Take some time to consider your actions: is it cultural appropriation?


Tana Ososki

When looking at all of America’s culture it is fair to say that a vast majority of it came from African American culture.

The SPA community is pretty well educated on what cultural appropriation is. The community understands that it is disrespectful to wear native attire for Halloween. It is understood that slurs that do not directly correlate with our heritage should not be used, but what about listening to rap music? Or using black slang or a “blackcent”? Wearing chopsticks in your hair? Are all of these offensive?

To truly understand this there needs to be full understanding of what cultural appropriation is. The official definition of cultural appropriation is “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.” The reason that cultural appropriation is a problem is because it is giving less attention and acknowledgment to a culture that is usually nondominant. Or in extreme cases portraying them as something that they are not.

One of the most important steps to take when deciding if something should be worn, or doing something that could be questionable, is to question yourself. Why are you wearing, listening, doing this? If the answer is because it looks cool, then stop and do not do it. If the answer is because I truly enjoy it and want to continue educating myself with the topic then continue. If you have a gut feeling while wearing or doing something, it probably means that what you are doing is not ok. Do your research. Understand the history behind what you are doing. Think about the reason why you are doing it. As time progresses there are more and more things that are seen as cultural appropriation that had been seen as normal before. Even if a few years ago, it was not thought about when a certain hairstyle was worn, the times have changed and it is extremely important to be aware of that change.

An argument against this might be that by doing what another culture started is educating others about the culture itself. This does not often happen. And even if it did, it is being confused by another, probably white, culture. So it is not truly “educating” anyone.

When looking at all of America’s culture it is fair to say that a vast majority of it came from African American culture. This includes but is not limited to, style, music, food, dance, and many many more things that most people do not think about.

This article is not saying that everyone should stop listening to black music, and never wear chains again. The hope that people can be more thoughtful of the reason that they listen to the music that they listen to. Is it because you want to tell others about it? Is it so others view you as “cool”? Do you want to look black? Or is it because you genuinely love the music of a specific artist? These are important questions to ask ourselves. Specifically, if someone identifies as the prominent culture and race, it is important to not diminish the culture that others have.