Cultural appropriation is the adoption of certain elements of another culture without the consent of the persons belonging to that culture. It is a controversial issue, one that activists and celebrities have helped bring to national spotlight. However, much of the public remains confused about what the term really means.
It is the use of different elements typical of a given culture, stripping it of its meaning and hindering its use, it is considered a cultural usurpation for purposes that are not related to the same culture.
Cultural appropriation has little to do with exposure and familiarity with different cultures. In contrast, cultural appropriation usually involves members of a dominant group that exploits the culture of less privileged groups. Very often, this is done along racial and ethnic lines with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.
Cultural appropriation consists of the use given to some cultural elements that are typical of an ethnic group by another different group producing the loss of all cultural meaning. In other words, it is what happens when a cultural element is usurped for purposes unrelated to its original essence.
It is also important to mention that taking some cultural aspects from other places is not entirely bad, on the contrary, it can even be full of benefits, but it should be borne in mind that you should not offend the culture of the ideas or customs are being taken. For example, Picasso copied some examples of African art that had positive results or disguised as Indian in America, which is clearly a mistake considering what they did to them, but they are very difficult situations to avoid.
Cultural appropriation is caused by a dynamic power in which members of a dominant group take cultural elements from an oppressed group that themselves have dominated. Appropriation is about exploitation. Most of the time, appropriation takes place without a deep knowledge of these cultures: their history, their traditions and the current social experiences of their people. We could then say that selfishness, lack of originality and ignorance are aspects that definitely move some people to appropriate cultures that are not their own.
Some of the consequences of cultural appropriation are as follows:
Appropriation offends and harms different cultures that are victims of it. The introduction of oppressive, patriarchal and capacity building systems offends people and are features included within appropriation.
The different stereotypes that people have are penetrated in a dangerous way because often, irreparable damage is done to cultures.
It includes a dynamic based on the power of only one so that, when it is given, it does not generate power for both sides.
What seems unimportant to some people may be of utmost relevance to others, for this reason when they appropriate the culture of another people or person implies the desire to do some kind of harm.
The best way to avoid cultural appropriation can be done through:
Many times, the contexts of some people or organizations have been criticized because they exercise cultural appropriation, mainly those that are or have a close relationship with art, fashion and aesthetics. For example, some fashion magazines have been criticized for using white skinned models to represent non-Western aesthetic models dressed in “exotic” cultures.
The same can be observed within music. Many artists have been criticized and even accused of resorting to cultural appropriation, such as, for example, Miley Cyrus with the twerk or Katy Perry for wearing clothes associated with the Japanese stereotype as she is of another nationality. And we could even locate these examples many years ago, for example, Elvis Presley, when he marketed music that was only part of African American culture, until he made it fashionable.
Universities and organizations of all kinds are also in the eye of cultural appropriation for commercializing acts such as non-Western-style meditation, or even yoga.