Cultural Appropriation

By Liela Hafshejani

Cultural Appropriation

cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion

noun

the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society

It is a controversial topic of discussion and is often misinterpreted. People do not understand the limits and extents of it. It could be as little as using the Blue Evil Eye from Turkey or wearing box braids (or any variation of braids supposed to protect hair) when you are not of African descent. 

Cultural Appropriation is not anything new. Some think it is a new topic, but it has recently been normal to talk about. These past couple of years, it has become more common to talk about these topics and issues. Many celebrities and famous people would appropriate cultures to promote their music, movies, or products. For example, Lana Del Rey wore a Native headdress in a photoshoot (as did Ariana Grande); all the Kardashians appropriating things like braids and fetishizing black men; Selena Gomez using Indian Culture as a ‘theme’ for an album; Drake ‘picking’ a culture for every album theme and playing around with accents; Miley Cyrus with that whole stage she went through in 2013; Zac Efron who had dreads in for a whole summer and said it was just for fun; Marc Jacobs for a runway show where all the white models had dreadlocks; Scott Disick when he dressed up “as an Arab” for Halloween, and posting a picture of himself in front of his fancy expensive cars; Adam Levine and his cornrows. I could go on for days about the number of celebrities who have appropriated cultures. This has an impact if famous people do it so openly, so do people like us. 

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people have started to use the Blue Evil Eye. This is coming from my personal experience. Apple made an emoji for it, and people are milking it for what it’s worth without realizing it isn’t part of their culture. Some have made themselves believe it is part of hippie culture. In reality, it is part of Middle Eastern descent and roots from areas of Turkey and Iran. Though it isn’t associated with anything religious, it is deeply rooted in our cultures. We say that people who wish bad upon you or want to curse you and jinx you have an ‘evil eye’, so we use it to ward off anyone of that nature to get rid of the bad vibes. Indeed, not every person of that culture or part of the world cares if anyone uses the Evil Eye, but there are some who don’t appreciate it or like it, and I think we should take into consideration their opinion since it comes from their personal experience. Honestly, it’s out of respect. 

Something most people don’t understand is the difference between appropriation and appreciation. Appropriation is when you’re using a specific culture or if you dress up as the native people of that country for profit or to mock them. Appreciation is when you understand the significance of whatever you are using or doing. It could also be when you’re joining a group of, for example, your friends with a traditional event or holiday and you dress up with them. It’s things like that that appreciate cultures. It’s all in understanding the background of it and respecting it. 

There’s also a lot of controversy and arguments behind who can claim if a specific person is appropriating or appreciating something. This part is short and simple. If it isn’t part of your culture, you have no say on the topic or issue. That’s it;  no argument or rebuttal. Now, is it racist? It isn’t racist when appreciating it. It IS racist when you’re making a profit or mocking it. 

Cultural Appropriation isn’t a joke. It isn’t a trend, and I’m happy we’re talking about it. It’s about time.

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