Understanding Cultural Appreciation VS. Appropriation

Wearing Another Culture's Clothing Because You Find It Beautiful Is Admiration, Not Appropriation

Borrowing from cultures can be okay, but it's the motive behind it that can be wrong.


Growing up Gen-Z, I've experienced a world that is becoming highly progressive. I've been alive long enough to be able to witness and understand the gradual change of the world from being highly divided to more culturally embracing. I've seen a rise of more biracial and poly-ethnic children, but with this, a rise of resentment for the intermingling and blending of racial customs and traditions.

If anything, the most prominent is the hatred surrounding these factors, because the celebration of customs is confused with mockery. Case after case of worldwide backlash for an incident where the argument over whether or not a tradition or custom was taken in offense or is questioned. I've come to understand that tradition and culture run deep within ethnic communities and may be considered sacred art forms — customs that should be practiced by only those who belong to that selective ethnicity.

I can't help but wonder, why?

There is a rise in the hatred of social barriers and divisions, whether it be racial, sexual or economic. In arguing for the selectivity of racial customs, while also rallying behind the argument that we should all try to be "colorblind," are we not fighting ourselves? The issue that arises is that there is a thin line between wanting to celebrate our differences and embodying them.

Consider Halloween as an example. Does this mean that a white female is not allowed to dress up in an Indian sari because she finds the culture beautiful?

Some would argue yes, because in choosing to, she's insinuating that a traditional Indian custom is a "costume," to parade around for candy.

Others would say no, because if she had dressed up in a sari on any other day, she would be "stealing Indian culture" as her "white predecessors had done to other races."

By choosing to dress up in a sari on Halloween, she is showing that it isn't her custom but rather a form of expression she's choosing to show on a night people can dress as anything or anyone they desire.

For such instances, the answer is on a spectrum.

In a similar event, a recent backlash occurred on Twitter to Keziah Daum, when she decided to wear a traditional Chinese quipao to her prom because she found it beautiful. After posting the pictures, she faced harsh criticism for parading a traditional culture around rather than fully understanding its depth and meaning.

Would this be a case of cultural appropriation? The answer is no.

The argument behind why wearing clothes or sporting elements of other cultures is wrong stems from the standpoint that in doing so, it is harming that culture by slandering, belittling or making a mockery of their heritage. This sentiment understandable.

In the case of racial tensions, "blackface" was a common comedic trope taken on by white actors back in the early 1900s as a way to make fun of their looks, as well as portray Africans and African-Americans as "dumb apes," incapable of reaching the white man's standing. Thus, using "blackface" in any event is considered wrong, both socially and morally, because it represents a time when the black community was belittled for being deemed inferior.

Cultural appreciation on the other hand, takes the opposite stance. It goes into "borrowing" a culture, rather stealing and claiming, not to spark tensions or make a mockery thereof but rather to join in on the celebration of it.

Using a quipao as a prom dress isn't making fun of the Chinese culture. She never portrayed the dress in a "slutty fashion" as most Chinese-inspired Halloween costumes do (thus a case of appropriation) or tarnished its oriental sophistication. Out of awe, she chose this dress to wear, and thus, isn't crossing the border into appropriation territory.

On the other hand, the rise in the numbers of pop culture icons taking elements of the black culture is, and will continue to be, cultural appropriation at its finest. Only a decade ago, it would have been considered "ghetto" for the black community to have long nails or wear dreads, braids or wigs. Instead, now it is a common wear of fashion among prominent celebrities (who are most definitely not members of the same culture). These celebrities have taken cultural customs and made them into fads — elements of music videos and concert wardrobe — without understanding the ramifications.

That is taking part of a culture without giving credit and while continuing the belittlement and mockery of such tradition.

In all, coming to understand the notion of wearing others' cultural wear is key to understanding the difference between its appropriation and appreciation. Without jumping too fast, it's necessary to stop and think about whether or not the action is just before we continue the seen cycles of backlash and criticism against each other due to potential false accusations. Moving forward, I hope this information spreads, and we can move past a society furious with people who overstep cultural lines out of respect, understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Popular Right Now

Dear 'Straight Pride,' Check Your Privilege: It's HOMO-Sapiens, Not HETERO-Sapiens

Don't be upset, you are more than welcome to enjoy your straight-ness, just as much as you have to tolerate our non-straight-ness.


Disclaimer: This letter contains sarcasm and unfiltered honesty.

