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Appropriation or Appreciation?

What is the difference in cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation? Appreciation is when one seeks to understand and learn about another culture with the intent of broadening their perspective and to connect with other cultures. Cultural appropriation is when someone takes an element of another culture and uses it as their own. Today I will be discussing how cultural diffusion can help promote acceptance and support from all people when done with respect and good intent.

I’m sure everyone has seen Kim Kardashian be slandered for wearing her “Bo Derek” braids, as she should have been. However, it wasn’t the act of simply wearing the braids which was disrespectful. It was her uneducated statement which gave credit to a white woman instead of the Fula people. Credit should always be given where it is due and as an artist I am very well aware of this. Many people played a part in Kim’s miseducation. Herself to begin, the stylist who actually braided her hair, and her husband Kanye who didn’t enlighten her to the culture behind the style which he comes from. We all make mistakes. She did apologize and seems to have become more educated on the history, but many people continue to berate her as she still wears braids on occasion. They scream cultural appropriation. Is it though? I’m not so sure.

In college, I consistently wore Native American jewelry and would know what tribe had made it. No one screamed appropriation at me, yet I knew better than to wear a headdress due to it’s ceremonial purposes. Appropriation is when one takes an element from one culture and makes it their own. In this situation the element is braiding, for her to make it her own she would need to start exhibiting her own braid patterns and name them Kim K braids, so to speak. Now, my white friend who makes Native American jewelry and didn’t learn from someone in a tribe walks the line, in my opinion. Although she is knowledgeable in the culture as I was, she did take a cultural element and make it her own, yet no one seems to care. Interesting. In the case of Kim, I question if she was guilty of appropriation or just severely lacking in cultural appreciation.

I put up a questionnaire asking why black women get upset when white women wear braids, yet I’ve never heard a white woman complain when their long, straight, blonde locks are enjoyed by women of all different races. The results I received were interesting, of the people who responded to my post 80% were black, 20% white. Of that 80% all of them said sentiments along the lines of “do your thing”, “haters gonna hate”, “I don’t mind at all”. Now the 20% of white females responding to the post said things like “cultural appropriation”, “they don’t feel accepted wearing the same styles”, “fear of culture being lost”. All arguments I’ve been hearing for years, yet they don’t 100% make logical sense to me. It also was a red flag to me that it was only white women saying that we shouldn’t wear braids as if they have been socially conditioned to not give into the culture.

Though braiding is part of a culture, straight icy blonde hair is genetic, or in other words the actual essence of who someone is. Another example is when someone puts fake freckles on, it’s not a style like jewelry or braiding, it is a part of my literal DNA. Do we even have a word for when someone mimics our DNA? If so, please enlighten me. Do I care to be offended though? Absolutely not. Yet it is known that mimicking the melanin in African American skin by painting yourself in “black face” is absolutely not accepted. I am sensitive to the fact that has to do with it originally being used to mock and mimic people for years through plays and shows, so I would never condone such a thing. If we are standing on the principle though, I find that slightly hypocritical. I was mercilessly teased to the point of tears for my freckles growing up, and I still have no problem with people painting on fake versions of it. It shows young girls like my sister that her freckles are cool and that she should love herself for them! Now I don’t like how at the same time it glorifies skin damage or possible cancer to young girls, but offended I am not. Then the argument of the European beauty standard comes in, but in today’s world I see that fading. We have become diversified enough as a whole that people now see beauty in all races. Still I don’t judge others choices, just their own need to judge mine and others.

Now we get into cultural diffusion. Their are 6 types of cultural diffusion to identify the ways cultures spread around the world. Link below. Is cultural diffusion good or bad? This is my perspective. If acceptance and respect of a culture are the goals, then absolutely cultural diffusion is quite positive! People are scared of and threatened by that which they don’t know. So if our goal is to understand, accept, and respect each other we must immerse ourselves in other cultures to learn about them and their reasons for having them. I also know that copying or mimicking someone is the biggest form of acceptance and flattery that can be exhibited.

In conclusion, I find it imperative if our goal is to unite instead of divide that we should all start to learn more about other cultures. Their is a time and a place for everything, yet when done with respect and appreciation I don’t see why we shouldn’t do whatever it is we want. Exhibiting elements from another culture should be seen as a sign of respect and adoration, when done appropriately. As we all know, people will find a reason to be upset if they wish. So just do you boo!

If anyone has another perspective to show me I always have my ears and heart open. 💓

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