Cultural Appropriation Vs. Cultural Appreciation

Cultural Appropriation Vs. Cultural Appreciation

Let's have a conversation about culture.
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We continue to go around the merry-go-round of what is the difference between cultural appropriation and culture appreciation. It's hard for one person to know it all and set the rules for how to not offend anyone and keep everyone happy. We all have different experiences and appreciate different things. The hard part is walking the thin line between appropriation and appreciation.

Justin Bieber recently began to sport dreadlocks, and a lot of people reacted very negatively. Some say that it is cultural appropriation for Bieber to wear dreadlocks because it's a "black" hairstyle. However, dreadlocks have appeared in many groups throughout history, from Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, to the Greeks, and of course African tribes and the Rastafari. Who is to say one group owns that hairstyle over the next group?

Zendaya Coleman wore dreadlocks at the Oscars and the commentators said she probably smells like weed or patchouli oil. Many flocked to her side to defend her from these comments and said that she should be able to wear whatever hair she wants. Around the same time, Kylie Jenner wore dreadlocks and she was criticized for cultural appropriation.

A friend of mine recently brought up the opposite scenario. If white people wearing braids, dreadlocks, and other hairstyles dubbed as "black hairstyles" then what does black people perming their hair say? Are black people appropriating white culture? I've heard the arguments for both sides. One side says it's not the same as cultural appropriation as much as it's about the pressure to look professional. African Americans have the cards set against them when it comes to the job industry. (There is plenty of evidence that agrees, look up studies from Princeton.) American beauty has always been Euro-centric: White skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Hitler ideals. To this day, there is a conversation going on about whether or not African American hair in it's "natural" state is professional or not.

Is it really important for us to focus in on celebrities and their personal hair choices? I personally don't think so, but this conversation has been going on for several years now, and we still haven't seemed to reach a conclusion as a population. The question of hairstyles and its relation to cultures seems to be a small part of an underlying issue. When is it okay to get inspiration from other cultures? Is it ever not okay? Who makes the rules? As an art student, I am constantly inspired by Islamic, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese art. Even though I grew up in South-East Asia, making it a part of my life experience, I spent around seven years in different countries in total immersion. Am I therefore not allowed to wear a traditional dress from South Korea or wear a Sari from Indian culture because my heritage isn't South Korean or Indian?

When you set limits and claims on a culture you put people constantly on the defense. Some people really appreciate the beauty of a culture; maybe they can't understand the struggles and hardships of one culture to another, but taking the time to understand it and its history is a big part of cultural appreciation. Instead of berating people for wearing their hair one way, or wearing certain clothes, perhaps you should encourage people to learn more about your culture. Educate them about why people wore that, how they made it, and so on.

Here is a scenario for you to think about:

If an [insert race here] child grows up in a predominantly [insert race here] neighborhood, is he not allowed to be influenced by that neighborhood? This includes that race's mannerisms, way of dress, and/or way of acting.

You can put any race into those blanks and you have to wonder, how can someone be at fault for being influenced by their surroundings? America is a melting pot. We have people from everywhere and every background. How can we decide what's OK and what's not OK for something that's been in such a gray area of debate for so long?

The Wikipedia definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, notably when elements of a minority culture are used by members of the cultural majority; this is seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity and intellectual property rights. Typically, when we think of cultural appropriation, people often think of heavy stereotyping of one culture. Cultural appropriation deals with making fun of another culture and not properly representing it. This is highlighting the lack of understanding between two cultures. The appropriator "strips" away the bad parts of the culture and lives in a sugar-coated version with no consequences.

Recently, a photo was shown to me of a "chocolate" spray tan. I'm not sure if this is real. But clearly, this is cultural appropriation. What frustrates me about cultural appropriation like this is I wonder if the appropriators love themselves and appreciate the skin tone they have. Being black and not having the struggles of being black is a clear violation of black people. Blatant disrespect for a culture should be upsetting. It's understandable.

A topic in cultural appropriation that continues to be at the top of the list is Native American headdresses and Halloween costumes. The reason that wearing headdresses is indisputably cultural appropriation is because there are rules surrounding who can wear it. It's not a widespread item of clothing. Every year, festival goers and celebrities pull out a cheap headdress from their local Party City and hit the town. Headdresses were reserved for respected elders and men in the tribe, therefore by tradition, women do not typically wear full warbonnets.

There are plenty of examples of artifacts and items of government and culture that are not to be duplicated because they are restricted items. Think of it as stolen valor: Wearing a military uniform to get discounts and recognition when you never served in the military. We did nothing to earn wearing the headdress; therefore, we should not wear it or make mascots of a culture that is still very much in existence.

Cultural appreciation is when elements of a culture are used while honoring the source they came from. It is important to note that appreciation involves respect and value. It's okay to find things beautiful. It's better to appreciate it and learn more about it. Especially before you put an article of clothing on.

