Why People Need To Stop Appropriating My Culture

Why People Need To Stop Appropriating My Culture

Appropriation and appreciation are two very different things.


Ever see the section at Icing or Claire's, full of things looking like this?

In Icing, they’re categorized as festival jewelry or “skin jewels.” While in desi culture, they’re called bindis, tikkas and jhumars, and are very sacred to Indians. The term desi refers to anyone in the South Asian region, specifically India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Tikkas and jhumars are worn as wedding jewelry and bindis are worn by married women. But, please, continue telling the rest of the world that you’re a married woman going to a wedding aka a popular musical festival like Coachella, as long as it fits your Tumblr aesthetic.

You flower child, you.

Another thing a lot of stores are at fault for, I’m looking at you again Icing, is selling Henna tattoos or Henna arm cuffs and labeling them as “Aztec tattoos.” Those thin bangles you wear over your Om wrist tattoo are specific to desi culture as well, they’re called chudiyaan. When us South Asians see people wearing these things, we can't help but scratch our heads and chuckle a little.

Two piece prom dresses?

They’re an Americanized version of the lengha choli.

A friend of mine recounted a story for me, where she was getting her nose pierced at the tattoo parlor. She overheard a conversation from the customer in front of her, requesting to get an Om tattooed on her wrist because “it’s pretty” and would be perfect for a “mother and daughter tattoo.” Unless you’re Hindu, there should not be an Om permanently inked onto your skin. Om is a symbol for the Hindu trimurti, or trinity -- Brahma or Devi, Vishnu and Siva -- gods I'm sure most of you do not believe in.

Must I even bring up the “Lean On” music video, or that Fuller House episode where they had a Bollywood-themed party?

Even if you want to use my culture, at least know the origins behind them. Hanging up a tapestry of an Indian God-like Ganesh or Siva just because it looks “cool” and “trippy” and you got it for cheap at a nearby garage sale is not exactly respectful of other people who actually believe in these gods. And if you don’t know the story behind the God or Goddess having a different weapon in each hand or the head of an elephant, you should definitely not own a tapestry of said God or Goddess. When I practice for Chalak, Towson’s Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, and I’m playing the mix for our next performance, please do not tell me to “stop playing that ding-a-ding music.” It goes without saying that that’s so messed up. On a side note, did you know that when you order a "Chai Tea" you're literally saying tea twice, once in Hindu or Urdu, and then again in English? Starbucks, please stop this madness.

Sure, this all comes from years of held back frustration and anger, so it may not seem reasonable to somehow furious I am as I write this. I appreciate and love my culture. Please respect it and all of its aspects if you're going to copy it. There is a distinct difference between appropriation and appreciation, and when it's a culture different from your own, you should learn where to draw that line.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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