Throughout the past few years there has been an increasing debate about cultural appropriation—what does it mean and why is it wrong? I never entered that debate until a few weeks ago when I was in Wal-Mart. A woman came up to me and told me that I was “appropriating black culture” because my curls were a little wild and resembled an afro. What that lady didn’t know by just looking at my skin color is that I am mixed and that I am of Jamaican heritage. This prompted me to start looking into the debate on cultural appropriation, and why that term has started to lose its value due to overuse.
Cultural appropriation essentially means that people should not adopt styles or elements of another culture that isn’t their own because some elements are sacred to that culture specifically. Recently, many celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian have come under fire for appropriating black culture. Even Cosmopolitan magazine has been in the spotlight for a video on how to create “Mohawk Braids” which are essentially cornrows.
The key to realizing whether you are appropriating a culture or not is to question your motives. Are you wearing the headdress because it is cute and you want to show it off on your Instagram, or do you have ties to Native culture? Is that bindi you’re wearing because you are Hindu or Jain, or is it because everyone at festivals wears them and you just cannot be the only one without one? If it is something sacred to another culture, and you have no ties to that culture, don’t wear it. However, if you wear it with ties to a specific culture and someone questions you, do not be afraid to tell them your history and shut them down because you do not have to deal with ignorance.