Cultural appropriation


Kim Kardashian, (pictured above) is once again appropriating black culture by wearing cornrows, a popular hairstyle that black women wear. (Photo in  public domain)

What is culture

Culture is “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group,” according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. There are six basic elements of culture, and they are, language, norms, beliefs, values, symbols, and cognitive elements. Every culture has its own version of these elements, and that is what sets them apart from other cultures. 

What is cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is when a person from one culture takes aspects from another culture without knowing the meaning behind the element they are trying to take. Some of these aspects include fashion, music, and trends. Some of the most controversial examples of cultural appropriation occur when it involves a historically oppressed group. 

Appropriation of black culture

“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes,” said Amandla Stenberg, an American actress, in a youtube video. There have been many times when other cultures have appropriated black culture, and most of the time the appropriator is not aware of the significance of the culture they are taking part in. 

Kylie Jenner received backlash for wearing her hair in cornrows back in 2015. Amandla Stenberg accused Kylie of “appropriating black features and culture but failing to use [her] position of power to help black Americans,” said Lilly Workneh, a senior editor at HuffPost

Hairstyles are not just hairstyles — they have meaning behind them. Africans created cornrows to tell which tribe someone belonged to. In the 1960s and 70s cornrows became popular by the Black Power Movement for “rejecting white beauty standards,” said Princess Gabbara, a Michigan-based journalist. Cornrows later became a popular style for African-American women to protect their hair. 

Kim Kardashian was also accused of cultural appropriation when she wore cornrows, but she called them “boxer braids”. Black women have been wearing this style for a long time, but when Kim Kardashian wore the same hairstyle people considered it to be a new trend. Zendaya pointed out that “braids are not new, black women have been wearing braids for a very long time,” according to Britni Danielle, a writer and novelist. Kim took a style from another culture and tried to make it her own; this is a prime example of cultural appropriation.

Appropriation of Native Culture

Victoria’s Secret model Karli Kloss wore an indian headdress in 2012. Some people thought that her headdress was artistic, but they don’t know the meaning behind her attire. “Headdresses historically are a symbol of respect, worn by native war chiefs and warriors,” according to CBS news. Victoria’s Secret apologized for putting the headdress on one of their models after receiving complaints about the attire.

Native American chiefs or warriors were the only people who wore headdresses or warbonnets. Different Native American tribes wore different types of headdresses, and each warrior and chief personalized their headdress. “People always associate Indian headdress with feathers,” according to The tribes would give a feather to a warrior when he did what the tribe thought to be a brave act. Native American headdresses hold great significance to the Native            American culture, and fashion houses should not use them for media purposes. “We are people; we’re not a fashion statement,” said Jennie Luna, an assistant professor of Chicana studies

Appropriation of Mexican Culture

In June of 2019, the Mexican government sued Carolina Herrera, an American fashion house for using designs created by the country’s indigenous communities. The Mexican government accused Carolina Herrera of cultural appropriation because they used these designs without the permission of the communities who created them. The Carolina Herrera New York resort 2020 collection included a dress that was supposedly made of shawls of Saltillo in Coahuila state. 

The Mexican government has “been trying to stop big brands and designers who…take elements of indigenous cultures without approaching the communities,” said Susana Harp, a senator in the LXIV Legislature of the Mexican Congress, in a video she posted on twitter. In 2015 Carolina Herrera worked with an indigenous community on a handbag design, so when Carolina Herrea took their design without asking it shocked the Mexican community.

In May of 2019, the Mexican government brought a law to the senate that would allow the indigenous communities to have legal ownership of all elements related to their culture. After more than seven months, the Senate agreed to give the indigenous people rightful ownership of their culture’s elements. It’s 

The difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation 

Cultural appreciation is when you take the time to learn about and understand the symbols, objects, or styles of another culture before taking or using them. Cultural appreciation “creates awareness and understanding…of each other’s cultures,” according to the Greenhouse club, a part of the Greenhouse International program.

Cultural appropriation is taking symbols, styles, or objects of another culture without knowing the meaning behind the aspect you are taking from the culture. In appropriation you use elements from another culture “for your own personal interests,” according to the Greenhouse club, a part of the Greenhouse International program.

Before taking something from another group’s culture take the time to learn about the meaning behind the thing that you want to wear or use. Learning about other cultures helps others to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of different cultures.


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