Cover Image Credit: Foothill Dragon Press

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8 Books That Should Be 'Accidentally' Shipped To Donald Trump

As comical as it is to see Trump in distress from this harmless delivery mistake, It made me think of some other books that should be mistakenly shipped to the White House.
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Earlier this week, I was sent an interesting article about the latest White House drama. It seemed that Amazon had accidentally shipped 10,000, yes you read that correctly, 10,000 copies of James Comey’s new book to the White House.

For those of you who do not know, James Comey is the former director of the FBI. He was fired while working with the Trump administration and it is fair to say that Trump and Comey definitely don’t have the best relationship. So when 10,000 copies of James Comey’s book showed up on Trumps’ doorstep, he was far from thrilled.

As comical as it is to see Trump in distress from this harmless delivery mistake, it made me think of some other books that should be mistakenly shipped to the White House.

1. "10% Happier" by Dan Harris

This book teaches mindfulness. A beginner's favorite, it gives great insight into the physical benefits of mindfulness. In today's non-stop culture, we are constantly surrounded by stresses and are often unable to relax. Maybe Trump could benefit from taking a few minutes off twitter to enjoy meditation.

2. "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

This classic novel gives insight into forming and improving the relationships in life. It gives the reader the tools to be successful and happy in all types of situations. Maybe Trump could boost his approval rating from its all-time low if he knew how to get people to like him!

3. "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero

“By the end of You Are a Badass, you'll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can't change, how to change what you don't love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass” (Good Reads).

This book is filled with humor to lighten the serious issues the reader may be dealing with. The inspiration to be your best self is a reoccurring theme throughout the novel. Maybe Trump will find his best self, maybe not, but we can only hope!

4. "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne

Another iconic self-help book focusing on the law of attraction. The law of attraction is the idea of putting positive ideas and vibes into the universe in order to change the world and achieve what you want. Let’s hope and pray the Trump administration starts putting out some positive vibes and in the meantime, let’s put out good vibes on their behalf.

5. "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle

This relatively short read aims to provide the reader with a spiritual enlightenment. It stresses living in the present and not the past or future. I think Trump could greatly benefit from this novel. Maybe he would be able to own up to the acts of his past and move forward to focus on real issues!

6. "Be Vigilant But Not Afraid: The Farewell Speeches of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama" by Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama

I think the title speaks for itself on this one! If you purchase this book on Amazon for $9.00, the proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), donorschoose.org, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Three organizations I’m sure the Trump administration has yet to fund!

7. "Conflict Free Living: How To Build Healthy Relationships For Life" by Joyce Meyer

Besides Trump's questionable foreign relationships, his personal relationships don’t exactly seem to be all that well. There have been multiple speculations of his wife, Melania Trump, not sleeping in the same room as her husband as well as many other questions on the state of their marriage. This read might just be able to fix that!

8. "Milk and Honey" by Rupi Kaur

The most infamous VSCO posts of all time: any poem by Rupi Kaur. The book contains four chapters that bring the reader through four hard ships in life and finds the happiness in them. Besides appealing to women ages 15 to 25, Trump would really be forced into the emotional journey that is this book of poems.


Each of these books are filled with self-help, inspiration, and positivity. I truly believe that Donald Trump could learn a lot from a quick read but I also know these books have the ability to influence and help anyone and everyone! So next time your sad about the latest politcial drama, curl up, grab a book and stay positive!

Cover Image Credit: Emily Sullivan

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To Live On $5 A Day

You couldn't be poor if you tried
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Each day, I wake up in a bed that costs me $3,470 to sleep in. I swipe into a dining hall to eat breakfast, later to eat lunch, finally to eat dinner, each swipe deducting $18 from not my own but my parents' wallet. Each day, I attend two or three classes, valued at another approximately $250 per class, per day. I also have a cellphone, a laptop, a television, a microwave, and a refrigerator. Three days a week, I head to work, where I pay $5 to use public transportation to commute to and from the South End. I wear a $300 winter coat, $150 boots, and a $75 backpack carrying no burden of uncertainty or stress on my shoulders, as I will likely never be able to imagine, let alone live, a day that truly costs less than $5. A day that, in other terms, costs less than the price of the mere transportation I take in order to earn a wage; an entire day that must cost a person less money than it takes for me to make money.

In my Globalization and International Affairs class, we were tasked with the challenge to live on less than $5 a day for two days. Approximately 3 billion people in our world live on less than $2 a day, a notable third of whom live on less than $1 a day. Admittedly, I did not even attempt to complete the challenge to emulate this lifestyle of billions, for it was immediately evident that even my best attempt would only mean the elimination of my comparative luxuries and would in no way actually emulate the reality of a true $5-a-day existence. For example, if I were to attempt this lifestyle to the best of my ability, it would start with the elimination of everything listed above that constitutes what I would deem to be even my most minimal and requisite daily routine. In addition to the obvious riddance of anything remotely lavish that has become normalized in my life (Sunday brunches, piano lessons, trips to the MFA, shopping on Newbury), I would also bid farewell to the luxuries that have developed into perceived necessities, like my phone, my laptop, my shoes, or my bed. Further, I would not attend any classes and would have to leave thirty minutes earlier than normal in order to walk to work; I would walk without my warm winter clothes and hungry from the lack of my dining hall dinner, and would later come home to nothing other than maybe a vacant alley or a grassy patch in the Fens instead of my only relatively appealing triple economy dorm room.

