Cultural appropriation perpetuates racism

Illustration by Trevor Moore Photo credit: Trevor Moore

Cultural appropriation is a hot topic right now.

But what exactly is it? Well, the general consensus definition is that cultural appropriation is the act of a dominant culture adopting aspects of another culture (in most cases minorities) and using those aspects in a negative way.

Personally, I like the Urban Dictionary’s definition better:

“The ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures.”

If you can’t tell by that definition, I think the construct of cultural appropriation is pretty, well, ridiculous.

Hold the angry comments for a minute and let me explain.

Everyone should be proud of their culture and even defensive against those who want to abuse aspects of it for profit or to be racist, i.e. offensive Halloween costumes and football teams with mascots like “Redskins.”

In that case, go right ahead and picket and protest because that is cultural appropriation and racism.

However, culture is meant to be celebrated and shared with the people you love, including your friends of a different culture.

By sharing and educating people on our cultural traditions, we are creating a better world because people then understand why we celebrate or adhere to certain aspects of our culture.

In turn, understanding leads to acceptance which helps fight against ignorance and racism against certain ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, this idea of cultural appropriation, aka the “it’s mine, not yours” mentality, is only helping to perpetuate fear and hatred because no one is willing to share anymore.

This can be seen best in the world of art, especially in makeup.

And before I go any further, yes, makeup and body painting are forms of art. The only difference between those two mediums and actual painting art is that one is on a person and the other is on a canvas.

Side notes aside, it’s pretty ridiculous when body painters are attacked for creating tutorials based on ethnic characters they see in movies.

They aren’t attacking the culture being portrayed or being racist by copying the makeup; they are paying homage to the characters, cultures and brilliant artistry that is featured in the film.

The same thing goes for traditional makeup that some cultures use to celebrate certain holidays.

Unless the person wearing the body paint or makeup is directly using it in a negative way (think of those offensive Halloween costumes), then it’s not cultural appropriation, it’s only a way for the artist to pay homage to the culture it’s representing or from.

I’m sick of all the hypersensitivity and the “it’s mine, not yours.”

I mean, honestly, how does anyone expect the world to move away from racism and cultural hatred when no one wants to share and educate people about their lives?

Let’s move away from the rants on Tumblr and this “cultural appropriation” nonsense so we can get some understanding up in here, OK?

Megan Mann can be reached at [email protected] or @meganisthemann on Twitter.