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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Cultural appropriation is not a form of flattery

In a recent trend of equality for all and being more culturally sensitive, understanding what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid it seems necessary in this day and age.Hornet Opinion Filler

Many years ago, the popular trend was to portray favorite characters in costume for Halloween or other dress-up parties. For example, “PocaHOTTIE” is something that one may see wandering from bar to bar, two guys portraying Cheech and Chong or perhaps a woman strutting around as a geisha.

As of late, more people have been speaking out about how it’s seen as being racist and insensitive to people of those particular cultures others may impersonate.

Looking at the history involving the oppression of people of color, costumes of people in gang associated type of attire, and going as far as doing blackface, can definitely be seen as taking it too far. This is especially when blackface was a degrading form of entertainment in the early 20th century, which continued until the 1960s when the U.S. Civil Rights Movement took place.

Cultural appropriation and what it stands for almost embodies the tragic past that came with those affected by hard times due to their own race’s history.

Another example is when people dress up as a “cholo” or “chola,” with mustaches, slicked back hair, make-up with high, thin eyebrows, or even going as far as portraying the female as pregnant. Most of the time, everything is extremely exaggerated and pokes fun at people of Mexican culture, as if saying everyone from that culture is just like that.

In the Disney version of Pocahontas, it portrays a happier version of the tragic story where she continues to live freely. However, in the actual version, she was forced to marry an Englishman, and she died at the young age of 21. So, little girls all over the world are dressing up as a Native American princess without truly understanding the history behind it.

Perhaps, it isn’t something that they need to know or understand at such a young age, yet when is it the right time?

Though dressing up as another culture or race may be a form of flattery, it really can come off as being an ignorant person who does not understand the true history behind what someone’s ancestors have gone through.

One may even think that dressing up as a geisha in respect for Japanese culture is okay; however, geishas are seen as being submissive and sexual objects. Many women are mistaken and think that it means they are dressing up as powerful, beautiful women. The film “Memoirs of a Geisha” will show you otherwise.

A big scandal shook a sorority from Cal Sate Fullerton last year when they had a “Taco Tuesday” theme, but took it as far as dressing up in ponchos and sombreros. An investigation took place for Alpha Delta Phi, and they eventually went into probation and were unable to take new pledges for that fall semester.

The sorority released a public apology as reported in CSUF’s Daily Titan stating, “We are profoundly embarrassed about our naïveté and lack of judgment.”

On a bigger scale, cultural appropriation has even taken over the media due to a feud between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus where Minaj accuses Cyrus for wanting to take part in the hip-hop culture without actually understanding the struggles it took for people of color to get there.

In an interview with the New York Times, Minaj directs a question to Miley: “You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important?”

In the United States, if not all over the world, the repercussion of cultural appropriation is ever growing. More and more activists are asking other people to be more sensitive to the history behind their particular attire, music and overall, the cultures of the minorities that have endured oppression.

No longer can people claim that they are imitating to perform an act of flattery. People passionate about diminishing cultural appropriation will continue to stand their ground and speak out to make a difference. This means, it’s time to be sensitive, and to educate ourselves about the real meaning behind cultural practices.

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  • M

    MeganNov 30, 2018 at 12:36 am

    This, coming from a person who bases their entire knowledge of geisha on a movie made in Hollywood. For the love of all higher learning, please get out into the world a little more. Your brain cells will thank you.

  • V

    VenusAug 22, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    When I go to my favorite Mexican restaurant, I can buy a shirt with an obvious CARICATURE of a Mexican man in a sombrero, drinking. The slogan: “Party Like a Mexican!” Based on the notion of cultural appropriation, I shouldn’t wear such a thing that because it would mean I was being insensitive and casting all Mexicans as stereotypes. But they sell these shirts in the restaurant, and the wait staff even wear them. So, I’m going to assume they won’t be offended if I buy and wear one. Why not? Doesn’t that scenario precisely encapsulate the term “cultural appropriation?” And yet it isn’t. Why? Because the Mexican restaurant owners and staff are having FUN with a caricature that no one with a brain would ever mistake for a realistic depiction of all (or any) real, live Mexicans. I have a beautiful Chinese lantern hanging in my kitchen because I appreciate the aesthetics of the red silk, the Chinese symbols, and the delicate tassels. But since my family didn’t come to this country from China in the 1800s to build a railroad or do laundry for rich white people, I don’t have the right to enjoy Chinese art? Instead of being offended by every display of “cultural appropriation” the world can possibly imagine, consider for a moment the SPIRIT and INTENT behind these actions. Most of them are not only innocent, but intended as flattery. It’s getting to be way too much work trying to avoid offending others when I have so much else to do–and, by the way, no bad intentions. People offend me all day long with their rudeness, texting and driving, slovenly attire and plenty of other boorish behaviors. But I don’t have time or energy to invent interesting new names for the things they do, and I can’t be bothered to write preachy articles intended to educate everyone as to how they can best avoid offending me. If I did, I’m sure most readers would express their reactions in terms that would offend me far worse than some innocent expression of appreciation for a particular culture. Why? Because of INTENT, which is fairly clear, in most cases, to intelligent human beings who aren’t just looking for a reason to complain.