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Xiao Mei Su

on 21 October 2015

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What is Cultural Appropriation?
First of all, let's define "appropriation".
"The word 'appropriation' means the act of taking something that does not belong to you, especially without the permission of the owner (in other words: stealing)."
Now, cultural appropriation is basically "the act of taking something (an object, an image, a practice, etc.) from a culture that does not belong to you."
"As free as people should be to wear whatever hair and clothing they enjoy,
using someone else’s cultural symbols to satisfy a personal need for self-expression is an exercise in
"How about people of color appropriating white culture?"
Stop. Nope.
And here's why:
"A Japanese teen wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a big American company is not the same as Madonna sporting a bindi as part of her latest reinvention. The difference is history and power. Colonization has made Western Anglo culture supreme–powerful and coveted. It is understood in its diversity and nuance as other cultures can only hope to be. Ignorance of culture that is a burden to Asians, African, and indigenous peoples, is unknown to most European descendants or at least lacks the same negative impact."
-Tamara Winfrey Harris, "Racialicious"
Also many people of color were forced assimilate to "white" (Western) culture because of MASS colonization of basically everywhere that was non-Western.
Why do people of color wear business suits? Well, they have to. It's a white supremacy society and it's the only acceptable form of "professional" wear.
"'Ethnic' clothes and hairstyles are still stigmatized as
, 'cultural' foods are treated as
past times, and the vernacular of people of color is ridiculed and demeaned."
"5 Things White People Need to Learn about Cultural Appropriation." The Daily Dot. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/5-things-white-people-cultural-appropriation/>.

"The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation." Everyday Feminism. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/>.

Johnson, Maisha. "What's Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm." Everyday Feminism. N.p., 14 June 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

"On Reverse Cultural Appropriation." On Reverse Cultural Appropriation. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com/post/781005138/on-reverse-cultural-appropriation>.

"But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?" Native Appropriations. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://nativeappropriations.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-a-hipster-headdress.html>.

"Sociological Images." Sociological Images RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/05/11/individual-racism-alive-and-well/>.
Oh & one more thing to remember!
"And what makes cultural appropriation all the more infuriating for people of color rests on the fact that other people—white or not—
can take off their costume and return to everyday life without the discrimination or stigma commonly associated with those cultural expressions. "
And now with Halloween right around the corner, you can expect for a lot of this to happen. Because it already has. Again & again & again.
And you should hear some of these people's excuses...
"It's honoring, not mocking!"
"It's a classic costume!""
"The blackface is for accuracy."
"It's a joke!"
So how about people of color appropriating other people of color's cultures?
Still not okay.
You are still appropriating someone else's culture.
Just because you are Asian, doesn't give you a free pass to randomly dress up as a geisha, dragon lady, sumo wrestler, et cetera.
The same should be understood for everyone.
So this Halloween (and every other day really), make sure you check yourself before you culturally appropriate someone.
"Gotta laugh at these munchkins always btichin about how everyone else is racist for 'cultural appropriation', while ALL of their responses have culturally appropriated the 'white mans' language.....which is American/ english of course ;-)
-Youtube comment that got 470+ likes
Here's a little video wake up call
"That doesn’t mean that cultural exchange never happens, or that we can never partake in one another’s cultures. But there needs to be some element of mutual understanding, equality, and respect for it to be a true exchange."
"[...] cultural exchange can look like – engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, invitation only."
Cultural appropriation and cultural exchange are different. There's a very fine line.
Ask yourself these questions with your costumes and clothes:
1. Is Your Costume Racially, Ethnically, or Culturally Based?
2. Do You Belong to That Group of People?
3. Why Is Your Costume Funny or Sexy?
4. Would You Wear That Costume Around That Group of People?

These sites have some checklists too:
Have fun this Halloween!
Just don't do this, this, or this.
But go for these instead. :)
Here's a more comprehensive list of why cultural appropriation is wrong
(courtesy of Everyday Feminism):
1. It trivialiazes violent historical oppression
"When violence systematically targets a group of people through genocide, slavery, or colonization, the resulting trauma lasts through generations."
2. lt lets people show love for the culture, but remain prejudiced against its people
3. It makes things look 'cool' for white people - but 'too ethnic' for people of color
"The US is a white-dominated society, and for proof of that, search no further than the way immigrants, Indigenous people, and people of color are criticized for the things that distinguish us from white Americans."
4. It lets priviledged people profit from oppressed people's labor
5. It lets some people get rewarded for things the creators never got credited for
Ex.: Rock & Roll
6. It spreads mass lies about marginalized cultures
Ex.: Pocahontas
7. It perpetuates racist stereotype
“You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so.”
8. White poeple can freely do what people of color were actively punished for doing
"Did you know yoga was once banned in India as part of the “racist and orientalist narratives” that characterized Indians as perverse heathens who had to conform to Western ways? "
9. It prioritizes the feelings of privileged people over justice for marginalized people
"But claiming that the dominant culture has a right to take freely from disempowered groups sounds a lot like the lie of the “white man’s burden” from the past. Colonizers used this concept to claim they had a “duty” to take land, resources, and identity from Indigenous people – trying to justify everything from slavery to genocide."
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