What is Culture Appropriation?

In a world as modern as today’s, we tend to see popular things online or on broadcast media, and we start to imitate them. We rarely stop to think that what we are doing might actually be offensive to others, and not in a very modern social media kind of way, where everything from breathing to choosing a different color is offensive.

In this case, culture or cultural appropriation is a topic that is much more serious than people behind keyboards being offended at the sky being not blue enough at that point in time.

Here is what you should know about cultural appropriation, a topic that gets most people thinking.

What Are We Dealing With?

Cultural appropriation is using other people’s cultural beliefs and rituals, not to mention nuances and details, without acknowledgment. Using other people’s culture in an inappropriate way is more akin to colonialism than it is to an exchange, mostly because the party that is copied does not participate in the said “exchange”. 

Cultural appropriation has taken place multiple times throughout history so let us take a closer look at some examples from history which should explain the problem in detail.

The Swastika

The Swastika or the hooked cross is a symbol mostly associated with Nazi Germany, as this was the symbol that Adolf Hitler pushed during his campaign in the 1930s and 1940s. The swastika is actually a traditional symbol that has a much richer history and belongs to the Hindus, Jainism and Buddhists.  

Through appropriation, the swastika is believed by many to be a symbol of nazism and is thus often misrepresented. As can be expected, this doesn’t sit well with the people who know the actual meaning of the symbol and in whose life and culture that symbol plays an important role.

Appropriation in Sports

Sports can be problematic when it comes to cultural appropriation, and this is largely expressed in the United States. Why there? Well, because the sports teams in most of the popular sports, baseball, football, ice hockey and basketball, have various names which refer to native-American culture. 

However, this has taken a turn for the better in recent history, with most native American tribes opting to support the sports teams that take after them, providing them with actual cultural history, like historical figures who are then used as mascots and symbols.

There are many teams which represent minorities and immigrants that came to the United States, the Boston Celtics, the Minnesota Vikings and the Fighting Irish.

Cultural appropriation is an easy way to disrespect an entire people’s culture unknowingly, by using and misrepresenting parts of their culture and history. Consider what you are wearing and what you are using in your everyday life and see whether that is tied to any people’s culture. 

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