Month: September 2015

Small World

Today I am confronted with the concept of “cultural appropriation”:

Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.” –Wikipedia

Just reading the definition (albeit from Wikipedia) shows that it is not the actual act of using elements from another culture, but the act of disagreeing with someone who does- that defines “cultural appropriation.”
As a “bi-racial/multi-cultural” child with parents from two totally different backgrounds, the world I see before me is not only diverse but shared and mixed like a tasty stew. I prefer fusion restaurants. I prefer hyphenated musical genres. I study mixed martial arts. I study bhangra (jazz/pop + Pubjabi folk dance). I admire and strongly connect to the traditions the First Nations and Native American people. I study drama which, by nature, is a product of the sum of all parts: humanity, psychology, culture, and nature.

I understand the strong bitterness associated with the idea of someone “taking” a name, garment, or style that isn’t from their own culture. It can be annoying at times. But culture is a very unique and specific thing. Is someone born and raised in a country that holds descendants from multiple nations, part of all those nations too? What is your culture when born in a place where your genetic/hereditary culture did not originate? What is American, Australian, South American, Canadian, or Caribbean culture without all of the people who helped form these unique countries we know today?

While some incidents of cultural appropriation are most certainly dick moves and flat out racism or disrespect, others are simply forms of expression or admiration in creativity: art, music, fashion, film, food, literature, and design. If someone strongly connects with a culture that is not “their own”, should they be barred from participating? Is culture so sacred that if you are not genetically connected to it that you are not allowed to be a part of it? A “members only” club?

Art is for everyone.

It is a small world. Embracing another person’s culture is better than destroying it.