Fighting Back Against Cultural Appropriation

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The Bindi for me symbolizes religion and heritage. It’s a symbol of strength and love. It defines me”

 

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I don’t know what the problem is. I’m only appreciating the culture

 

.. And here folks, we have the textbook definition of cultural appropriation. Here is a quick clarification for anyone who is unsure in any way of what this term means:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture and can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

 For me, the most simple way of putting it for me is through this axiom:

My culture is not a trend

Yes. It is absolutely true. No group culture is a trend to be fetishized.

Why should anyone — especially historically oppressed peoples– culture become popular culture while the people from which the culture has derived — are continually stigmatized and marginalized for taking part in their own cultural traditions.

For example, the Caucasian woman wearing a traditional South Asian bindi in public is viewed as “cool” and “trendy” while the South Asian woman wearing the same bindi is classed as the “other” and her bindi is certainly not “trendy”, but a visible sign of her failure to assimilate.

I will present one final case study. This example relates to the popularisation and subsequent appropriation of the Sikh religious turban. Turbans have become a recent fashion trend among women who use them as a head wrap or just as a form of style:

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My turban is for honor, self-respect.. It is our identity as Sikhs. To wear it for fashion.. that is wrong

Cultural appropriation can trivialize and undermine the original culture as facets of it only appear to become “popular” once it has been promoted by those outside of the tradition.  What is appreciation for one individual becomes thievery and hijacking of culture for another.

However, there exists some obscurities and grey areas.

Where do we strike the balance between cultural exchange/appreciation and cultural appropriation?

Is it all just relative or should we be more sensitive to the historical oppression of others?

We want your thoughts.

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