Forgetting the Essence of Cultural Meaning

Forgetting the Essence of Cultural Meaning


This article was previously published in La Jolla High School's newspaper publication The Hi-Tide in 2014

We all come from different cultures, races, and ethnicities that define us as who we are. Our ideologies and beliefs can shape our everyday life and what we believe in. When cultural practices, traditions, or customs are misused, it can offend many who believe in the importance of being respectful to their practices and traditions. Nowadays, cultural practices and customs are being used as an accessory or style, setting aside their genuine significance.

Now, more than ever, people are wearing jewelry, clothing, designs, and hair styles that can be seen as “hip and cool”, but have great meaning for a certain culture. Henna tattoos, removable tattoos that were originally worn for special occasions and holidays in India, Africa, and the Middle East, are now a popular form of art that many girls get for parties. Henna tattoos have many meanings based on their application and what design is put on the skin, but girls simply want pretty suns and flowers to put on their hands and shoulders. The holy cross, a universal symbol for the religion of Christianity, is now worn by girls on their neck or ear, not as a religious symbol for God but as a weird looking “T”. Headdresses and Native American-printed or beaded clothing are seen as hipster by teenage girls, but are still symbolic to the culture of Native Americans; each symbol in Native American patterns are symbolic in some way to their native culture and head dresses were only worn by the most influential and powerful member in a tribe. Box braids, a hairstyle that is predominantly worn by women in the black community, is now being embraced by other people from different races as a cool hairstyle. And the infamous bindi that women wore at Coachella this year was worn as an accessory, when it has been used by many religions for thousands of years as a symbol of femininity, wisdom, and being a Hindu woman of Islam.

All of the examples listed above show how badly our modern age is disregarding the fact that these cultural customs still have significance even if you personally don’t practice the culture or believe in its traditions. This could be due largely to the fact that people are not educated in knowing beforehand what these customs mean. Many people just follow the crowd in what everyone else is doing; if people are wearing bindis or getting the box braid hairstyle and it starts to become a popular trend, people will instantly want to and will follow those trends, not realizing how people can be offended by it.

In some cases though, people might not be offended. Some view what people call “cultural appropriations” as just another culture adopting it and evolving it. In an article posted by the Huffington Post, Anjali Joshi explained how cultural appropriation is being taken too literally. “Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes… Hindus accepted the evolution of this cultural symbol.” It is only when the true significance of a symbolic item is stripped from its “religious, historical, and cultural context” that makes it offensive to the people that practice a culture.

So, what can we actually say is cultural appropriation? It is now a common specticel that we all see and physically participate in without realizing it. To everyone, it is interpreted differently. Some may see it as offensive to wear something that is symbolic to a culture, even if it is for a party or just for fun. Others may be more lenient on their opinion as to what is cultural appropriation as long as it doesn’t take away the valued meaning of the item. All in all, cultural appropriation shouldn’t be regularly practiced on all items that are from a specific culture, but if it is, it should not be stripped away from its true valued meaning.

Cover Image Credit: High School Insider - Los Angeles Times

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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