in that. I am not afraid to share how I feel or how I view things.”

The white community is not targeted for specific events, no one is going around killing all the white people because another white boy shot up a school.

You are right, a small group of individuals should not be targeted for specific situation or event.

But you in-turn have targeted other individuals because it’s not all fun and games being white. You obviously know it’s not all fun and games being black, Hispanic, or Asian.

Did you hear about the black girl who was hung by two white boys on Facebook live?

Or the boy who was hung by his white classmates?

What you really seem to be angry about is that you were called vulnerable, make that the point of your argument- do not bring race into it. Because at the end of the day, you are not considered a race by societal standards. You do have greater life chances than any other women of color in your major.

You may think this article is being racist towards you, but reverse racism does not exist.

I feel as though you need to apologize to your viewers of color for the ignorant message you’ve sent out. I do not feel you meant harm by it, but you don’t understand that there are so many people today who are in the same boat as you and aren’t white.

I’m a middle-class individual, with scholarships, I work two jobs, my parents do not pay for my schooling or anything of the matter. I did not get a scholarship for the color of my skin.

You are not special or excluded because you are white.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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