Though, even if I successfully did all of those things and proceeded to live two entire days without spending a penny (which would be another challenge in and of itself), I still would be living a daily lifestyle valued extraordinarily higher than $5. For, even if all bells and whistles were to be stripped away, I would remain societally integrated and knowledgeable of the world around me, capable of writing and speaking coherently, healthy and with access to clean water, the daughter to two economically stable parents of whom I am dependent, as well as a citizen of the United States of America, ultimately making me immeasurably more rich than nearly half of the world’s population based on these inherent privileges alone.

This rationale alludes to the more deeply-rooted problems that cause one to live in poverty, as true poverty is so much more than just a given individual’s lack of luxuries, expenditures, or even a place to sleep. I would argue that the worst of the problems of poverty are not the consequences endured in individual circumstances, but rather the larger, structural deficiencies that those individual experiences indicate. We tend to readily envision experiences of poverty in familiar terms as the lives of “the urban poor”− the experience of the homeless man pacing the T car and probing us for spare change, for instance. However, this assumption paints a limited picture, offering a wildly limited understanding of global poverty as, of the 1.1 billion people who live on less than $1 per day worldwide, 70% are small-scale rural farmers and people suffering in areas sufficiently less developed or integrated than that of the urban poor.

In this way, “the urban poor” face a type of poverty that is much different, arguably richer, than that of the rural poor. Though the lives of poor city-dwellers indeed indicate a lack of financial security unimaginable to the likes of me (yet, likely still a type of poverty that I would be able to emulate had I attempted to), the lives of the poorest of the poor represent a stagnating lack of any existing opportunity to even earn such income − a reality I could never emulate as a citizen of such an impressively developed nation. For, the true problem faced by the poorest countries of the world is not evidenced in a given person’s poverty or even unemployment, but rather in the overarching lack of industry, international relations, and stable economy in the country that houses such persons.

Largely concentrated in Africa and Central Asia, these countries that are struggling to develop are such that "coexist with the twenty-first century, yet their reality is the fourteenth century: civil war, plague, ignorance." This means that while a good number of countries are prosperous or have become so, countries that remain in the “bottom billion” in terms of development have been trapped by impoverishing consequences of bad governance, a lack of resources, and conflict. And, although it is not impossible for a country to eventually escape from these traps, it is incredibly difficult. Further, it becomes crucial to consider that, just like it should not be expected for these bottom billion countries to readily escape their complexly debilitating traps, we should not find ourselves expecting that of the individual people who are caught suffering the traps’ consequences.

To understand poverty as an upshot of these larger constructs may sound like an obvious or even natural exercise of awareness, yet the impression that the poor choose their fate maintains − in politics, public policy, and even our own subconscious. As stated by Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, "most poor people know that they are quite capable of earning their living by their own efforts, and are eager to do so. But they must be given a fair chance to compete." This chance to compete, to develop, to support oneself, however, is all but imagined for the impoverished in countries like Mozambique, Niger, Guinea, or Liberia (to name a few), where the severe lack of a developed let alone stable economy on a national level hinders opportunities to foster any form of self-sufficiency on an individual level. Not only are the rural poor hindered economically but also communicatively, as the rural farmer’s primary contact with the outside world comes when he or she happens upon a newspaper, exemplifying limited access to markets or information − riches of knowledge that the wealthy, even the urban poor, may take for granted.

I would argue that we can learn the most from a challenge like this, to live on $5 a day for two days, through the choice not to complete it. Though eliminating extraneous luxuries would rightfully force me to be aware of the often unrecognized or unappreciated opulence of my lifestyle, this practice only works to compare myself with the urban poor, arguably the richest of the world’s poor. In no way do I intend to belittle the immense hardships that the urban poor face in our own communities, right at our feet as we make our morning commutes; however, it is important to also recognize the complex poverties of knowledge, access, integration, stability, safety, leadership, opportunity, and economy that so many of the world’s poorest, the “bottom billion,” face − poverties that far exceed the amount of money in one’s pocket.

What does it mean to live on less than $5 a day? I have no idea; it is a colossally inconceivable feat, as the value and structure of the country I live within already sets my standard of living at an exceedingly higher worth than the life of someone who truly lives on less than $5. To those people, “those people” being none other than constituents of half of the world’s population, to live on less than $5 does not just mean the absence of an iPhone or laptop, it means absolutely no communication with or conception of the outside world. It does not mean being forced to take a longer commute to work each day, it means walking for miles along a dirt road in search of work opportunities that do not exist. Most importantly, to those who live on $5 a day, this lifestyle is not a challenge they can accept or decline, like I have; rather it is their life, and the task to live life is their inevitable challenge.

Cover Image Credit: Karthikeyan K

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