What is cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is a term that is used when an individual uses a particular element from a minority culture, which they don’t belong to, simply for the element’s aesthetic value or with the aim of appearing ‘exotic’. White people are often complimented for picking up elements from minority cultures that minorities have always been bullied and shamed for. Several international celebrities have been accused of cultural appropriation ever since the term has gained its popularity online.
What are some examples of casual cultural appropriation in India?
Unfortunately, most Indians are extremely oblivious to casual cultural appropriation. A common example of this is wearing cornrows or Bantu knots, which are hairstyles from African culture. Indians also often wear Native American clothing for ‘tribal’ looks and using traditional Native American terms such as ‘spirit animal’.
Why is cultural appropriation glorified in India?
The unaware nature of Indians when it comes to cultural appropriation also manifests as a rather tragic glorification. Due to recent colonization and internalized Eurocentrism (a belief that activities carried out by individuals of European descent i.e., white people, is inherently superior), the Indian masses are ironically proud when our culture is appropriated. We have been fed the idea that everything done by white people is equated to greatness by mainstream media for all our lives, and therefore, the moment we see a model on the runway wearing a Bindi or Mehendi, we go on Twitter and boast about how it makes us happy that our culture has been ‘chosen’. It is extremely imperative to educate these social media influencers that their culture has, in fact, been appropriated.
What is cultural appreciation?
Cultural appreciation is when an individual learns about a minority culture with genuine interest and does not attempt to ‘steal’ elements from the culture. Examples of cultural appreciation include reading literature from a foreign language or watching films from around the globe.
“So, I have accidentally appropriated a culture in the past, what can I do now?”
The fact that you are willing to accept what you did was wrong is the first step. We come from a culture that runs on internet trends, and it is not alien to us to do something just because we liked the way it looked online. If your reasoning behind the appropriation comes from a curiosity for the culture, you should take the time to research about it and appreciate all the aspects of it. If you have been called out by someone, you should apologize for a genuine mistake and grow from it by calling out anyone else you spot making the same mistake as you.
What if my favorite celebrity has appropriated a culture?
Celebrities are human, and we must treat them like that. Defending them because you are blinded by your love for them is unhealthy and a part of toxic stan culture. It is also important to understand that if a celebrity you idolized has appropriated a culture that is not yours and they’ve apologized for the same, it is not your place to accept that apology.
What is the next step?
The key is education. It is imperative for us to explain the concepts of cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation to those around us and expect them to grow if they have made mistakes in the past.