Yes, there is a HUGE difference between appreciation and appropriation.
Cultural Appreciation is learning about another culture with respect and courtesy. It is appreciating a certain culture enough to take time to learn about it, interact with people among the culture, and actually understand the culture.
Cultural Appropriation is when a person takes something with cultural significance from another culture for their own, but doesn’t respect or understand the cultural significance the something has. Instead they only claim to ‘like’ the culture because of what they can gain from it1.
Writer Tamara Winfrey Harris notes:
“A Japanese teen wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a big American company is not the same as Madonna sporting a bindi as part of her latest reinvention. The difference is history and power. Colonization has made Western Anglo culture supreme–powerful and coveted. It is understood in its diversity and nuance as other cultures can only hope to be. Ignorance of culture that is a burden to Asians, African, and indigenous peoples, is unknown to most European descendants or at least lacks the same negative impact.”2
Just to clear some things up:
- We are multi-cultural. We live in a multi-cultural world, and yes, sometimes, it is hard to see the line between cultural appreciation and appropriation when your next door neighbor is from a different ethnic group and you can be influenced by them.
- BUT Individuals who have been/are engaged in cultural appropriation probably do not realize and are aware they are doing it themselves.
- Pop culture perpetuates cultural appropriation. It depicts the culture into something entirely different, along with perpetuating stereotypes.
- Cultural appropriation can be considered as a form of racism, oppression, and exploitation of the minority ethnic group.
- Cultural appropriation perpetuates the message that all cultures is free for taking.
- Being a majority of the white population appropriating culture (just an observation, I might be wrong- not attacking anyone here) highlights the systematic racism of white superiority. We as a community can never be equals if the idea of the white population having the power and privilege to take other ethnic’s group culture for aesthetic purposes.
- Wearing a bindi, a headband, dreadlocks, making dream catchers and posting it on Instagram, or wearing any other cultural aesthetic standards because it looks pretty is NOT cultural appreciation.
- Cultural appreciation is as mentioned before, being engaged in the culture, is raising awareness to end discrimination against the ethnic group, is to learn about culture, and actually be knowledgeable it- and even so, because you are not a member of the culture, but simply someone who is knowledgeable about it, it still does not give you the right to practice the culture’s rituals, because you might unintentionally bring it out of context.
- Understanding the difference and raising awareness about cultural appropriation, since some of us are still completely clueless about what it is, is bring this multi-cultural world we live in one step closer to equality.
- My best solution is : embrace the culture YOU come from while stay open-minded, knowledgeable, and accept other ethnic group and culture among you.
1“Cultural+appropriation.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cultural%2Bappropriation>.
2 “5 Things White People Need to Learn about Cultural Appropriation.” N.p., n.d. Web. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailydot.com%2Fopinion%2F5-things-white-people-cultural-appropriation%2F>.