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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cultural Appropriation, or Just Showing Their Love For That Culture?


One could say Cultural appropriation is one of the buzz words of 2013. It has appeared on many blogs, articles, websites, & it has been uttered and mentioned a few times by Cultural Studies scolars. Not to mention it was instigated through the infamous Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke MTV Video Music Awards incident that ruffled a few feathers, as well as upset many African-Americans, who took to Twitter and Facebook afterwards to express their disgust at the mocking display. 

So what is Cultural appropriation? One definition is:

Cultural appropriation is when a person or persons from another ethnic or social background takes something from another culture and mocks it. 

Not all of it is race-related; it can even stem from ridiculing gay people and mimicking the way they talk, dress, mannerisms. 

What is not perceived as cultural appropriation are things like dressing up as a Japanese Manga character or video game character. This is not racist or offensive. As well as liking or disliking foreign food, taking a fictional character and making them Black, White or Asian and buying or listening to R&B, country, J-Pop (Japanese pop music). 

Through cultural appropriation, it is insinuated that, as people, no matter what colour our skin is, we can do whatever we want, whatever we like, without thinking about the consequences afterwards. Consequences of which, can have an immediate effect on that particular social or ethnic group. In most cases, it does play on stereotypes of people. A lot of it is done out of ignorance and not with the intent to offend; and yet to that group, they may feel otherwise. 

Negative examples of cultural appropriation is wearing dark face, looking like a minstrel and Asians having eye plastic surgery to look more 'Westernised' or White. 

One of the problems cultural appropriation causes is through the actions of that particular person, to the audience and viewer in general, who see it on TV for example, they will watch it and assume afterwards that Black people, Asian people, the gay community, do behave and act like that in real life when they all do not. 

Another problem is that in today's popular culture and entertainment, what we have seen during the last 3 or 4 years, especially within the United States of America, is a) the dumbing down of Black culture, b) more mainstream television networks shunning Black sitcoms, and cable TV stations creating and televising Black sitcoms and programmes aimed at African -Americans and c) the infiltration of pop and dance music into R&B and Hip Hop; thus, the music industry who have pretty much ruined urban music through money, the overuse of technology and turning commerical R&B into a vapid style of euro- dance pop . 

One may argue that not all cultural appropriation is considered in bad taste (hence the examples stated in one of the paragraphs in this piece); likewise, it is always a good thing to see someone - outside of your culture or race- have an appreciation (if not a full understanding) for your, or a different culture, & embody it in a good way, without taking the mick. I've seen photos of celebrities, watched movies of women wearing traditional Chinese garments, and I think it's really cool. I don't find it offensive, - unless they opened their mouths and imitate Chinese people by mockingly speaking in a Chinese accent & making slitty eyes. That would offend me. 

Still, if Black people can enjoy fine arts and opera, if Whites can listen to reggae and R&B music, wear African garments and Asians are into punk rock, then who's to say they are demeaning their culture through it? They are not. 

Sticking to your own culture, customs and traditions is a good thing, because it keeps you firmly rooted, culturally. But that does not mean you should deny your own freedom, of your own choice to like different things outside of your culture as well. Why choose when you can have both, without the detriment of insulting people? Unlike cultural appropriation, this is what some would perceive as cultural 'appreciation'. 

It is important to know that just because you wear clothing from a different country, you are not ridiculing the people of that country. You're just showing respect and appreciation. 

There is a fine line between staying true to yourself as a person and a human being, either as a Black, White, Asian, Hispanic man/woman, and being appreciative of other cultures you choose to either adapt and take on or showing particular interest in, all because it fascinates you. 

& not out of attention and to upset the very people of that particular social group. 

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