What is Cultural Appropriation?
Every culture has certain features that belong uniquely to that society. We can look at photos of people in different places, showing their cultural expressions, and often identify them based on those expressions. There is a growing problem within American society to take pieces of those cultural identifications and make them ours.
Ever taken a sociology class and heard the term "cultural appropriation?" Maybe you read an article lately about how the VMA's featured a bunch of "cultural appropriations" of minority groups, and how people were not happy about it. What you may not know is how furthering and contributing to cultural appropriation could be destroying the cultural tolerance and diversity of the US.
Basically, cultural appropriation is a majority group picking and choosing certain "cultural elements" from minority groups that have previously been discriminated against by that same majority group. In this case, the Caucasian population of the United States is the point of focus for these "cultural appropriations."
Iggy Azalea is under scrutiny as a white woman who has adopted the black hip-hop culture and capitalized on its popularity. Essentially, she has taken something (hip-hop) that has been a traditional form of expression within the African American culture, made it hers (without the burdens coming along with it), and profited off of it.
photo via Atlantablackstar.com
What you're doing to further cultural appropriation
I'm just as guilty as the next person – I've dressed up as an Indian for Halloween, sticking feathers in my hair and painting my face. I never stopped to think about how by doing this, we're romanticizing and sometimes even sexualizing an entire culture that has no ability to do the same to us.
This should go without saying, but do not use derogatory language about a person's race. It doesn't matter if some people think it's funny or are okay with it; don't do it. The names didn't stem from a funny joke that someone once told. These racist terms were born out of a time when it was socially unacceptable to be a minority. We, as a country, need to put an end to the societal view that it's okay to joke about or make fun of racist terms.
How can someone dress white? You cannot. There is not a place where white people exclusively go to shop and every other race shops elsewhere for their clothing. If someone looks put together; they look put together. People should be able to get dressed on a daily basis without fear of being told they do not look like they're conforming to their racial clothing standards. Let's stop giving inanimate objects a race and status – it's only hurting our society.
We, as a people, need to think a little bit more about how we can promote good relationships across cultures. It is important to grow and move on from the past, but we must never minimize someone's culture or pick and choose what we want to celebrate. We, as Americans, need to remember and grow from the wrongs that have been committed, and grow in appreciation and mutual respect for everyone. Respect is not romanticizing certain cultural identifications; it's appreciating and celebrating people for who they are.