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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I'm An 18-Year-Old Female And I Will Never Be A Feminist

Honestly, I'd rather be caught dead than caught calling myself a modern-day feminist.
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"A man told me to have a good day... I'm triggered." How ludicrous does that sound? Tune in because that is the extent of modern day feminism.

Sure, I think boys are stupid and that I'm probably better than 90% of the male population, but that doesn't make me a modern-day feminist. Now I believe that woman should stand up for themselves, and Golding's quote: "I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been," is by far one of my favorite quotes... but modern day feminism is not something I want to be associated with.

I'm all for "anything you can do I can do better," and "We can do it!" but realistically speaking in some situations, that isn't feasible. As an 18-year-old woman who works out regularly, and is stronger than the average female, I couldn't carry a 190-pound man back to a safe zone after he was shot on the front line of a war even if I tried. It is not anatomically possible for a grown woman to be as strong as a fully developed male.

Reality check: Men and women are not equal.

They are not physically equal, they are not mentally equal. Modern-day feminism is equality between the two genders, but corrupt and on steroids. I support what feminism used to be. I support women who work hard and have goals and ambition... not girls who hate men and stomp around with no shirts on to piss off the public. Feminism has developed into a polluted teaching that young men and women are plunging into.

We are built dissimilarly.

The human brain is literally an organ that is sex oriented. There is a cognitive difference, that singlehandedly destroys gender equality.

I will not spend my time running a revolution against anyone who likes Donald Trump. I am not going to binge watch Trump's twitter in an effort to start some leftist gob of drama. I refuse to be part of this head hunt to attack all Republicans on the newest Instagram post made about how feminism is stupid. I do not hate men, and society would crash and burn without the successful men and women who work together to create what we call the United States of America.

Why, you ask? Why are the 15-25 year olds of our society clinging to feminism? They are hopping on the rapidly growing bandwagon where all the hipsters, feminists and Trump haters reside. It's "cool" to hate Donald Trump. Twitter is a world of liberalism, hatred and fake love towards all. Social media is where this generation is living — and modern-day feminism brews there.

We need to keep separation in the household within roles.

We must raise our children to do what they are best at rather than trying to do something they are incapable of just to prove an irrelevant point.

Women must stand up for what they believe in and be strong in their shoes, while not getting so caught up in what your modern day feminist says she thinks is right.

We cannot let this briskly changing society sway us away from what is going to keep the world working precisely.

Cover Image Credit: Macey Joe Mullins

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President Trump's Government Shutdown Is A Threat To National Security

Airports now have fewer screeners and security agents, which entails shutting down security lines or conduct more brief security checks.

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Just as Americans were settling in for the holiday season, President Trump initiated a shutdown of the federal government by rejecting any budget that did not include funding for a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is a four-way wrangle between, Mr. Trump, senators who are for the wall, senators who detest the wall, and senators who are clueless about what to do next. About 380,000 of federal government employees(civil servants and government contractors) are on unpaid leave while another 420,000 essential security personnel (FBI agents, Border Patrol, Secret Service agents, airport security agents, etc.) are working without pay. The shutdown began on December 22, 2018, and is still continuing in mid-January, 2019.

Mr. Trump's is asking for over $5.6 billion of homegrown American taxpayer dollars to complete the wall. Neither Mexico nor Central America countries have indicated any desire to pay for it, another promise Trump campaign on. Mr. Trump states that "Drugs, terrorists, violent criminals, and child traffickers are entering our country" with consequences of "drug debts, violent murder, gang violence." Of course, we cannot allow that to happen. From his "state of emergency" and "TEXT BORDER" advertisement, it looks like America is in a war zone.

But are we?

A concrete or steel wall might be practical if there were a stamped of drug dealers, gangs, and violent criminals charging toward the U.S.-Mexico border. The only war zone there is on the U.S. Senate floor, where neither party nor the president can come to a conclusion about border funding. President Trump is also pushing for the establishment of the United States Space Force to keep our country safe. The issue is that if the country can't even maintain a ground force at the southern border, how can there be a Space Force?

On a more serious note, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be missing their first paycheck. While raising the minimum wage is debatable, receiving no pay is not. This past Christmas, many federal employees, and their families had to cut back on Christmas gifts and spending in general as they face financial hardship. That's not even the worst part. The 420,000 essential security personnel are forced to work for no pay because America cannot be kept safe without them. Recently, close to 21% of TSA employees, who work in airport security, have called in sick. The men and women who work in airport security usually earn an average starting salary of $15.50 an hour. Airports now have fewer screeners and security agents, which entails shutting down security lines or conduct more brief security checks. Longer lines will lead to more frustrated passengers and lateness for those traveling for business purposes. It is very likely that airports will move towards looser security check since impatient crowds of people aren't going to sit still. It is also possible that more people will avoid flying and drive instead-if the route is driveable.

Due to the government shutdown, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is now unable to make forecasts for hurricanes and other natural disasters. These forecasts could save countless lives by preparing for necessary evacuation and alerts well in advance.

National parks are unstaffed, but not closed. Americans can visit them without paying an entrance fee, but it is "go at your own risk." Bathrooms are unmaintained or closed, there are no rangers to ask for guidance or help, and few if no one to call in an emergency.

The FDA is affected by the shutdown, meaning food safety inspections will be conducted even less frequently, which will increase one's risk of foodborne illness, especially the elderly, those with weak immune systems and younger children.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still in operation, but the staffing is down to 45 percent, which will reduce their capability to detect and prevent cyber security threats. These individuals already overworked, and not paying them would only decrease their morale, further lowering productivity. DHS was also received one of the lowest ranks in the best places to work in the government, which can lower prospects for seeking new employees to fill vital roles in government cybersecurity.

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