“Cultural Appropriation” or Elimination?
Why is it acceptable to wear a cowboy hat but not a Native American headdress? “Cultural appropriation” has more than one meaning and discriminates based on culture and nationality.
At the start of the semester, I received a message from a student organization that I’m a part of. It warned students not to wear costumes from other nationalities or cultures to costume parties. Being an international student from Peru meant I couldn’t wear cowboy boots and hats like everybody else because I was not American. But when I asked about it, I was told it wouldn’t be offensive for me to do so.
That left me wondering, what is “cultural appropriation”?
According to Oxford Language, it is “the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.” But I found this wasn’t the case.
“Cultural appropriation” only applies to non-Western cultures outside America and Europe. Dressing up as a cowboy, Viking, or Greek goddess is entirely acceptable, even if you are not a part of the culture of origin of those costumes. But a Mexican sombrero, an Indian headdress, or a Japanese kimono are all unacceptable unless you are a part of that culture or nationality. Why is that, and who gets to make that decision?
After researching it, I found that “cultural appropriation” is called “assimilation” when applied to people from non-Western cultures. And apparently, it is acceptable for minorities from non-Western cultures to take part in a majority culture, but it is not okay for majorities to take part in a minority culture.
The effect? The further propagation of the majority culture: Western culture.
“Cultural appropriation” doesn’t set all cultures on equal standing. All cultures are equally important, regardless of their history or current popularity, and they shouldn’t be classified or treated differently. This inequality divides cultures and categorizes some as “privileged” and some as “marginalized.”
Adhering to woke Western ideologies, such as “cultural appropriation,” suppresses minorities’ opinions and exalts white-knighting practices. In essence, “cultural appropriation” seems more like a Western imperialistic scheme to prevent all other cultures from propagating.
This situation is precisely what has happened, not just with Halloween costumes. Many brands and organizations that had logos with stereotypes of a minority culture have eliminated their logos, such as Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup, the Washington Redskins football team, and the Cleveland Indians baseball team. But why are only minority stereotypes, or to put it plainly, POC faces, considered offensive, but white stereotypes are not?
After all, Quaker oatmeal, the Minnesota Vikings football team, and Cap’n Crunch cereal aren’t going anywhere.
The effect of “cultural appropriation” has been slowly but steadily erasing other cultures. Nothing belonging to the dominant white culture is offensive, while everything else is. To whom? Is it offensive to the people of that culture? If you ask them, they’ll say it’s not. More likely than not, they’ll be happy to see you wearing something that represents part of their culture.
I know I would feel proud to see anyone wearing an Inca costume, trying to make Peruvian food, or listening to huayno music. And in fact, people from other countries do that. They are not afraid to take part in another culture. So why are people discouraged from doing so here in America?
If these woke Western ideologies continue, diversity and inclusion will mean nothing. If students do not have the freedom to partake in other cultures, how will they learn? Mocking another culture by wearing a costume is wrong, but wearing a costume from another culture is not equivalent to mocking it. And it is not considered offensive, either.
Students of this generation will have to choose between being accused of “cultural appropriation” or partaking in cultural elimination.