What is cultural appropriation and why is it harmful?

Maggie Smith, Features and Opinions Editor

As the years go on, even as today’s society advances for the better, there are still prominent problems facing society today involving race and discrimination, specifically cultural appropriatoin. Many people do not even know what this term truly means and how offensive appropriation truly is. Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements from another culture while not having the identity of that particular culture, which can be seen as very offensive to members of the culture. 

Some examples of appropriation can be seen as dressing up as a culture for Halloween or wearing a hairstyle closely linked to a certain ethnic background. Senior Osinachi Osuji said, “It is one thing if you get another culture’s hairstyle to appreciate it and learn more about the culture of the hairstyle or dress, but it crosses the line of appropriation when you start to make a trend out of it and essentially colonize it into something that it was not intended to represent.”       

Many brands and large organizations have been critically called out for appropriating various cultures. Recently, an NFL team, previously known as the Washington Redskins, switched its name due to this exact topic. Now called the Washington Football Team, the previous team name was appropriating the Native American culture and was seen as greatly offensive. Improvements such as this have been skyrocketing in recent years, especially due to the platform social media holds today. Social media allows for franchises, companies, and celebrities to be called out by the masses in a way that gains attention from a wide audience.       

So why is cultural appropriation so bad? In essence, when a dominant culture is stealing important aspects that encompass another culture it is practically being an oppressor to the culture it is stealing from. To turn away from this bad practice, one must learn how to appreciate rather than appropriate. Appreciation is a seeking of understanding a culture. By appreciation, one can broaden their mindset through new ways of learning and seek to understand differences between one another. With this new perspective, it can be used to break down barriers and diminish discrimination.