Cultural appropriation is known today as people adopting aspects and elements of cultures other than their own. When this adoption is done respectfully, it enables people to better understand cultures that they may see as “different” from their own. Respectful learning and understanding of cultural differences are equally important factors in how cultural appropriation helps foster cultural appreciation. Yet, it is important to remember. Like many other concepts and ideas, cultural appropriation has a good and bad side that should be acknowledged by societies. By acknowledging both sides of cultural appropriation. Societies can use cultural appropriation to foster cultural appreciation in ways such as TV shows, styles, traditions, etc.
With that being said, people should consider a few things about how their actions may affect others before deciding to respect different cultures. In a recent New York Times article, Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong? The author gives many examples of negative cultural appropriation. The author uses Miley Cyrus as an example. The author writes, “They wore dreadlock extensions while hosting the VMAs and drew accusations of essentially performing in blackface” (Sehgal). The term “blackface” may confuse readers who have no cultural appropriation of the word’s negative history.
Yet, in the 1940s, white actors would paint their faces black in order to resemble African Americans in a discriminatory way that prevented many of them from being actors and/or actresses (Blaque). In order to prevent history from repeating itself, cultural appropriation has changed the hearts and minds of directors who receive cultural appreciation when they hire actors of various backgrounds. Cultural appreciation is also often seen in clothing design, as many designers adopt different styles from cultures other than their own. A good way to avoid negative cultural appropriation, as suggested by The Atlantic in clothing design, would be to “pay homage to artistry and ideas and acknowledge their origins” (Avins).
This means one can wear cultural clothes to show appreciation, but should remember to credit that culture so that the clothes do not lose their cultural significance. The same idea can be seen in the memoir Funny in Farsi, in which Firoozeh Dumas, the author, credits the Thanksgiving holiday’s American heritage and adds her own Persian twist. For example, Dumas mentions her family’s Thanksgiving turkey experience as they “all share the American tradition of feeling more stuffed than the bird,” while for dessert they have baklava and Persian ice cream, hence the Persian twist (Dumas 74–75). The author then pairs her food experience of Thanksgiving with also giving thanks for their new American freedoms, showing cultural appropriation that way (Dumas 75).
It is important to remember that with different kinds of cultural appreciation, there needs to be cultural appropriation. A true appreciation of different cultures may not be possible if a particular culture cannot adopt aspects from another. Societies would also never know how positive and negative cultural appropriation differ if those societies never interacted with other cultures. By calling cultural appropriation wrong, it is almost like saying that segregation is right. To avoid this, cultural appropriation should be respectful to foster cultural appreciation.
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