Cultural appropriation is incredibly prevalent in today’s society

Kaitlin Rasborn - Executive Editor, Veronica Barsoomian - Photo Editor

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In today’s society, dominant cultures frequently adopt elements of a minority’s culture. Styling one’s hair into dreadlocks, flashing Native American war bonnets, and piercing tight buns with chopsticks are widely accepted fashion trends, most of which are praised for their cultural diversity. However, when a girl wore a Chinese-style dress to her high school prom, public outroar was the response. This begs the question: is cultural appropriation acceptable? Everyday aspects of life such as using an Italian Espresso Machine to prepare a nice cup of coffee or wearing espadrilles to an outdoor gathering can all be considered cultural appropriation, but they are never thought of as disrespectful. The problem arises when the aspects taken from a less dominant culture are offensive to the people of that culture; hence, cultural appropriation, when carried out in a distasteful manner, is invasive and demeaning.

Most minorities are proud of their culture and race, so when they see outsiders flaunting elements of their own culture, one that they are honored to be a part of, their natural reaction is to become defensive. Many are aware that fashion icons do not understand or appreciate the value and meaning behind the pieces they are wearing. These outsiders are using someone else’s culture, such as a Chinese-style dress, as a way to look beautiful and eye-catching. This high-school girl received a lot of backlash for her outfit, for most did not agree with their culture being put on display to cater to a white audience.

“I think a culture is significant to the people it represents,” said junior Andy Long. “Maybe that unique headdress you wore to Coachella ‘looked cute,’ but it was taken from the Native Americans, and no one ever seems to know that part.”

Even more, adopting a minority’s culture in a disrespectful way, such as in the instance with the prom dress, is degrading toward that culture. Not only is it invasive in the sense that people are ignoring the boundaries separating different culture, but it is demeaning toward that culture. Society clearly does not hold smaller cultures to the same standards as it does bigger cultures. Recently, media icon Kylie Jenner has flaunting French Braids, a hairstyle that black women have been wearing for centuries; yet, Jenner is praised as a trendsetter for her unique fashion choice. Everyone fails to recognize the culture that this hairstyle represents, making it a perfect example of cultural appropriation.

Examples of cultural appropriation are very apparent in today’s society all over the world; different aspects of minority cultures have been labeled “cool,” encouraging more people, especially the youth, to take part in these trends. Unfortunately, the majority is unaware that certain fashion styles and choices are disrespectful toward the cultures they were taken from. By participating in these trends, people are stripping these cultural aspects of their meaning and value. The best way to avoid this cultural struggle is to educate the youth, and explain that a random fashion trend may be native to another culture and therefore inappropriate to take part in.

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Cultural appropriation is incredibly prevalent in today’s society