We see it all the time. Whether it be a dashiki, different braid styles, or something as trivial as using gel to lay down baby hairs, culture appropriation is still something the United States struggles with. It occurs more often than we think and many times it can occur unknowingly. However, most occurrences are to seem more “in tune” with other cultures and promote a false sense of diversity. Minorities are constantly subjected to cultural appropriation primarily with clothing and the actions associated with the clothing.
The United States has a very loose definition of cultural appropriation. Mostly cultural appropriation is interchanged with cultural awareness. When wearing clothing of various ethnicities, it is seen more as cultural appreciation and awareness rather than appropriation.
I have been recently astonished to see a number of people culturally appropriating dashikis in the United States. Due to Black History Month, the US has created the perception everyone should be able to “celebrate” by wearing traditional African clothing and other items associated with black culture to show a false appreciation for black people and all they have contributed to the advancement of the United States. Many important historical black figures have been disregarded and instead of being celebrated this month, or at any point in the year, they are ignored and replaced with fashion trends.
Many wear dashikis merely for the pattern and not acknowledging its true cultural purpose. Dashikis are “resurfacing” to make people feel more in tune with African American culture A dashiki is a colorful garment that covers the top half of body, mainly worn in West Africa. Many African Americans began to wear dashiki’s in the 1960s to show black pride during the Civil Rights Movement. For African American’s dashikis were and still are and article of clothing that provides roots back to Africa. However, dashiki’s have lost their cultural appreciation and have been victims to appropriation. It has been created as a “new” fashion statement and a “trend” rather than a custom. Its roots from West Africa have been stripped and have been replaced with major fashion companies claiming to be “tribal” “hippie” and “vintage.”
I simply did not create this piece to shun Western civilization for their lack of cultural appreciation, but considering Black History Month, which many seems to renounce as a time to celebrate all black people in America, I felt it necessary to discuss an issue that many push aside. You have the freedom to wear any article of clothing you desire; however when it becomes an issue of cultural appropriation it must be understood that you cannot wear someone’s culture absentmindedly. We must be reminded: it is not a cool fashion statement, but someone’s culture. Take the time to appreciate others from different backgrounds and understand them before absentmindedly associating them as latest trends.
In the words of Jesse Williams, “We've been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil - black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though... the thing is that just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real.”