Cultural Appropriation: Disrespect or Limitation?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Charles Caleb Colton

Change. It is truly the only constant this world can guarantee. Nothing remains the same forever. Whether it is philosophy, people, or even cultures, change is the the one thing we know will happen as we pass through life for better or worse. When cultures change or become diverse, one will often see two different cultures share information, customs, or even their apparel and style. For millenia, this has been the norm whether the community was conquered or shared land with people from a different culture. This is how humans have evolved ever since known written history.

Unfortunately, in today’s sensitive culture, this form of adaptation and sharing of ideas is now deemed to be inappropriate, offensive, and even racist. The term for adopting the practices, dress code, or anything from another culture for any reason at all has now been renamed cultural appropriation. If, for example, a white person were to get box braids, African Americans could easily call it cultural appropriation, get an online mob to demand they stop the practice, and shame the person publicly or online for adopting the hairstyle. This will usually end with the white person apologizing and removing the box braids or suffering consequences such as job loss, expulsion from school, or even violence if they continue to wear them.

The major problem one is to have with this approach is the question of who gets to determine what is or is not offensive. One person of color may find what someone does offensive, but another person of the same ethnicity may genuinely encourage the person of another race or ethnicity to participate. Some may determine that the reason something is considered cultural appropriation is because it either attempts to profit from or mock the culture they are imitating. Others may see the actions as a result of the melting pot that America is.

Let’s ask a simple question to see if one can determine whether it is cultural appropriation or not. Is it “cultural appropriation”, if after years of research and careful reflection of his/her personal beliefs and upbringing, that a man/woman of Latin American descent would rather be a Taoist or Stoic rather than Christian or Catholic? Why or why not? If one is to say yes, isn’t that considered restricting their First Ammendment rights? If one is to say no, then maybe cultural appropriation is based on a lie meant to control people rather than defend the values and culture the person accusing them of cultural appropriation is discussing.

Is it not cultural appropriation for people who are not ethnically European to adopt European ideals such as Christianity, freedom of speech, modern technology, or the right to bear arms? Aren’t jeans, hamburgers, the internet, religious freedom, and baseball, not part of American culture? If one were to try their hardest to follow every rule possible to avoid “cultural appropration” today, they would be shut off from the modern world. No one should be forced to live that way in a fast paced, consistently changing world. To demand such arbitrary rules be followed to the letter is to make people prisoners instead of citizens.

“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”

Kakuzō OkakuraThe Book of Tea

Adaptation and using what works no matter where it comes from or who invented it first is how humans survive and evolve. The term cultural appropriation is not made to benefit society since the individuals who enforce such measures are often massive hypocrites of the first order who are constantly changing the rules when it suits their needs. They ironically change despite demanding others do not when their rules stop benefiting them.

What do you think? Is confronting cultural appropriation necessary? Is cultural appropriation even real? Do you agree with the presented argument? Do you disagree, Why or why not? Feel free to comment below.

“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”

Max McKeown

Until the next Daydream….

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