Mistaking Appropriation for Appreciation



Cultural appropriation is a term that refers to the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It differs from acculturation or assimilation in that ‘appropriation’ or ‘misappropriation’ refers to the inclusion and absorption of cultural elements from minorities or immigrants into the predominant culture. Wikipedia

California music festivals like Coachella, Outside Lands, and even UC San Diego’s very own Sun God are central points of highly-debated cultural appropriation. Festival goers are stripping parts of the indigenous Native American and Hindu cultures and converting them into fashion statements. The formation of these trends – including tribe-like face painting, headdresses, bindis, and ornamental nose rings – has dismissed the genuine cultural and historic value behind them. Although participants of these trends may have no negative intent, the victims of cultural extraction may find these practices extremely offensive.

One can claim that they sport the clothing or accessory because they appreciate the culture, but it only becomes a problem when they have no knowledge on the back-story of what they’re wearing.

The media seems to be perpetuating behaviors of cultural appropriation. Hollywood celebrities are taking part, too. And their roles of a fashion icon only seem to prompt more individuals to copy them. We can see examples of this from music videos and paparazzi photographs plastered all over social media.

2013 MTV Movie Awards - Show o-VAN-facebook

Americans, or the “West”, are taking advantage of their supremacy and moving towards this negatively viewed homogenization of culture. It may not be in a literal geographic or economic sense, but the minority “non-West” cultures are suffering from this extraction. This is shrinking the world, as supported by journalist Thomas Friedman’s argument that “the world is flat”. Diversification is shrinking through cultural appropriation practices, and the minority cultures don’t approve of these cultural interactions. These increasing interwoven connections obviously aren’t mutually beneficial.