Culture appropriation is the act of selecting and hand picking parts of a culture, disregarding the actual significance and meaning of those practices and values for the purpose of making money. Culture appropriation is a significant problem in the United States of America; since the time of slavery, we’ve dealt with the issue of disrespect and lack of sensitivity towards indigenous cultures and religions in the aspect of fashion, music, film and the general media. Many cultures such as the Indian, African, Brazilian and Caribbean who are minorities are appropriated and disrespected for the cause of money or recognition by Americans. This may seem like a small issue to the average American but it goes beyond just wearing an outfit or styling of hair a certain way; while Culture appreciation is being fully aware and educated on a certain culture which means one is more likely to recognize whether his or her actions will be seen as disrespectful or ignorant.
Before highlighting the problem of appropriation in the fashion industry, it is easier to emphasize more intensely on appropriation in other aspects such as events and occasions. Coachella, being one of the biggest and most impactful festivals in America and the world in general has become a big opportunity for attendees to appropriate cultures through fashion by wearing Bindis, feathered head pieces, war print, dashikis, Hijabs and hennas without being aware of their importance and heritage; this is considered ignorance.
Actress and model Zendaya once released a statement in an interview on her opinions on culture appreciation and appropriation, She claims;
“You can go about it as cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation,”….. “You have to be very careful. Some things are really sacred and important to other cultures, so you have to be aware, politically, about those things before you just adopt them. In order to appreciate something, you have to know about it and understand. You don’t just wear something just to wear it — you have to understand the history behind it. “I urge people to take the extra step of knowledge and learn about things,”
she continued. “I’m someone who feels uncomfortable with things unless I know (about them). I’m not going to try something unless I’ve taken the time and effort to learn about it. I just think with the internet and the resources we have, you should do a little research.”
The complete opposite is model Winnie Harlow’s who on the other hand put up an instagram post on the subject of matter and from a black woman, it seemed rather irresponsible; ‘every time someone wants fuller lips, or a bigger bum, or curly hair, or braids does not mean our culture is being stolen. Have you ever stopped to realize these things used to be ridiculed and now they’re loved and lusted over? No one wants to “steal” our look here’ and this basically just implies that the appropriators lust over the looks of black women but however, the model failed to realize that black women have constantly been ridiculed and referred as ugly, too dark and too fat for having basic melanin features whereas the white woman will be praised and acknowledged for their inspired look.
Fashion brands in America and other industrialised countries are greatly influenced by cultures; Examples of such brands are Marc Jacobs, Valentino, and many others. In one instance, ‘Last year Dolce and Gabbana sparked controversy with their use of blackamoor and imperialist imagery in their Spring 2013 collection. Victoria’s Secret was another offender and was recently scrutinised for putting a scantily clad Karlie Kloss in a feathered headdress which is a symbol of honor and respect in Native American culture.’ This is a decent representation of the unoriginality within the fashion industry and the laziness to actually create, so instead they steal from other cultures and call it ‘admiration’. And this has also caused many celebrities to interpret cultures in what is seen as negative and ignorant ways. Very recently, icon and beauty inspiration Kim Kardashian released a photo of her in what is termed in the African culture as ‘Fulani braids’ and ignorantly referred to them as ‘Bo Derek braids’ inspired by another Caucasian model, Bo Derek. This caused much controversy as the celebrity is used to because of the nature in which she presented the hairstyle, disregarding every importance of it. Other celebrities who have sparked controversy with their racist/appropriative fashion are Katy Perry with her Geisha performance in 2013, Miley Cyrus in a timeline of activities, and even Beyonce. What seems most problematic about the ignorant and uneducated choices is that having a large fan base means these influencers have direct influence on what your followers believe and see; the ideology of “if Beyonce is doing it then why can’t I?” starts to play a role allowing society to find right in doing irregular things harmful to certain members of the society i.e.; Black, Asian, Native American, Cultured.
Besides fashion, there are other sectors in society where culture appropriation is a battle such as in the music industry. Artistes such as Eminem, Drake are involved in the act of misappropriation. Eminem being raised in a community filled with people of color adopted his style of music from the lot and is constantly oppressed for his music pattern; while Drake who is a highly successful musician was once accused and dragged for inserting sounds from a Nigerian musician Burna boy without assigning him any credit or payment; asides from this, Drake is known for sampling sounds from upcoming English singers based on marketing and profit.
A member of the pushed media group Eric who is a caucassian man could be seen as misappropriating the black culture but; he indeed isn’t as his goal is not for selfish purposes but to push the narrative that racism and inequality should be taught and educated amongst children, teens and adults. He and Eric are examples of Culture Appreciators as they use the culture without finding a way to disrespect the tradition and the people.
In conclusion, a way to fix the cultural crime is not to stay on the problem but to discover a solution; and one way could be to patronize less appropriating designers regardless of the value of their design and acknowledge those who actually respect cultures of minority countries and nations. In a world where information is one of the easiest things to come by, misappropriations such as this could be avoided and the consequences and repercussions of this should be taught in schools in order to teach the younger generation the effects it has on people of culture and the significance of these traditions.