Cultural Appropriation: The New Trend

Cultural Appropriation: The New Trend

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The mirror in my house, on first look, is identical to any mirror in any house. It has a thick, blue border and stands five feet tall, tucked behind my dressing table. It lets me see my peacock blue sari in all its glory. But glance over to the top right edge and you will notice a red dot that ethnicizes my otherwise Walmart-bought mirror. The red dot is, in fact, a small red bindi placed ever so delicately on the wooden border. It is mine. And it is high time people understand what that means.

The bindi, most prevalent in South Asia, is a forehead adornment worn most by Hindu women. It is said to be our third eye, the center of our intellect. However, in the last couple of decades, there has been a shift in the connotations of a bindi among the South Asian population. Although the bindi's past in intertwined with Hinduism's caste system, in today's times, South Asian women wear it more as a cultural symbol than a religious mark. The majority of married Hindu women (and also non-Hindu Bangladeshi women), especially those from the middle class, wear bindis on a daily basis back in the sub-continent. And when it comes to important occasions like weddings or festivals, South Asian girls and women all across the world don the resplendent bindi. However, we are not the only ones doing so.

An increasing number of women not from bindi-sporting cultures have been wearing the bindi for its "aesthetic value." Several mainstream music artists in the U.S. have worn the bindi—Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Selena Gomez, and Madonna are just a few. They see the bindi as a fashion statement, as something with which they can make themselves seem more "exotic," as though my culture is a mere toy to be played with. Coachella, a music festival famous for pricey tickets and cultural appropriation, went so far as to shower "boho" white girls with bindis the same way children are showered with candies from a piñata on their fourth birthday. This is just one of the many instances where cultural appropriation was blatantly celebrated.

Racism against South Asians has always existed and continues to exist. Right from the 1917 Asiatic Barred Zone Act, which sought to ban "undesirable Asians" from U.S. to the outrageous backlash Nina Davuluri, a second-generation Indian American, received after winning the Miss America title in 2014, racism is deeply rooted in America. Hate crimes against Muslims have become five times more common after the 9/11 tragedy. The 2012 Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre that took the lives of six Sikhs and injured four others is an example of the increased violence against the Sikh community. According to the Sikh Coalition, 12 percent of Sikhs in the San Francisco Bay Area have reported suffering employment discrimination. But there are also the more visible cases of racism.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, there was a hate group in New Jersey called the "Dotbusters." In their own words, the Dotbusters “hated [Indian People]… [and] will go to any extreme to get Indians out of New Jersey.” They were responsible for killing one Indian man and beating another into a coma. This group was notorious for spitting on South Asian women who wore traditional clothes in public, a hateful act that many non-affiliates soon emulated. And this is the problem.

Because no longer does the bindi symbolize our culture for those of us who live abroad. Now, when brown women wear the bindi, it symbolizes "otherness." So much so, that it has become unsafe to adorn our culture and walk outside. Our names are mocked, our food looked down on, our bodies are labeled dirty, and our people are labeled "scary" and "primitive." The bindi is seen as the mark of my non-whiteness. But this isn’t the life that white women who wear the bindi have to live.

When white women wear it, they are seen as "cute" and "edgy." They are not called a terrorist, but are seen as fashion icons with a trendy and new style to offer. But the bindi is not theirs to offer. The bindi has taken the form of shared understanding among immigrant South Asian girls and women. It has become a symbol for all the discrimination that still persists against us in countries that pride themselves on diversity.

This might seem like an insignificant problem to many, including some brown people themselves (especially those back home), but that could be because they have not seen kids shouting "Terrorist!" at a Sikh boy. They haven't seen teachers refuse to pronounce our names correctly despite our numerous attempts to correct them. They haven't seen my peers in high school enunciate to me that my “English was very good” after they found out I was from India. They haven't seen brown people being called "Paki" and "Dothead" for simply existing. But my fellow clueless brown people aren't the primary problem here.

An entire generation of foreign-based South Asian women have been stripped of their right to do with their heritage as they please. Many argue that the bindi is just a fashion statement, even for brown women, so it shouldn’t matter if non-South Asian women use it solely for aesthetic purposes. But that’s the point. Even if it is just a fashion statement, it’s our fashion statement. It’s our culture and we get to choose how it evolves. White people do not get to pick and choose what parts of our culture they "appreciate" and then consume it. We are people, not a buffet.

