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Home » The way to Deal with Cultural Appropriation: 16 Examples, Subsequent Steps

The way to Deal with Cultural Appropriation: 16 Examples, Subsequent Steps


Cultural appropriation is usually a little tough to know.

Even in the event you’re acquainted with the time period and comprehend it’s one thing to keep away from, you might need some lingering uncertainties as to the place the road between appropriation and appreciation lies.

For instance, you may acknowledge that cultural Halloween costumes and blackface are racist and by no means acceptable, however what about trend influences? Multicultural meals and artwork? Do these rely as appropriation?

Ask totally different folks, and also you’ll most definitely get a spread of solutions.

Questioning precisely what counts as cultural appropriation? Searching for steering on recognizing when appreciation of one other tradition crosses the road?

Learn on to get extra perception, together with tips about find out how to keep away from making doubtlessly hurtful errors.

Tradition refers back to the traditions, customs, beliefs, and practices of any given ethnic, racial, or spiritual group. Key parts of tradition embody:

  • language
  • artwork, music, and literature
  • clothes
  • social norms, customs, and values
  • historical past and authorities
  • faith and holidays

To acceptable, in fundamental phrases, means to take with out permission.

Cultural appropriation, then, occurs when one other tradition “borrows” any of those cultural parts, sometimes with out asking permission or crediting the supply tradition.

Appropriation additionally tends to contain some misuse of cultural parts. In different phrases, individuals who acceptable typically choose and select solely the weather they contemplate interesting and ignore the remaining, together with any vital cultural context behind these parts.

Take henna artwork, or Mehndi, for instance.

Henna was initially used to assist cool the palms and ft in sizzling climates. Mehndi ceremonies additionally make up an vital a part of wedding ceremony traditions within the Center East and South Asia. Conventional designs are used to represent prosperity, love, and well being in Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim wedding ceremony ceremonies.

Getting henna physique artwork may look like a innocent approach to respect one thing stunning. However while you put on henna for nontraditional causes and fail to acknowledge its precise that means and significance, you’re appropriating, not appreciating.

Appreciation, then again, means you are interested in all parts of the tradition, not simply particular elements that look fairly, show financially profitable, or supply different advantages.

When you do use any parts from that tradition, you ask permission and provides credit score to the creator or supply.

You additionally search to know folks of that tradition, in addition to the tradition itself, extra utterly as a substitute of contributing to stereotypes.

For white folks, this entails doing a little doubtlessly uncomfortable work. Acknowledging all parts of a tradition extends to recognizing how white supremacy and racism have performed an element in dismantling and oppressing different cultures.

All cultures have complexities and nuances that contribute to, however go far past, their artwork, clothes, and jewellery.

Appropriating these things in your personal use with out taking time to acknowledge and discover their significance diminishes, demeans, and disrespects that tradition and its folks.

You may’t actually respect with out this deeper consciousness.

Navigating the niceties of appropriation versus appreciation can, admittedly, show a bit difficult.

Right here’s a very good guideline to bear in mind: When you have permission to take part in that tradition and use or share particular parts, you’re not appropriating.

Say you’re visiting a Japanese good friend from faculty who invitations you to have a good time the summer season pageant Tanabata. They encourage you to decorate in a yukata — conventional Japanese summer season clothes — and assist you put it on correctly.

Carrying the yukata is appreciative, since your good friend invited you to take part and also you’re sporting it in the best context.

However what about sporting the yukata round your home again dwelling, saying, “Japanese folks costume like this daily”? Since that misrepresents Japanese tradition, it might turn out to be appropriation.

Briefly, appreciation entails studying and sharing with permission. Appropriation typically exploits different cultures and reinforces stereotypes.

The chart beneath presents some examples to assist illustrate the distinction.

It doesn’t take a lot effort to search out cultural appropriation in well-liked tradition and on social media. Think about these examples:

The film ‘La La Land’

Within the film “La La Land,” the white male primary character, Sebastian, is depicted as a jazz skilled. He even goes as far as to elucidate jazz, a music model created by Black artists, to a Black character and tackle the position of “white savior” in his efforts to maintain jazz alive.

Positive, white folks can respect, love, and create jazz music. However they need to additionally take time to acknowledge its cultural roots.

It’s additionally price contemplating why a film a few key facet of Black tradition wanted a white primary character and a principally white solid.

J.Ok. Rowling’s stereotyping, appropriation, and erasure of Native American beliefs

Rowling’s “Historical past of Magic in North America” tales have earned loads of criticism for the way in which they current Native American tradition.

Her portrayal clumps collectively Native American beliefs and traditions from a number of totally different Indigenous teams, lowering these cultural traditions to stereotypes and fantasy as a substitute of acknowledging them as precise cultural practices which can be nonetheless a part of Native American tradition right this moment.

