GRAPHIC BY YING YANG
By VINCENT CORTES
Coachella: raving, good music, fun times, great people and cultural appropriation. What more could you want from a music festival?
The annual fair debuted for the 19th time since its introduction in 1999. Taking place in—the now iconic—Indio Valley, the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Coachella) featured appearances from Cardi B, Illenium, Kinjaz and even Mason Ramsey—also known as the Walmart Yodeling Boy. While the performances are wide in variety, one thing remains unchanged: the cultural appropriation.
From Apr. 13 to 15, the overwhelming and apparent attire of the mostly white attendees consisted of Native American headdresses, Indian bindis and African dashikis. At Coachella, individuals pride themselves in showcasing fashion trends, and the overall mood of the festival is filled with millennial flare. However, one thing needs to be clear: appropriation of other cultures in the name of fashion is not a fashion sense.
Using apparel from a culture as “rave” attire, while disregarding its historical context and cultural significance, has unfortunately become too common in the festival scene.
Take for example the Native American headdress, also known as a war bonnet. This single garment has become the encompassing symbol of a gross misuse of cultural items. Going back to American colonization, Native Americans were enslaved, massacred and ostracized—it was a systemic oppression. Now, festival goers don their war bonnet, because it looks nice; yet in truth, individuals are sporting centuries of systemic oppression upon their heads and are carelessly diminishing the integrity of a revered cultural item to a simple costume.
Furthermore, another example of cultural misuse and hypocrisy in Coachella lies within the hairstyles of the attendees. For centuries, African-Americans have worn their hair in dreadlocks and have consistently faced backlash from society as it had been seen as dirty and unkempt. However, this dirty and unkempt stereotype is not carried over to the Caucasian individuals who brand this hairstyle; rather, the opposite is said and it is embraced as a cute fashion trend. By appropriating the hairstyle, individuals circumvent the brutish connotation the black community sorely suffers from.
However, is it the fault of the ravers of Coachella? Certainly not. Perpetrators of cultural appropriation do not have any malicious or spiteful intent. Individuals appropriate because they deem it acceptable—and this behavior is indicative of society’s failure to focus on social issues and dynamics. However, wearing other articles of clothing from a different culture is not necessarily a bad thing, because there is a line between respecting a culture and borrowing a culture when it’s convenient.
To illustrate, a person would not wear a headdress to a rave if they knew the significance of it. In order to stop cultural appropriation, individuals need to educate themselves. On a similar note, an educated person when traveling to or immersing themselves in another culture would do the necessary research beforehand and respect its traditions.
Ultimately, appropriating a culture for fashion is disrespectful, and it’s a trend that needs to be stopped immediately. By avoiding historical context and cultural significance, people are effectively contributing to racial stereotypes.