Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation

Where does the line get crossed?

Kim Kardashian Blackfishing at 2018 MTV Movie and Awards

Kim Kardashian Blackfishing at 2018 MTV Movie and Awards

Martine Ibarra, Contributor

Appreciating and respecting different cultures is critical in our society today. However, when does the line of appreciation cross over into appropriation? While submerging oneself in different cultures when traveling is often welcome, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that one’s culture is one’s culture. Claiming aspects of a culture with a history of oppression while being part of privileged culture is a continuous form of oppression. Part of appreciating culture comes from acknowledging the cultural background. Claiming certain parts of a minority culture discredits members of that culture and colonizes traditions created through years of oppression.  The people holding power take these cultural aspects and try to make them “trendy”. 

An example of this appropriation plays out through the media. Some of the biggest proponents of this appropriation are the Kardashians. The Kardashians are a prominent family in American pop culture and have one of the strongest influences in the media. One sees the glitz and glamor behind all of their outfits, hair, and makeup, but tends to be blinded by these alluring looks and forgets the taken culture within them. Kim Kardashian has continuously worn cornrows and has been applauded by the media for doing so. Yet when black women wear their hair in braids, the social media applause is nowhere to be found. By doing this she exploits black culture and glamorizes it as her own. The history behind these hairstyles now loses all meaning when they are portrayed as another media trend. 

Other celebrities, from Katy Perry’s appropriation of Japanese culture to Vanessa Hudgens’ appropriation of Indian culture, ignorantly disregard the rich history behind cultural values and traditions. Many fans have called these celebrities out and they have received much backlash. Yet the media seems to forgive and forget too easily leaving these celebrities with little consequences for their actions.

On the other hand, cultural appreciation involves giving credit to the culture to which you are appreciating. While we can appreciate foods, clothing, holidays, events, and numerous other aspects of cultures, we have to be cautious that gratitude doesn’t turn into stealing.