Why Cultural Appropriation Is Real And Hurtful

Why Cultural Appropriation Is Real And Hurtful

It isn't just people of color being whiny.

I understand that racism has bigger problems than cultural appropriation. Problems like mass incarceration, deportation, police profiling and shootings, etc. However, I do feel that people undermine the fact that cultural appropriation goes beyond just wearing bindis and Native American headgear at Coachella.

The fact that cultural appropriation is the literal translation of plagiarizing someone's culture while continuing to undermine that culture is pretty shocking. And it hits on an individual level affecting even children. Even in my own life, I have seen the terrifying truth about cultural appropriation. For instance, coconut oil today is hailed as the ultimate cure-all for any beauty related problem by every western fashion and health publication, but as a child when my mother and grandmother, who have known the benefits of coconut oil for generations, would put it in my hair, my caucasian American teacher would pull me aside and tell me that my hair looked dirty and I should tell my mother to never put oil in my hair again.

I remember when I was fifteen, seeing an Indian actress go to the Cannes Film Festival and dressing in traditional Indian clothes and accessories. She wore a gold and white saree and a gold nose ring. I genuinely thought she looked stunning and I felt proud that she was representing her culture on this global platform.

However, western fashion critics felt differently. They put her on worst-dressed lists citing her nose ring as grotesque and her outfit as over-the-top. I felt startled as someone who loves fashion and reading fashion publications, I thought they would celebrate her novelty and confidence in wearing her cultural garbs. What bothered me even more, however, is when the French luxury design house Givenchy put out a whole collection of nose rings that same year, the same publication showered the collection with praise and called the fashion house "innovative" and "cutting edge."

I felt robbed. How can a South-Asian woman upholding generations of beauty traditions be called grotesque and a western fashion house stealing from that same culture be called innovative?

What bothers me the most is not that white girls wear bindis to Coachella or the fact that western fashion houses make nose rings. It is the fact that credit and knowledge of the origin of these items and concepts are not known.

That white girl has no idea the cultural history and significance of a bindi and yet she touts it around as if it is the latest seasonal trend. How can I explain to these people that my culture is not a trend?

In college, we are told that we can get kicked out of school for plagiarizing, but what about the centuries of cultural plagiarism that has gone untold and unpunished?

Cover Image Credit: Sarah Larkin

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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!

This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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Being Adopted By A White Family Does Not Mean I Have To Choose Between Being Asian Or White

To ignore my color would be to ignore all of the oppression that I have battled all of my life.

I was born in Yugan County, Jiangxi Providence, China. In the year 1998, the One Child Policy was still in effect throughout China. Because of this, my birth mother ended up abandoning me, leading to me end up in an orphanage and being given to a foster family.

Then, in 2000, a little less than three years later, I was adopted by a white family from America.

Throughout my life, I have had to acknowledge the fact that due to the circumstances of my birth and subsequent adoption, I will never fully fit in.

To the white population that I have been surrounded by since I was brought to The States, I am a white girl in a yellow person’s skin. To the people that share my looks, I am an Asian girl without culture or history — a yellow paper whitewashed through overexposure to her environment.

I'm most accurately described as a banana — white on the inside and yellow on the outside.

Unlike the other fruits who’s colors on their inside match with their richly toned exteriors, a banana's beautiful exterior hides a plain, pale, boring interior.

To most people, I am seen as “basically white.” This statement is one that many people of color adopted by white families often hear. I think it’s meant as a compliment. It's praise of the fact that we have assimilated to white culture and a spoken acknowledgment of the fact that even though we are a part of an “othered” group. People will ignore our colored exteriors.

The problem with this phrase, “basically white,” is the fact that I am not white. We are not white. The tendency of people to claim to be colorblind in order to prove that they are accepting, that they can’t be racist if they don’t see people as colors but as people, is incredibly frustrating.

Our color is part of us.

Without it, we wouldn’t be the people we are. It’s great that you see us as people, but why is that something to be proud of? To need spoken acknowledgment?

People of color are people. End of story.

To see us as people and not skin tones is nothing to boast about, and I am proud of my color. I want people to see it. To ignore my color would be to ignore all of the oppression that I have battled all of my life in order to get to where I am. To ignore my color would be to deem the bullying, othering, and blatant ignorance that I have faced unimportant.

People of color have lifetimes of hardships that they have had to overcome in order to be where they are today. We don’t want to be accepted as white. We want to be accepted as our unapologetic selves.

I am tired of feeling bad for not being white. I am also tired of feeling as if I am a “bad Asian.” It is not my fault that I am adopted. It is not my, nor my adoptive families fault that we don’t know much about my Chinese heritage, culture, or history.

The majority of my life has been a struggle with identity. It has been the need to fit in with my white peers fighting with my unwillingness to ignore the challenges that occurred over the years that were obviously a result of my skin tone.

Yes, I may be seen as a banana, but really I see myself as more of a blend or mixture. I am not yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I should not have to chose between being Asian or being white. I can be both. And it’s about time that society accepts that. We deserve to be able to embrace all of the different parts of ourselves without feeling bad about it.

Cover Image Credit: Amelia Williams

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