Diversity & Inclusion
Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?
11th July 2020
Ariana Grande, as well as many other celebrities, are finding themselves under fire due to cultural appropriation. But what does this mean? Cultural appropriation is adopting a certain element of another culture. The reason it is so controversial is due to people being disrespectful in the way they go about this process.
To get a wider perspective on the issue, I had decided to speak with my African-Irish friend Bongani who had recently encountered a possible case of cultural misappropriation in Galway. “I was walking down Shop Street one night, and I saw these women who were obviously having a hen party. They were wearing these Kimono’s which looked legit, they probably got them online, but still, they looked good. It seemed out of place. The Kimono is a traditional dress which Japanese people wear for special occasions such as festivals related to religion or celebrations of some sort. But like, we know what goes on hen parties and it just didn’t seem right to wear such a traditional piece on a night out especially since that is not the purpose of the piece”.
“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”, which could be related to certain celebrities who get themselves in trouble. For example, Ariana Grande is being accused of this trend due to often making herself look darker than her natural skin tone, as well as her manner of speech and dress. This does not mean that she is doing this on purpose to offend people, but she is not honest with her audience.
“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”
Many clothing brands sell traditional colourful shirts as festival clothes, which also sparks this trend. “Online and in shops they sell anything that is ethnic and different automatically as festival clothes. Anything alternative means “that’s my fit for the night”. It can be quite disrespectful to some people just recognising your tradition as a festival thing without knowing what it is and what it stands for. That can be quite frustrating.”
Many people seem to glamorise themselves by coming out at 15% related to an ethnic group only when it has become trendy to be a part of that ethnic group. Most cultural misappropriation happens in the entertainment industry which is unacceptable. Entertainment businesses should be aware that they are also forms of education and information and if they use their power to influence others in a negative light without acknowledging that, their actions could cause a domino effect.
“When you are a celebrity you have to be self-aware, especially when it comes to your identity. You can get a lot of backlash for things like that. Especially when white rappers start using the N-word… Society functions differently so you always have to be careful with what you say,” says Bongani relating to mainstream celebrities.
I hope after reading this article you feel like you understand what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid cultural misappropriation. We have to be respectful of each other’s backgrounds and be supportive! Being self-aware and informed goes a long way.
Featured photo by mochigome