The terms cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation are frequently used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings. Cultural appropriation occurs when members of one culture adopt elements of another culture without understanding or respecting the original culture. Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, is the celebration and respect given to a culture by people who do not belong to that culture.
Appropriation of Culture
Cultural appropriation is frequently regarded as harmful because it has the potential to trivialize and misrepresent a culture. It can also serve to reinforce stereotypes and power disparities. When a white person wears a Native American headdress to a costume party, for example, they are appropriating a sacred cultural artifact without understanding its significance. This may be considered disrespectful and offensive to Native Americans.
Another example of cultural appropriation is when a fashion company incorporates traditional African prints into their designs without crediting the African communities that created these prints. This is exploitative and disrespectful because it profits from culture while giving nothing back.
Cultural appropriation can also be seen in the way white people appropriate certain hairstyles and clothing styles. Cornrows, for example, are a traditional African hairstyle that has been appropriated by white celebrities and fashion bloggers. This is problematic because cornrows are frequently associated with black culture and identity, and wearing them by white people can be interpreted as a form of blackface.
Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, is regarded positively because it demonstrates respect and comprehension for another culture. It can also be used to learn about and celebrate various cultures. For example, attending a cultural festival to learn about another culture’s food, music, and traditions is an example of cultural appreciation.
Another example of cultural appreciation is when someone studies another people’s history and culture. This can be accomplished by reading books, watching documentaries, or enrolling in classes. We can better understand and appreciate other cultures when we learn about them.
Cultural appreciation is also evident in how we support businesses owned and operated by people from various cultures. When we eat at an ethnic restaurant or shop at a store that sells traditional cultural products, we are helping to support the community and promote cultural diversity.
What is the distinction between cultural appropriation and appreciation?
Here are some guidelines for distinguishing between cultural appropriation and appreciation:
- Consider the intent: Is the person doing it out of genuine appreciation and respect for the culture, or is it for fun or to make a fashion statement?
- Consider the context: Is the person acting in a culturally appropriate manner? Wearing a headdress to a costume party, for example, is not respectful, but wearing it as part of a traditional ceremony is.
- Consider the following power dynamic: Is the person acting in a position of authority? A white person wearing a headdress, for example, is appropriating Native American culture, whereas a Native American wearing a headdress is not.
Here are some more questions to consider when determining whether your actions are cultural appropriation or appreciation:
- Is it sacred or has a deep cultural significance that I am taking from the culture?
- Am I exploiting culture for personal gain, such as making a fashion statement or attracting attention?
- Am I reinforcing power imbalances or perpetuating stereotypes?
- Is it possible that I am disrespecting the culture or its people?
If you said yes to any of these questions, your actions could be considered cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation examples
Here are some additional examples of cultural appropriation:
- Dressing up in blackface or as a caricature of a person of color
- Using traditional cultural symbols or motifs in a disrespectful or trivializing manner
- Commercialization of traditional cultural products or practices that do not benefit the community
- Not understanding the significance of traditional cultural dances or ceremonies.
- Disrespectfully employing sacred cultural texts or symbols
Cultural appreciation examples
Here are some additional examples of cultural appreciation:
- Learning about another culture’s food, music, and traditions
- Participating in cultural festivals and events
- Supporting businesses owned and run by people from various cultures
- Respectfully wearing traditional cultural clothing
- studying another people’s history and culture
- Learning another culture’s language
- Providing assistance to organizations that promote cultural diversity
It is critical to understand the distinction between cultural appropriation and appreciation in order to avoid disrespecting other cultures. We can learn to appreciate and celebrate different cultures in a respectful and meaningful way by following the tips above.
Here are some additional ways to promote cultural appreciation:
- Educate yourself and others on the topic of cultural appropriation. The more people who are aware of the problem, the less likely it is that it will occur.
- When you see cultural appropriation, call it out. Speak up if you notice someone wearing or doing something inappropriate.
- Encourage cultural diversity in your neighborhood. Attending cultural events, supporting businesses owned by people of different cultures, or donating to organizations that promote cultural diversity are all examples of ways to do so.
We can help to create a more inclusive and respectful world for all by taking these steps.
Aside from the aforementioned, here are some specific things you can do to appreciate different cultures.
- Learn about different cultures’ cuisines. Try new foods and educate yourself on the ingredients and cooking methods used.
- Listen to music from different cultures. There are numerous musical genres from around the world. Discover new genres and the artists and musicians who create them.
- View films and television shows from other cultures. This is an excellent way to learn about other people’s cultures and customs.
- Read about other cultures in books. There are numerous excellent books available that will teach you about the history, culture, and people of other countries.
- Travel to different countries. This is the best way to gain firsthand knowledge of different cultures. When traveling, respect the local culture and customs.
You can broaden your horizons and become a more well-rounded person by taking the time to learn about and appreciate different cultures.