Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation
During the present day, people from around the world have been more vigilant when it comes to identifying the factors that are being appropriated by other cultures. These factors include concepts in music, a person’s preference in fashion, and the food someone eats, and the language someone speaks. With all of these factors in mind, one would ask, “how can you distinguish the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation?” The difference between appropriation and appreciation are difficult to identify because there is a thin line of distinction between both terms. With this in mind, there are numerous cultures that have adopted other cultures’ behaviors and standards and made it their own without proper appreciation. This leads to the concept of cultural appropriation, which lends to the idea of adoption or theft of other people’s ideas and cultural norms. However, with society becoming more aware and sensitive to the topic of cultural appropriation, it is frequent that many would misinterpret someone’s genuine intentions to show their love and respect for a culture they are not part of. People should be more aware and cautious about the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation because the appropriation of another culture’s rituals without acknowledgment can be misconstrued as insensitive.
Cultural appropriation is the ignorance or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas from other marginalized groups, particularly groups who have even less social or economic power with the purpose of exploiting the culture for economic or social gain, provides the premise for a deeper dive into an oppressed societal structure, unfair practices in economic gains and cultural exploitation. Further, the literature suggests that the appropriation of culture has led to inaccurate depictions of cultures, negative stereotypes, and plagiarism of popular culture and music without attribution. The concept of appropriation and the misuse of power in societal and economic realms have contributed to increasing conflict within cultural subsets. This, in turn, not only undermines cultural relevance, but it is exploitative of subordinated groups.
Cultural exploitation denotes the taking of elements of an oppressed society by a dominant culture without equal exchange, consent, and/or remuneration. In instances in which cultural exploitation is evident, the lack of choice or control is prominent. Often, the dominant political strength and economic influence render the sending culture powerless. Governments utilize their power to subjugate oppressed societies into submission, such as imposing organized religion on ethnic groups who otherwise may not have subscribed to the dominant culture religious viewpoints. Cultural exploitation can be further observed in current social occurrences as well. As racial tensions continue to escalate in modern society, cultural exploitation permeates in music and fashion. Lyrics and genres, such as hip hop, have met with controversy and hostility. Hip-hop artists, writers, and producers continue to combat the challenges of foreign companies’ misuse of the genre for economic gain without appropriate attribution or respect. Western artists have been confronted with similar practices as well. Kylie Jenner is presented as a controversial figure in cultural appropriation. In her depiction of style box braids, she was perceived by many as trendy and fashionable. However, others deemed her actions irresponsible and exploitative. Her actions were deemed as cultural appropriation as she physically depicted black culture. Box braids are traditional African hairstyles that protect women’s hair from damage. Although aspects of black culture, such as box braid, may be deemed negatively and criticized in this scenario, Jenner is celebrated and admired. Therefore, exploiting culturally significant customs. Artists are seen in many instances as role models with societal responsibility. Kylie Jenner represents a majority whose actions may be construed as a premise of lack of social consciousness. Therefore, rendering those ethnic minorities who place cultural significance to their way of expressing their beauty have no voice in protecting elements of their culture due to the dominance of other dominant societies.
Music has a cultural significance in black culture. African Americans are credited in developing not only hip hop but also jazz, blues, and rock and roll. However, during 1930-1970, White artists adopted these music traditions that were deemed unsavory and became wealthy in a still segregated society. African Americans had limited recourse in combating cultural dominance in a Jim Crow America. Cultural dominance, the utilization of components of the prevailing culture by members of a dominant culture in a context in which the dominant culture has been imposed on by the subordinated society, including appropriations that sanction opposition. For many years artists such as Muddy Waters, Skip James, and Howlin’ Wolf struggled to gain success for their significant contributions to the music industry. Eventually, they were recognized for their achievements but never to the level of their White counterparts who appropriated black music.
Despite controversy and inequities which continue to persist, there also is a movement promoting inclusivity, respect, and understanding of other cultures. Education is crucial in comprehending the differences in appropriation and appreciation. In appreciating cultural or cultural appreciation, one honors, and values another culture and its customs as a way to gain awareness and respect. Whereas if your practices or use of cultural items exploits another culture or reaps economic gain may be perceived as appropriation. Misuse of items such as chopsticks other than for eating can be deemed as appropriation. Cultural appreciation allows for deep-rooted respect. In instances where there is a genuineness to appreciate other ethnic groups, asking permission to use cultural things, utilizing the object specifically as they are intending, researching the culture, asking questions, and acknowledging your limitations in knowing the culture. As an invited guest at a Muslim wedding, researching social norms prior to attending will guide in following cultural attire and the customs in a respectful manner. Appropriation occurs when members of one culture adopt an aspect of another culture without attribution. Often appropriation occurs from a dominated society that takes from marginalized communities. However, fostering an environment of inclusivity in which a genuine desire to listen, to learn, respect, and to provide equitable remuneration could afford opportunities for dialogue and cultural awareness.
Cultural Appropriation [PDF]. (n.d.). https://bento.cdn.pbs.org/hostedbento-prod/filer_public/whatihear/9-Cultural_Approp-Viewing_Guide.pdf
Rogers, R. (2006, November). From Cultural Exchange to Transculturation: A Review and Reconceptualization of Cultural Appropriation. Communication Theory, 16(4), 474–503. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2885.2006.00277.x
Han, H. (2019). Moving From Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation. Art Education (Reston), 72(2), 8–13. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00043125.2019.1559575