Cultural Appropriation Within American Society


(Image via HS Insider)

Aubrie Sandoval, Writer

Cultural Appropriation is the act of stealing aspects from cultures that do not belong to you. The issue lies in that of when members of a dominant culture are misappropriating those aspects, mostly because they are complimented and called trendy and cute, while actually members of that culture are forced to get rid of those things in schools, work spaces, and in some extreme cases in their own friends homes or possibly their own in some cases. 

America has appropriated aspects from other cultures for a very long time, longer than most have probably realized that it was a problem, from hair styles to clothing and traditions. The real problem is hairstyles and clothing at this moment in time. Some traditions can be seen as problematic to start celebrating if you are not part of said culture. The problem with foods from what I’ve seen is that the Americans making that food aren’t making it right, or complaining about the way it’s made. 

When Americans wear their hair in culturally important hairstyles to cultures that aren’t their own, for example dreadlocks or cornrows or box braids, they are called like I said trendy, they are complimented and called wok, when in reality cultures aren’t a trend for people to use as a way to be cool, people from those cultures are most often fired for practicing those aspects from their cultures or told that they can’t wear their hair that way. That behavior is most prominent in schools, work spaces and social media. Those hairstyles are also not a reason for you to get more likes on your pictures.

Americans are so sensitive to being told that it’s not their place but they refuse to actually do the work and research to what those hairstyles mean or historical value of them. Also, little side note, just because you do the research and understand, that does not mean that it’s your place to use those hairstyles. Just so you’re aware. 

Now clothing is a little more difficult to explain. Same argument, different reaction. Most clothing that comes from each culture has a different meaning, a different important message and deep history. So when people that are not apart of that culture try to wear those pieces of clothing as a way to be trendy or “celebrate” that culture, it is frustrating for people from said culture. It’s difficult to understand for those appropriating that when they “celebrate”, they are still committing the act of appropriation. Just because you do something with no malicious intent does not mean that’s how the recipient will react. That isn’t how life works unfortunately. 

You have to do a lot of working on yourself to start seeing that it is in fact unkind to just rip those cultures away from those people. Experience over intent. Another side note, when people react to people misappropriating their culture, do not say they have no right to be upset. They do, they are allowed to be upset. It’s their right, it’s unfair to have someone steal something that means something to them. 

The point is, look into those histories, be kind and cautious of how people will react, and be mindful of the cultures you might be misappropriating for it’s non-intended purpose. Keep working kids, you’ll get there eventually.