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Cultural appreciation acceptable, cultural appropriation not

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Illustration by: Azalie Yanguas | Staff Illustrator

America is seen as one of the world’s greatest melting pots.

Various cultures and traditions are brought together and infused into the mainstream. This can be marvelous, but only when aspects are recognized for their cultural importance.

For the most part, I do not have a problem with people borrowing traits from other cultures. If someone thinks henna is super cool, that’s fine. Perhaps a person wants to try out some dreads—tight. Hell, maybe someone even wants to rock a sari—I say get it, girl.

However, my issue arises when these aspects are not borrowed, but taken. This often occurs when these characteristics are used as fashion trends deemed “edgy” and “chic” because the media says so. Yet, when a person of the culture from where the “trend” originates wears said “trend,” they are flooded with a well of negative reactions.

There is a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultural appreciation is fabulous. Appreciation occurs when an individual from an outside culture can recognize and celebrate the differences between their culture and another’s. However, cultural appropriation is pure theft.

It is not okay for someone to take a feature that has been part of a culture for generations, and then claim it has just been discovered. I’m looking at you, Vogue.

Also, if an individual says that others are appropriating his or her culture, the appropriators cannot argue that they are not. That logic is applicable to taking someone’s shoe and trying to argue that you had it the whole time. It makes no sense.

While black culture is most commonly appropriated, it is far from being the only group annexed.

The infusion of henna, saris, kimonos, chopsticks and many other items from Asian cultures has also been regarded as “hip” and “cool.” Native American and Latin cultures have also experienced this kind of bastardization. Unfortunately, society still says it does not matter that most of these groups have been doing this for hundreds and thousands of years—it’s cool now.

It is extremely hurtful to see parts of the culture that you grew up with and have emotional ties to referred to as “trends.” These “trends” make it seem as nothing is ever your own and if it is, it will not be for long.

I’m always down for some fusion. All present cultures need to be recognized and celebrated. There are glorious things that can be birthed from the melding of various cultures. All the examples I can think of at the moment are food-related, so it is pretty obvious where my interests lie.

On a serious note, cultural appreciation will always be positive while appropriation will never be. Therefore, we should stick to the positives and spread the peace, love and appreciation. Once we do that, the path to diversity is clear and we can go get some take-out.