She additionally makes use of the problematic white savior trope. In her tales, the founding father of the American wizardry college is a white lady. Different white characters (not Native American characters) assist her set up the college.

The college’s homes additionally function Rowling’s “reimagined” variations of vital beings in Native American mythology as creature mascots.

Kendall Jenner’s tequila model

Quite a few folks have criticized 818, a brand new model of tequila created by Kendall Jenner.

A lot of this critique focuses on her lack of recognition and respect for Mexican tradition, the employees who truly produce the tequila however don’t see a lot of the revenue, and agave shortages in Mexico.

Social media customers have additionally identified the grammatical error on the bottle, which reads “blanco tequila” when it ought to truly learn “tequila blanco.”

Anybody could make a grammatical error, notably in a language that isn’t their first.

All the identical, taking a bit additional time to analysis and higher perceive a tradition and its language, and talk with folks from that tradition, may simply assist stop such errors.

Adele’s Bantu knots

Bantu knots are an African coiffure with an extended historical past.

Adele wore this coiffure, together with a Jamaican flag bikini, to have a good time the canceled 2020 Notting Hill Carnival, an annual occasion initially created to share Caribbean tradition and promote multiculturalism.

Not everybody criticized this look. Some folks famous that since she grew
up domestically, her hair and outfit merely confirmed respectful participation.

Nonetheless, as a number of Black ladies have identified, the coiffure goes past a celebratory look.

As a white lady, Adele can model her hair in any variety of methods with out dealing with judgment or criticism. Living proof: Many followers got here to her protection, calling her coiffure an indication of cultural appreciation. She wore Bantu knots as a part of a fancy dress, not as a each day look.

Black hairstyles aren’t costumes or fancy appears to be like, although. They assist defend pure hair, however in addition they characterize id and tradition.

But many Black ladies proceed to face stigma and discrimination once they model their hair naturally as a substitute of utilizing painful chemical straightening remedies to look extra “skilled” (in different phrases, white). Many colleges and workplaces even ban or restrict pure hairstyles.

White ladies who select to put on Black hairstyles as a trend assertion contribute to cultural exploitation by failing to acknowledge this prejudice.

Additionally problematic was Chet Hanks’ response. He complimented the photograph and requested Adele to name him — whereas talking in Jamaican Patois.

The Renegade dance

Heard of the Renegade? It grew to become well-liked on the app TikTok in 2020 — however that isn’t the place it began.

Teenager Jalaiah Harmon created this dance and initially shared it on Instagram. TikTok influencers ultimately started to share movies of themselves performing the dance, with out crediting Harmon.

When the Renegade went viral, Harmon remained uncredited.

Meals weblog Half Baked Harvest’s recipe for ‘simple weeknight’ pho

A latest recipe on Half Baked Harvest, a well known meals weblog, drew criticism from many followers.

The recipe, initially named “Weeknight Ginger Hen Pho Ga (Vietnamese Hen Soup),” introduced a “fusion” model of pho that did not acknowledge precise parts of pho, together with key substances, the time and effort required to make it, and even the normal presentation of the dish.

Briefly, genuine pho isn’t an “simple” dish that travels from pot to bowl in an hour.

Whereas the title of the recipe has since been modified, many weblog commenters really feel retitling the dish falls in need of an sufficient response.

Many profitable meals bloggers are white. Amongst their recipes, you’ll typically discover “lighter” or “simpler” variations of conventional dishes from different cultures.

There’s nothing in any respect incorrect with wanting to arrange or get pleasure from meals from one other tradition. Actually, it is a nice approach to respect that tradition, while you go about it accurately.

Which may contain discovering a cookbook or recipe from a member of that tradition, or on the very least, a recipe from somebody who realized to arrange it authentically.

It’s also possible to make wanted recipe modifications with an underlying understanding of the cultural context of the dish whereas nonetheless giving credit score to that tradition.

The issue lies in the truth that white meals bloggers proceed to rebrand and “fuse” dishes from different cultures. These adjustments fail to acknowledge the unique cultures and render “genuine” recipes inauthentic.

They then earn credit score, reward, and revenue for these recipes, whereas folks of coloration proceed to battle for a similar recognition and success.

The tip end result? Continued exploitation of individuals from different cultures.

Cultural appropriation causes hurt as a result of it contributes to ongoing oppression and exploitation of different cultures.

By contributing to deceptive and dangerous stereotypes, it prevents alternatives for true understanding and cultural trade.

Individuals who acceptable cultural parts don’t acknowledge or honor the true that means or function of these parts. In addition they fail to present credit score the place credit score is due.

