Cultural Appropriation: The New Trend

Cultural Appropriation: The New Trend

90
views

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

Popular Right Now

Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

25661
views

Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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

How to Boost Minority Voices on College Campuses

An ideal college campus has a healthy dose of diversity that reflects the real world

347
views

An ideal college campus has a healthy dose of diversity that reflects the real world. Unfortunately, due to cost of attendance and geographical location, most college campuses have a skewed population. Minority students sometimes struggle to feel welcome on campus – which may become detrimental to their mental, academic, and physical well-being. Non-minority students should help boost their voices on campus by understanding the social movements in which minority students follow and the issues these movements endorse. Here are two examples of very successful programs involving college students:

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter formed following the murder of the black, unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. On February 26th, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, called 911 to report Martin's 'suspicious activity' before fatally shooting him. Uncovered evidence suggested that Zimmerman acted because he was wary of Martin's race – and not the actual threat of criminal activity. The Black Lives Matter movement gained further traction after the distressing murder of Michael Brown in 2014. Brown was shot numerous times by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in Ferguson and across the United States – with followers that represent all intersections of gender, ability, citizenship and experience. "[They] are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise."

The echoes of the Black Lives Matter message left an imprint on the University of Missouri football team and other student organizations, who all called for the Mizzou President Tim Wolfe's resignation. This protest followed inaction of school leaders when dealing with racial issues on campus. The football team, with their coaches' support, refused to play or practice until Wolfe stepped down. The refusal to play games could have cost the university $1 million in cancellation fees. The Missouri football team showed immense courage – risking their scholarships, academic standing, and image on a national level for a controversial but necessary cause.


Giphy

#Blacklivesmatter

Cripple Punk

Cripple Punk (or C-Punk for those uncomfortable using the slur) is a movement by the physically disabled, for the physically disabled. It was accidentally created by Tumblr user @Crpl-Pnk, or Tai/Tyler, who posted a grunge-style selfie with a cane and the words 'Cripple Punk' in the caption. The picture went viral, and so did the rejection of stereotypes. Tyler said Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple and the un-inspirational cripple –fighting the idea that all cripples must be wonderful people, all the time.

The movement respects all intersections of race, gender, culture, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness, neurodivergent, and survivor status. Cripple Punk recognizes that there is no universal disabled experience, and encourages followers to understand unfamiliar experiences. Participating in the activism is not conditional on things like what kind of mobility aids one uses, or how much one can 'function.' One goal of the movement is to fight internalized ableism (feelings of internalized discrimination of disabilities produced by society) They also strive to empower those currently struggling to own their disabled identity through body positivity. This allows the community to choose how they are seen, and to be unapologetically disabled.

...

Giphy


It is not unusual as a disabled person to feel isolated from others who share your experiences. The Internet has created a space to seek out others with similar experiences, learn from each other, and motivate each other. This online community is incredibly important, as it is often difficult for disabled people to participate in typical protests. Many cannot march because of the nature of their conditions, or the unfortunate reality that many protests are still inaccessible.


Simple ways to amplify minority voices

Following these movements is perhaps the easiest way to show support, whether it be by attending events, retweeting hashtags, or signing petitions. Rally for a more diverse faculty, multicultural centers, and more accessible counseling or tutoring services for minority students. Elect to take an ethic studies or diversity course to listen and understand other worldviews— this may be the first time you are faced with perspectives different from your own. Seek to understand the history of your institution and its potential shortcomings and rally for change with your peers whenever possible. Make your college a place that everyone would want to attend; your campus diversity starts with encouragement.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/JHrNFqwBbig

Related Content

Facebook Comments