BY MAEVE GRAY
There is a big difference between appreciating a culture and exploiting it.
A person’s culture is very important and special to many people. It holds a deeper meaning and history for many minorities. A majority of cultural appropriation took place a while ago due to the lack of education and knowledge people had over others’ ethnicities. Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. Although it may seem okay to some people,this act disrespects and dismisses the meaning they may hold to the people who the culture belongs to.
Moreover, wearing other people’s traditions is disrespectful and harmful to their community.
For instance, Halloween is a holiday where many people enjoy due to the aspect of dressing up. For a large amount of time, people would wear outfits that are deemed inappropriate due to its historical background. For example, individuals used Japanese ninja attire as costumes which can be seen as offensive due to misrepresentation. In history, ninjas were not seen as people dressed in black outfits running over rooftops. Instead, ninjas were supposed to blend in with the crowd. They mostly looked like farmers in order to prevent looking suspicious. For weapon choices, they usually used kusari-gama, a sickle with a chain attached. It was more ideal since it would be easily dismembered to farmer tools. Unlike popular belief, ninjas did not use samurai swords because those were a samurai birthright. If one were to be found with a stolen samurai sword, they would be killed. The stark contrast in the clothing between Western interpretation and the authentic Ninjas in Japan serves to prove that cultural appropriation is thoughtless and frankly, inappropriate.
Furthermore, there are multiple examples of Halloween costumes generalizing and mocking people of color. Not only is it impolite, but it is insinuating that their culture is a costume for anybody to wear and throw away the next day. Still in many stores, they stock up on things such as “Mexican” costumes with wide sombreros, ponchos and stereotypical mustaches. People also use products to darken their skin to pose as people of color, which dehumanizes oppressed people.
In addition, many people use Native American tribal outfits as humorous costumes. Most of the costumes chosen are from a violent time where white settlers displaced the Indigenous people living there. By wearing these clothes, people are trivializing significant events that transpired in the past.
Not all cultural appropriation takes place during Halloween; it can also occur at any day of the week. Fashion styles are an important factor since a lot of people take inspiration from others and use those items as a fashion trend. Examples of this are overtanning, wearing box braids and durags, pulling your eyes back for a fox eye look and using oversexualized traditional dresses.
For more details, brands have been selling traditional Chinese dresses called qipao on their websites. To make matters worse, they oversexualize the dress by cutting it and reforming it to look more “sexy” and “fashionable.” By changing the looks of an important dress, they are disregarding the meaning and situation behind that creation. With box braids, people are getting them for the purpose of looking good, ignoring the context and past the hairstyle holds.
Although cultural appropriation is heavily looked down upon, there are people who choose a different approach instead. There is a difference between appropriating and appreciating someone’s culture. When appreciating someone’s culture, it is essential to make sure you have the information and knowledge to understand. Ignorance is the main problem, meaning it is necessary to acknowledge the events that resulted in the article they are interested in. It all depends on the intentions for wearing or using something from someone else’s culture.
Ultimately, it is crucial to respect others and the culture they own. Acting in a particular way can come off as controversial and uneducated. Wanting to incorporate a significant item from someone’s background without wanting to know its history is problematic.