This misrepresentation leaves folks of coloration in a marginalized place the place they lack the identical alternatives for recognition, success, and revenue.

Consequently, white folks proceed to learn and maintain positions of energy.

By “not everybody,” we imply “white folks.”

Appropriation impacts folks from exploited, marginalized cultures.

So, when somebody known as out for appropriation counters by saying that individuals of coloration who put on Western clothes and hairstyles, converse English, or eat quick meals are additionally “appropriating,” know that these statements are each grossly insensitive and utterly inaccurate.

This notion fails to have in mind that individuals of different cultures are sometimes pressured to assimilate, or undertake elements of the dominant tradition, to thrive, if not survive.

Failing to assimilate can carry heavy penalties, together with fewer alternatives for work or profession development and racist violence or threats.

To sum up: “White tradition” can’t be appropriated.

Why? As a result of white folks have lengthy been the oppressors denying different cultural teams their language and traditions and forcing them to assimilate and conform.

Loads of folks have been responsible of cultural appropriation with out realizing it. Many tendencies stem from parts appropriated from different cultures, so that you won’t understand your actions have handed the purpose of appreciation.

It’s OK to make errors, but it surely’s additionally vital to tell your self so that you keep away from additional appropriation going ahead.

Right here’s the primary clue: If an individual of coloration says your habits is culturally appropriative, take that criticism at face worth.

Asking your self the next questions may assist you make sure that your actions keep within the realm of appreciation:

  • Am I utilizing this merchandise (or clothes, phrase, apply, and so forth) to study extra in regards to the tradition?
  • Does my use amplify and assist the voices of individuals of that tradition, or does it stop them from being heard?
  • Have I given credit score to the creator and the tradition it got here from?
  • Would an individual of that tradition see my actions as respectful?
  • Does my use contribute to stereotypes?
  • Can folks of this tradition freely use this merchandise with out discrimination?

Notice: Some folks disagree on whether or not some behaviors are appropriative or just culturally insensitive.

It’s price preserving in thoughts you can actually say or do insensitive and racist issues with out essentially taking something from a tradition.

Taking time to study extra about particular cultures and preserving the questions above in thoughts can assist you’re employed towards anti-racism and higher sensitivity throughout the board.

When somebody factors out an occasion of cultural appropriation, what do you have to do?

First, apologize. Then instantly cease what you’re doing. Change your garments, take the accent off, scrub the phrase out of your vocabulary.

When you don’t perceive the way you tousled, do some work to know why so you may keep away from it sooner or later.


  • insist it’s wonderful as a result of you may have a good friend from that tradition
  • problem them as a result of “they’ll’t converse for each member of their
  • clarify you didn’t imply to trigger any hurt or inform them they’re being too delicate

When an individual from a particular tradition explains that your actions are dangerous, they’re dangerous. Full cease. The one good choice is to hear, study, and alter your habits.

Be ready to do your individual analysis. Somebody you’ve offended could supply an evidence, however you shouldn’t anticipate them to completely educate you on what counts as appropriation and why.

If others occurred to witness the appropriation — perhaps they noticed your outfit or learn your social media publish — contemplate touching base with them on what you’ve realized.

This may really feel uncomfortable, but it surely’s price it, because it may assist them keep away from appropriation, too.

There’s a number of heated debate about cultural appropriation and what actions belong on this class.

If you witness a good friend or liked one appropriating another person’s tradition, you may wonder if it’s finest to maintain quiet. If it’s not your tradition being appropriated, is it actually your home to say something?

Sure, you need to undoubtedly convey it up.

Appropriation is already a microaggression towards folks of coloration. Including to the burden by leaving it to members of that tradition to name out the appropriation and clarify why it’s incorrect solely makes issues worse.

Nonetheless, shaming somebody or criticizing them publicly normally doesn’t have the very best affect, so attempt calling them in as a substitute of calling them out.

Pull them apart privately or ship them a fast textual content or DM explaining what you seen and why it may trigger hurt.

For instance:

  • “Hey! I seen your T-shirt had [X] design on it. You won’t understand, however that design comes from a stereotype about [Y] tradition. I simply wished to let you realize folks from that tradition may discover it offensive and hurtful.”

Your willingness to interact in compassionate and respectful dialogue with others can assist encourage them to hunt out extra info themselves.

You can respect and share cultural parts with out appropriating. Simply know that true sharing requires permission, acknowledgment, and respect.

These sources supply extra info:

Crystal Raypole has beforehand labored as a author and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of curiosity embody Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, pure sciences, intercourse positivity, and psychological well being. Particularly, she’s dedicated to serving to lower stigma round psychological well being points.


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