My sisters should not feel unsafe when they walk outside wearing the bindi. The bindi on us should not signify "dirty." My bindi should not be a source of discrimination for me. My bindi should not be target practice. My bindi is mine to define. It can be my concealed wisdom, my link to home, my expression of my culture, or simply my fashion accessory. It is mine; my all-seeing third eye, and this eye had spent a lot of time not wanting to see herself in a sari or bindi for a white girl to slap it on with such flippancy. Nobody should steal a cultural symbol while abusing the very people behind its genesis. So dear non-desis, my bindi is not for sale.

Cover Image Credit: Designer Swap

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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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For Those Of You Boycotting Nike, Here Are 10 Times You Need To Just Stop It

There's no need to burn your gear.

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As everyone knows, Nike created an ad that included Colin Kaepernick and the white supremacists went wild. They began burning their Nike gear, and no longer want to support the brand.

1. Why? 

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There are two reasons why I think you are boycotting Nike and that is because either you are assuming the race of Colin Kaepernick or you are mad because he kneeled during the National Anthem. Either way, you have the right to boycott whatever you want. Boycotting is a great way to protest. However, you're going about it all wrong

2. Why are you mad? 

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If you're assuming this man's ethnicity, you are assuming. Check your facts, Kaepernick is American. If you are mad because he kneeled during the National Anthem, I do not understand why that is even an issue. Just like you are protesting Nike, the NFL players were protesting police brutality. So, really, your thinking is on the same level. People who protest want something to be corrected. What exactly do you want to be corrected?

3. Nike knew what they were doing

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Of course Nike knows what they're doing! Nike has been successful for years and they aren't going to stop because they aren't going to conform to whatever the majority wants, especially if they don't stand for it. Nike is a business, they have marketing strategies, and believe it or not, they are most likely going to blow up. If not, they'll do just fine. Nike employees many athletes and owns multiple other companies. The reality of it is, if you don't like what Nike stands for, they don't want your business and they don't care if you're gone.

4. Let’s be honest

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The majority of people burning or mutilating their Nike gear are people who splurge on such items when they've saved up enough money to buy something nice. You tore up one pair of socks? You burned one pair of shoes? Honestly, it's your own money wasted.

5. You look like a buffoon

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Seriously, the internet is making fun of you. You are burning your own clothes. Sure, be mad at the brand, boycott it if you must. But, really, Nike already has your money. It is a business, not a person, they don't care whether you burn their clothing articles because you already bought it. What are you going to do? Buy more socks to cut or keep buying the same socks you normally wear? I think the joke is on you. You have fewer clothes and less money.

6. It’s an article of clothing

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You're not bothering Nike but Nike is bothering you. Some people would be thrilled just to have a cool shirt or nice pair of shoes and would gladly take that swoosh off your hands. But you're too busy caught up in your own fury to even think of the people less fortunate than you, right? Clothes that are in good shape are taken so much for granted. Typically when people are done with their clothes they donate them to Goodwill…

7. Or the army

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnX27tmD2by/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Which seems to be one of the topics that some are so angry about. You talk about respecting the troops but don't think to donate an article of clothing that someone would not only be excited to have, but possibly need. Instead, you destroy it and hope someone's feelings get hurt. Keep in mind, businesses don't have feelings, people do.

8. If someone who cannot afford clothing saw you destroying it

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They would be distraught. Some people rely on thrift shops or donations just to live in habitable conditions. No one cares who you boycott or for what, but destroying a good pair of shoes, socks or even clothes for the sake of protesting is kind of dumb. Just donate whatever it is and don't buy from the company.

9. It’s not hard to be a good person and protest

Seriously, just donate your clothes. Figure out exactly what it is that you're mad about and decide whether it's worth the trouble. Making it public that you're angry about a small thing results in more people making fun of you and supporting where you lack; it doesn't matter whether you're buying from the company or not.

10. There’s a reason why people are making fun of you for burning your clothes

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnX27tmD2by/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

It's because everyone else sees that this issue should not be an issue. People have their clothes and wear them, whether the brand is getting a bad rap or not. You're mad at Nike for creating a commercial with someone they have been sponsoring for years who kneeled during the national Anthem to protest the victims of police brutality. It was a one time thing, and like you, they were protesting.

11. If you can be mad at that, you can be mad at things that matter

If you can spend all this energy on one small thing, you can protest things that actually matter, police brutality, for example. It's okay not to like something, but this isn't an issue. Michigan still doesn't have clean water, many people need affordable healthcare, there are people who live on the streets and need food, and global warming is a serious problem. There are way bigger issues than someone kneeling during the National Anthem. So, how will you help the world?

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