My Culture Is Not A Trend

My Culture Is Not A Trend

A quick guide to why cultural appropriation isn't honoring an ethnic group and how the practice is actually harming indigenous culture(s).
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In light of the recent article released by the Huffington Post that depicted the Upstate New York Village of Whitesboro’s seal, I realized that I need to discuss the harmful nature of cultural appropriation.

The Whitesboro village seal, which depicts a white settler strangling a Native American, recently caused a nationwide controversy. As a result, the Whitesboro officials decided to kick off the New Year by putting it to a vote on whether or not the village should keep the off-putting seal or change it. An additional article published by the Huffington Post stated that despite the citizens of Whitesboro voting 157-55 in favor of keeping the seal, the village’s officials chose to work with the local Oneida tribe to create a less controversial seal.

More importantly, this incident reminded me that caricatures, stereotypes, appropriations, and abuses of native or indigenous people remain relatively socially acceptable in the United States. Obviously, I cannot speak for the entirety of the approximately five million Native Americans in the United States, but I can state that as a woman of both Cherokee and Choctaw heritage I find the continued appropriation of Native American and indigenous cultures offensive. In general, co-opting and misappropriating any aspect of another culture disregards its meaning and value. For example, the headdress in Native American culture is sacred and important an important symbol in many indigenous communities. Wearing traditional indigenous clothing or appropriating native culture is not trendy, hip or ironic. Picking what you may find aesthetically pleasing from an indigenous culture or what you think is pretty forgoes the decidedly un-trendy history that comes with being indigenous in the United States. A history that many people forget consists of cultural genocide, residential schools, racism, stolen generations, and the eradication of entire tribes of people and their cultural traditions. Consistently, indigenous people have had to fight to maintain their cultural traditions. So when someone dons sacred garb on the whim of it being a fashion trend, it disenfranchises the very real blood, sweat, and tears that went into securing a people’s ability to maintain that traditional garb.

So you may be asking yourself what is cultural appropriation and why is it such a big deal?

Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own. Of course, this definition is only a very basic definition – to read more about cultural appropriation see this article. A more in-depth understanding of cultural appropriation refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.

That’s why cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural exchange or cultural appreciate when people share mutually with each other – because cultural exchange lacks that systemic power dynamic. So what’s the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation? The latter is having a genuine interest in learning about a people’s history, traditions, language, values and way of life. Appropriation is based on a superficial appreciation of a group and uses convenient parts of that group’s culture for commercial reasons. It is damaging because doing so ignores the experiences of minorities and marginalized people.

Cultural appropriation is also not the same as assimilation. Assimilation occurs when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t. Some people say that non-Western people who wear jeans and Indigenous people who speak English are taking from dominant cultures, too. But marginalized groups often don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun.

Appropriating someone else’s culture may seem harmless, but unfortunately, it is not. Cultural appropriation manages to trivialize violent historical oppression, allows people to appreciate the culture while remaining prejudiced against its people, and it makes things “cool” for white people, but “too ethnic” for people of color. Cultural appropriation also manages to let privileged people profit from oppressed people’s labor and often lets people get reward for things that the original creators never got credit for. Cultural appropriation can also spread lies about marginalized groups and perpetuates racist stereotypes. A more thorough explanation of these effects of cultural appropriation can be found in Maisha Z. Johnson’s article, “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation?

Consider this: if you were faced with the choice between your ability to wear a costume that stigmatized, stereotyped, or caricatured a people group – or to don an aspect their sacred ceremonial or traditional attire – and that ethnic group’s ability to maintain the sacredness of said tradition that helps them avoid harm and oppression, what would you do?

Just remember that skipping the costume or the traditional attire puts you on the side of anti-oppression.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering Is How We Got Extremist Abortion Bans

This is a pressing issue that is often swept under the rug.

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Several states have recently passed legislation restricting a mother's access to abortion, and several others are projected to do the same. Alabama has passed the most severe legislation by banning the majority of abortions, including cases of rape and incest, and abortion providers now face up to 99 years in prison for noncompliance. Georgia's governor has signed legislation banning most abortions after six weeks, with mother's facing prosecution for terminating their pregnancies after this date. A few other states, including Missouri and Louisiana, are in the process of approving similar legislation.

Nationwide outrage over this legislation has taken over many social media platforms, prompting political discourse across the aisle. Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator well-known for her outspoken nature, even tweeted her disdain for the legislation:

"I will be attacked by fellow conservatives for saying this but so be it, this Alabama abortion ban is too restrictive. It doesn't save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries. You don't encourage life via blanket government mandate!" — Tomi Lahren

I side with the many men and women who are horrified at this decision for many reasons. Apart from Governor Kay Ivey's blurred understanding of what separation of church and state really mean when invoking God as a reason for her approval of the country's most restrictive abortion legislation, there are many reasons states have successfully passed such controversial legislation. One such reason is gerrymandering.

As someone who has grown up in the most gerrymandered state in the country, North Carolina, I have witnessed through much of my life the effects gerrymandering has on legislation. Gerrymandering describes the act of redrawing district lines to establish a political advantage for a party. This is a practice done by both Democrats and Republicans and through two primary methods, packing and cracking.

Packing attempts to condense members of an opposing party into few districts in order for the opposing party to dominate in the remaining districts. On the other end, cracking attempts to break apart an opposing party amongst districts in order to dilute the vote of their members by becoming outnumbered by members of the governing party.

Georgia's district lines are a perfect example of packing. Following the 2010 census, Republicans were able to redraw district lines and packed Democrats into as few districts as possible. This decision has led to extremely uncompetitive elections, with many candidates running unopposed because of the district's voter makeup. The impacts of gerrymandering in Georgia were evident during the last gubernatorial election between Brian Kemp (R) and Stacey Abrams (D).

Kemp won barely the election by around 55,000, at 50.8% of the popular vote, yet Republicans hold over sixty percent of the state's legislative seats. This demonstrates how districts can be determined to favor a political party in terms of representation, though not reflect the constituency of the state. This has allowed Republicans to hold the majority of state seats, which contributed to the approval of the abortion bill.

Voter suppression is a serious issue that is often swept under the rug because it allows those who have been in power to remain in power. While it is unfortunate it took this long for many to understand its implications, it is important that the same energy aimed at fighting this legislation is aimed at remedying the long-standing problem of gerrymandering that allows such unsavory legislation to pass.

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