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What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm — Part 1

Today we are sharing an excerpt from this EverydayFeminism article. We invite you to read through the whole article, as it is full of valuable information. Here, we will share some highlights and key points.

1. It Trivializes Violent Historical Oppression

“For example, owners and fans of the NFL team the Washington Redsk*ns have largely come to the defense of the name, pulling out every reason including “honoring Indians,” “keeping to tradition,” and “you’re being too sensitive,” in reaction to Indigenous activists calling for the end of Indian mascots.

The term “redsk*n” comes from the time when the colonial and state governments and companies paid white people to kill Native Americans”

2. It Lets People Show Love for the Culture, But Remain Prejudiced Against Its People

“In the San Francisco Bay Area, I witness people taking what they like without wanting to associate with where it came from all the time.

Here, recent transplants to the area write Yelp reviews in search of “authentic Mexican food” without the “sketchy neighborhoods” – which usually happen to be what they call neighborhoods with higher numbers of people of color.”

3. It Makes Things ‘Cool’ for White People – But ‘Too Ethnic’ for People of Color

“For example, standards of professionalism hold back all kinds of people who aren’t white men. As a Black woman, there are many jobs that would bar me if I wore cornrows, dreadlocks, or an afro – some of the most natural ways to keep up my hair.

Compare that to fashion magazines’ reception of white teenager Kylie Jenner’s “epic” cornrows or “edgy” dreadlocks.”

4. It Lets Privileged People Profit from Oppressed People’s Labor

“Say a middle-class white woman gets into Native American spirituality and sees the chance to start a business based on what she’s learned. That might seem innocent enough. She has an interest, and she wants to make money off of it. That’s the dream, right?

But the problem is that in order to sell her products, she has to participate in a discriminatory system. This system includes federal government policies that make it hard for Native people to start their own businesses, as well as a professional culture in which white women and middle-class women can fit more easily than poor Native women.”

5. It Lets Some People Get Rewarded for Things the Creators Never Got Credit For

Who comes to mind when you think of rock and roll? Is it a white person? Who do you think started rock and roll? Is it Elvis Presley, the so-called “King of Rock and Roll?”

Surprise! Rock and roll came out of the blues and was initially largely shaped by Black artists. 

Sam Phillips, the record executive who discovered Elvis, summed it up when he apparently said, “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.”


Check back this Friday to see Part 2 of this piece.

-Your Friends at Undoing Racism

2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm”

  1. Pingback: What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm — Part 2 – Lotus Center

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