Every so often a company like Gucci will come up in the headlines as having some new semi (or blatantly) racist item for sale. Other times you might recall in gossip columns or on Twitter outrage over things like Kyle Jenner having her hair in cornrows while wearing hoop earrings.
“There’s a fine line between creative inspiration and mockery,” writes Jess Kirkbride from Adzooma Blog, “And as the beauty and fashion industries continue to grow, this line is becoming increasingly blurred.” So the question posed is this: How can well tell the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation ?
At dictionary.com ‘cultural appropriation’ is defined as “the adoption or co-opting, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities by people or communities with a relatively privileged status.”
Fun fact: “The UN has previously discussed ways of combating cultural appropriation with the formation of a special committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization. The idea behind WIPO when it was created in 1967 was to protect intellectual property from different cultures and avoid exploitation.” So yes, this means the United Nations literally acknowledges that cultural appropriation is such an issue that they need a special team to monitor it.
So what then is the opposite; what is cultural appreciation ? Fusia Magazine has this definition handy: “having a genuine or authentic interest in a culture; in learning about the history (the good and bad), the people and its perspectives and building relationships with members of that culture on the basis of that understanding.”
So in a nutshell, cultural appropriation is stealing something and then lying and telling all that you made it yourself. Appreciation on the other hand is a friend letting you borrow something because they noticed you admiring it. If you have a true appreciation for a cultural it would be hard for you to ever appropriate it because you’d be more likely to recognize those potential actions as disrespectful.
So just keep this difference in mind if don’t want to get attacked on Twitter. Someone else cultural isn’t just a fun theme you can try on for size when you’re feeling spicy. Appreciating it from afar is the way to go.