Cultural appropriation occurs when individuals belonging to a majority group adopt the cultural facets of members belonging to a minority group in an inappropriate way. As a result, cultural appropriation is associated with various consequences (Freire et al. 80). Therefore, to fully fathom cultural appropriation and its related consequences, it is crucial to understand the meaning of culture. Historically, defining culture is a walk in the path. According to Burnett Tylor, culture is a complex term consisting of customs, law, morals, art, belief, knowledge, habits, and capabilities acquired by individuals in a specific society (Shrestha 1). For this reason, culture is not biologically transmitted from one generation to another. There are things people learn to engage in when they belong to a specific group. Based on Tylor’s explanation of culture, the adverse impacts of adopting a culture of a particular group in society are not apparent. However, there is a distinction between appropriating and appreciating culture. For instance, learning a new language from another culture is appreciating that culture.
On the other hand, taking something from another culture without rights or authority is appropriating. This paper demonstrates how cultural appropriation can be practiced. The arguments are based on the American context using five advanced terms relating to cultural appropriation: subculture, minority group, majority group, indigenous and non-indigenous.
Individuals from the majority group in society profiting socially or financially from the cultural practice of the minority group is an example of cultural appropriation. For example, the video “Vogue” (Madonna’s song) released in 1990 is one of the instances of cultural appropriation in the USA. Madonna incorporated voguing dance in the music video, which originated from the gay drag-ball subculture (Brown). Furthermore, Madonna involved drag dancers in the music video to give credit to the origin of the dance. However, she was the one who financially benefitted from the video. She benefitted from cultural and financial capital by voguing dance in a manner that the dance pioneers did not (Brown). Therefore, the incorporation of dance in the music video was cultural appropriation. Madonna came from the majority of ethnic groups (the whites), while the dance was from a minority group (gay drag-ball subculture).
The oversimplification of the minority group’s culture is cultural appropriation. This oversimplification of culture was evidenced when the baseball team Cleveland Indians was constituted in 1915 (Sadaba et al. 507). The article published in Cleveland Dealer Plain Newspaper indicated that the team would contain real Indians, but the name would be based on fine traditions. Even though the sentence in that article was criticism, it explained challenges associated with an aspect such as American sports mascots ( 509). For instance, they do not represent actual indigenous culture. However, they reveal what non-indigenous individuals consider the cultures of indigenous people. Typically, mascots depend on the racial caricature. As a result, they fuel false stereotypes of indigenous Americans, implying they act as cultural appropriation.
The separation of the cultural facet of the minority group by the majority group from its novel meaning in society is cultural appropriation. For instance, in 2010, there was an increase in music festivals like Coachella, which resulted in new styles in festival fashion (Brown et al. 593). People wore indigenous warbonnets as headdresses. Headdresses convey cultural meaning, and they are not the same as traditional indigenous jewelry, which Native American artists sold to clients from different cultures. In the communities of Plains Indians, only community leaders on essential occasions are allowed to wear warbonnets(Srivastava 4). In other ethnic groups, warbonnets are associated with honor. As a result, they had more value than a military medal. Therefore, non-native American attendees in these festivals practiced cultural appropriation.
A situation where individuals from the majority group embrace a cultural facet of a minority, which causes adverse effects on the minority group, is cultural appropriation. From time immemorial, individuals have considered deadlocks as the culture of black people. Surprisingly, there are non-black individuals with deadlocks (Campbell). In the USA, people with locks are discriminated. For example, they are not allowed to walk at graduations in high schools. In some circumstances, they are linked to illegal drug use and denied jobs (Campbell). White with deadlocks are not treated the same way as black people in the USA, implying an element of cultural appropriation.
The examples of cultural appropriation are never-ending. They occur in different forms. However, it is distressing in the USA and other parts of the world for various reasons. It is exploitative. The practice robs the minority of the credit they should enjoy. In most instances, the music creators, which the artists in the majority group use in their arts, die poor people, while artists in the dominant group flourish in millions. When artists in the dominant group use music from the minority group, they are considered edgy and innovative.
On the other hand, individuals from minority groups experience negative stereotypes, demonstrating that they lack creativity and intelligence. Furthermore, it is challenging when discussing activities or practices related to cultural appropriation. Other people may consider what particular individuals see as a compliment as discourteous. Therefore, these practices and activities require careful consideration to circumvent cultural appropriation.
People need to be sensitive toward others. Since it is challenging to recognize activities or practices that lead to cultural appropriation, an individual should behave sensitively and responsibly towards others by considering various questions. When adopting a particular cultural element from another group, that person should determine if the move is of genuine interest. Suppose it is an artwork, the person to identify the source. Additionally, one needs to consider the meaning associated with that artwork. The person should go ahead and request permission to use the art. Determining people’s reactions to the use of artwork outside their culture is significant in avoiding cultural appropriation.
In a nutshell, sharing material items, ideas, and ideas from different cultures makes life fascinating. For instance, it assists people in diversifying the earth. For this reason, a genuine concern in another culture is inappropriate. However, cultural appropriation raises issues that should not be taken for granted. This paper discusses cultural appropriation according to the American context while focusing on five advanced terms associated with cultural appropriation. These terms encompass subculture, indigenous, non-indigenous, majority, and minority groups. It is established that cultural appropriation negatively impacts the minority group while the majority group benefits from it. Hence, the consequences imply that individuals should be sensitive toward other people’s cultures to bypass cultural appropriation in society.
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Campbell, Fernandez, Alexia. “A Black Woman Lost a Job Offer Because She Would not Cut her Dreadlocks. Now she wants to go to the Supreme Court.” Vox, Apr. 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/4/18/17242788/chastity-jones-dreadlock-job-discrimination. Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.
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