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Cultural Appropriation: A Call for Change

By: Abdul Repon, Habib Ullah, Allisa Hymon, and Shanell Calmese
The world we live in today is brimming with culture and traditions to her advantage.
and diversity. From ethnic restaurants to clothing Cultural appropriation is such a big deal because it is a
stores, there is something for everyone to share. reminder of the imbalance of power and inequality
Culture allows for the celebration of history and between the dominant culture and minority cultures.
heritage, for the understanding of the past along with
the forging of the future. What happens when
somewhere along this exchange, one party steals from
What happens when cultural appropriation occurs?
Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption of
the elements of one culture by members of another
culture without respecting it or attributing credit to it.

A depiction of the struggles minorities had to endure and still do.

When minority cultures celebrate their culture, they are
ridiculed for it, but when majority cultures do the exact
same thing, they are praised. When black girls wear
their hair in cultural styles, they are called ghetto and
mocked for it, but when others do the exact same thing,
A hand reaches out to steal African American hair. they are shown support. Cultural appropriation matters
because ethnic groups that are already marginalized and
Cultural appropriation is a major component of media left at the bottom of society continue to be overlooked
and society today, with members of dominant cultures and ignored.
earning a living off stolen aspects of minority cultures. Everyone wants to reap the benefits of a culture, but
One example is Woah Vicky, a Caucasian American no one wants to go through the struggle. Everyone
female internet figure who became famous by wants to use the “n-word,” but the majority of people
claiming to be Black and using African American jargon that use it haven’t gone through the centuries of

oppression from the dominant culture that black people example of this type of person. Those connected to
have gone through. They don’t care to discuss the topic their roots know that it’s deeper than that. True African
with others; when they do discuss the topic, they feel roots are shown through actual knowledge of the
offended and say it is just a word. People fail to culture, not just what the mainstream American
understand that there is a double meaning behind perceives as “black.”
many of these words and traditions: the struggles Cultural assimilation is the process by which members
indigenous people had to endure, and a symbol of of a minority group take on the traits of the dominant
hope. culture, be it through force or voluntary action, to be
accepted into society or for the purpose of survival.
Unlike cultural appropriation and appreciation,
assimilation is forced. When people are ridiculed for
their culture, it is common to adapt to the dominant
As minorities, we walk around every day representing
our culture and our history. It isn’t a costume that we
can take off if we wanted. We endure struggles daily to
hold on to what little we can call our own. When you
knowingly abuse and steal our cultures it makes it seem
like we aren’t important, but we know we are. Our
A mural showing that there is beauty in the Yemeni culture. cultural creations are us, and even if we die, we will still
There is a distinct line between appropriation and live on forever through what has been borrowed and
appreciation. One can appreciate another culture by stolen from us.
wearing ethnic clothing, but it depends on the situation As a society, we need to realize that there is room for
and the way he does so; for example, non-Indian guests improvement. I believe in a world where all cultures can
at an Indian wedding can wear sarees or other ethnic live together peacefully. It may seem far-fetched, but
clothing to honor the culture and celebrate the nothing is impossible. We can all push for this utopia by
occasion; the guests are attempting to appreciate the building relationships with people of all cultures and
culture rather than commodifying it. Appropriation backgrounds and supporting each other, and by
occurs when people are too lazy to educate themselves educating ourselves to guarantee universal appreciation
on other cultures, such as modeling hijabs in a and multiculturalism. That way, we can have true
disrespectful manner or wearing ethnic clothing in a cultural appreciation. So, what’s holding you back?
way that reinforces negative stereotypes.
If you want to wear something from another culture,
we can’t stop you. We just ask that you take the time to
learn its significance and represent it in a respectful
manner and that you give credit where credit is due.
The truth is that in modern day society, many of the
things we do is a mix of various cultures; however, we
must ensure that we don’t misrepresent or disrespect
cultures in doing so.
From an African American perspective, we see cultural
appropriation in the discrediting of our culture. Some
A powerful piece of art found in Hamtramck that portrays an
perceived lenses of our culture include, but are not important message for all people.
limited to hair, clothing, and attitude. In the short story
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the character Dee is an