We come from many different backgrounds, different histories, different perspectives but we are all a part of the human race. We should share our stories, our culture and our histories to better appreciate each other and gain new perspectives.
Should is the keyword. Too often instead of cultural appreciation we end up with cultural appropriation.
We believe this happens for three reasons and you should identify and learn from these reasons: people lack the basic knowledge of what appropriation is; they are trying to support other cultures but don’t know enough about it and don’t include people of that culture; and they make it about themselves and their own needs. We want people to share and show cultural appreciation and let go of cultural appropriation.
One of the easiest ways to achieve cultural appreciation is to gain knowledge of what it is and what cultural appropriation is. Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Basically, if you take someone else’s culture, identity, or history and make it your own without understanding and supporting it, that is cultural appropriation.
For example, this is a generic representation, if you are wearing a Penny Arcade pin but have no clue what the Penny Arcade is (and we suggest you find out what it is), the significance of that pin or the history behind it, don’t wear it. You are taking a piece of someone else’s culture (subculture yes, but a culture nonetheless) and claiming it as your own. Don’t do this. However, if you are wearing a pug doggie pin that is made and designed to be a cute item to wear, wear it, rock it. We are not saying you should just avoid everything because it “might offend,” we are saying educate so you can show appreciation and share that knowledge with others.
“It’s only a scarf!” is written underneath a man sporting a keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. The next photo is a different man also wearing a keffiyeh, and his comment is slightly more rooted: “With my keffiyeh, I am home, we are united.” These photos are a part of a project called “Cultural Appropriation: A Conversation.”
By gaining knowledge, you are on the path to cultural appreciation. To continue this journey to support other cultures, their identities and learn about the history one must interact within that culture.
For example, showing support of Native Americans during the Dakota Pipeline protests is a great way to see others cultures and help but until you go and sit on the front lines, hear their stories and learn their history, you are just a supporter of the cause. Supporting others this way is great and we recommend you do it often but this does not give you permission to use any part of their culture as a badge of honor showing you supported them. Remember, this is about appreciating their culture, helping the cause and looking for common ground to understand each other to achieve cultural appreciation.
ne thing that is dividing us. Taking someone else’s culture, identity or history because it looks good as part of your outfit or you enjoy their food, or you enjoy celebrating their holidays is not okay. We believe you should avoid this. The reason is because then it becomes about you and that is cultural appropriation. You are taking the “good parts,” disrespecting someone else’s life and ignoring the “bad parts” (you know the ones, they make you feel uncomfortable) and use them as you wish to benefit yourself. Understand this — it is not right in any sense. Include the people of the culture in the culture you’re sharing. Follow our previous words and gain knowledge, submerse yourself in another culture, let go of the “I” and become part of the “we.”
“If I’m going to wear something from another community, not only do I need know what that something symbolizes, but I also need to understand the impact of what it means to wear it, and also where and from whom I’m purchasing it,” said Rachel Kuo, author of “Yes, People of Color Can Practice Cultural Appropriation.”
That is what we want you to move toward, cultural appreciation. Be a part of the larger picture and gain knowledge, immerse yourself and include other cultures.