Cultural appropriation is one of the latest hot-button issues trending in the world of social media. Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often-minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.”
Is that not the definition of America? I mean this entire country is built on and based on adoption of all sorts of other people’s cultures to become part of our own.
Oftentimes the first people to scream about cultural appropriation are young people. Many of them have no historical context about how they probably are themselves participants in cultural appropriation. Yet they feel entitled to get upset. Take the case of the young white girl who had a beautiful prom dress made to look like a Chinese qipao dress. When she posted a picture wearing the dress on the internet, a Chinese-American student quickly attacked her, saying his culture shouldn’t be used for a prom dress. The funny thing is, when people who were in China saw her in the dress, they appreciated her caring enough about their style to utilize it.
How many words are there like Chicago and Illinois, now a part of the English language, that came from the native Americans who once occupied this land? Are we to stop using the words because we might have abused the original meaning and context?
Historically black culture has become part of mainstream America during my lifetime. One of my earliest memories of watching basketball on television in the early 1960s was hearing an announcer question why two black players slapped each other’s hands. Those announcers subsequently learned that black people called it, “Give me five.” That action over time has morphed into the high-five. It is so ingrained into American society that it would be impossible to retract it back. Remember when Michelle and Barack Obama did the fist bump and the white media’s reaction to it? That had been going on in the black community for ages and now it, too, is part of American culture.
Black folks calling out people for cultural appropriation is always an interesting situation to see. One of the Kardashian sisters put on some box braids, and some internet trolls had a fit. Yet black women will get defensive if countered with accusations about weave, dying hair blonde, and stars who have bleached their skin lighter.
Food has also been a victim of the cultural appropriation hysteria. Forty years ago, tacos were not an item on everybody’s menu. Now it is considered a staple American dish. Spaghetti is another tradition within the black community, even though it has its origins from Italy, who probably borrowed it from Chinese noodles.
And don’t even get me started on those sports symbols that are heads of native Americans, like the Blackhawks or the Cleveland Indians (and truthfully the latter really needs to go).
As a society and a people, let us focus more on cultural appreciation.