Pride month is one of the BEST MONTHS OUT THERE. Four weeks of rainbows, glitter, and good old fashioned love... except for Boston. Apparently, Boston is holding a Straight Pride Parade planned for August 31st to celebrate... well, I'm not quite sure what would be celebrated. Sexual confusion? A false sense of Christianity? The delicate structure that is "no homo?"

Honestly, I feel like its a huge waste of city funds. So, I figured I should highlight some important details about gay pride.

In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City on the basis that being gay wasn't OK. That's it. The raid caused a riot among LGBT+ patrons and neighbors as police brutally threw patrons and employees out of the club. This event was followed by six days of protests and violent clashes, lead by a group of Drag Queens, including Black American Drag Queens. This was the catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Since then, gay rights have made so much progression such as Same-Sex Marriage legalized in the US in 2015, to same-sex couples, and LGBTQ+ roles shown on television.

Dear Straight people,

The entire point of pride is to celebrate a group of people who are ostracized IN SOCIETY. People who have to FIGHT for the right to love, the right to be represented, and the right to be accepted by their friends, family, work colleagues, their place of worship and the rest of the world!

It's all well and good to want to celebrate yourself for your culture and traditions (google search: family holidays), or your own accomplishments during your life (google search: Applebee's). Celebrating sexuality is much more personal because it's still not accepted in most regions or religions of the world.

Don't be upset, you are more than welcome to enjoy your straight-ness, just as much as you have to tolerate our non-straight-ness. You don't have to believe in a same-sex marriage, the same way I don't believe that religion is your sole reason to ostracize, bully, torment and dehumanize a group of innocent people who don't conform. Gay, lesbian, transgender, asexual, bisexual, the victims of the pulse shooting, ALL THESE PEOPLE HAVE HEARTS, TOO.

If at the end of this article, you still care to make an argument, I'd like to ask you some questions.

Have you ever been fired because you are straight?

Have you ever been bullied, assaulted, attacked, or banned from using the bathroom because you are straight?

Has anyone from your family ever stopped talking to you or stopped loving you because of your sexuality?

Have you ever been afraid to be yourself?

Has your church (or any form of safety zone) ever told you that you would burn in hell based on your sexuality?

Let me know.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Due To The Achilles Injury That Kevin Durant Has Sustained, This Will Affect His Free Agency And Game

What is next for one of the greatest players in NBA history?


Let me start this article off by saying that I am not a Golden State Warriors fan. I am not a Kevin Durant fan, and I have not been since he left the OKC Thunder in 2016. I have an always have been an OKC fan and yes I hated Kevin Durant with such a passion. That is until Monday, June 10th. That is the day when I saw the toll being an NBA player takes on the humans that play the game. Each decision they make is judged so harshly that even if they get injured, the fault has to fall on someone, even if no one is to blame.

Game 5 showed us that Kevin Durant is very much human and clearly understands that. I have no respect for the Raptors fans who started cheering when he fell to the floor clutching his Achilles. As a fan base, I understand the stakes of the game but that doesn't make it ok to cheer when a player might be out for the rest of the series. That is a reflection I know the Raptors or the NBA don't want.

The NBA is a business and the reaction of these fans makes it seem like it's all about the completion and nothing about the game that has changed and affected so many people's lives. It also makes it seem like the fans do not show empathy for anything but the win and that the players must do everything to get the win.

As for Kevin Durant's future, it is up in doubt because an Achilles Tear has been a devastating injury to players in the past. The Achilles is the biggest tendon in the body and tearing such an integral component will clearly rob KD of the some of the length and athleticism he plays with because the surgery and the rehab are so long and difficult to complete. We may never see the person who completely took over the finals and carried his team to victory or score 30-50 a night with an insanely high-efficiency rate. All of that goes up in doubt because of this one horrible and career threatening injury.

As for his free agency, I think that this injury will help KD understand the fan base he has around him and his teammates who need him just as much as he needs them. The Raptors have stolen the finals from KD and the Warriors and this might compel him to stay another season and compete for a 3rd championship instead of going somewhere such as New York.

As for New York, they might as well start preparing for a losing season as they do not have the 1st overall pick to get Zion Williamson and Kyrie Irving has stated that he would much rather play for the Nets than the Knicks. That has to hurt a franchise who was looking to build a big three with the edition of KD and attempt to compete for a championship. All in all, I want to wish KD the best of luck in recovering and becoming a top 3 player in the NBA again.

Related Content

Facebook Comments