Why I Think Cultural Appropriation Doesn’t Exist

Since controversial opinions are always a fun topic, I am here again today to deconstruct another exaggerated issue in today’s society. In a world where people are defined by their culture and race, a rather interesting issue has taken the spotlight. Society today is constantly raving about cultural appropriation, but I don’t think it exists. Here’s why.

To limit any confusion, let me explain the definitions of these words. Cultural appropriation, as defined by a textbook that focuses on the subject of Human Geography, is the act in which some cultures adopt the customs, beliefs, etc. of another culture for their own benefit. (This is not to be confused with racism or any of form of mockering/discrimination of one group of people by another. Cultural appropriation by no means is equal to racism.) And the definition of culture by the same source is the total knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior that are shared by different members of one community or society. Both of these terms were defined using the knowledge of human geographers who are experts in the field of human behavior and culture. Now, using these definitions, isn’t it easy to see that there is some conflict. If culture can be basically defined as ideas that are shared, how can cultural appropriation exist? Culture itself is constantly changing so how can one group of people definitely say that their culture is theirs and theirs alone?

But there is one very popular complaint about what society defines as cultural appropriation: light-skinned people wearing dreads. Honestly, it is quite difficult to see a problem with this. There are some instances where it doesn’t look the best, but anyone should have the freedom to do whatever they want with there hair. It is also ironic that many African Americans, who seem to have the most to say about light skinned individuals wearing dreadlocks aren’t even correctly representing the culture that first adopted dreadlocks. After surveying quite a bit of different groups, I came to the conclusion that a lot of the individuals who had a problem with dreads worn by lighter skinned people happened to have darker skin. Some remained indifferent, but others had rather strong opinions. And many African Americans in both local and national society claim that dreadlocks are a part of black culture and therefore cannot be worn by anyone else. This alone is a problem, but the irony is that the origin of dreadlocks is not within African culture but is instead found in Indian culture, dating back to a Hindu deity name Shiva. So if someone believes dreadlocks should only be worn by the culture they are from, they should at least be representing the correct culture.

As a final note, think about this: Is learning another language cultural appropriation? Of course not, right? Well, by definition, it is.

Does it really matter?

Photo Credit: Paris Saint-Marc

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