Can someone please explain to me what you think “Cultural Appropriation” is?
I ask this because the other day, during the great Dreadlock debate, I saw post after post that was confusing “Cultural Appropriation” with “I hate white people.” Where did this come from? Where was this written or even alluded to in my post? What did you read and why did you take it that way? No, that last question I actually know the answer to so skip that one.
Let’s clear this up once and for all. The most basic definition I can come up with is this:
Cultural Appropriation- Stealing something significant without respect or regard for the culture you stole it from and using it for purposes other than it’s original intention.
Now I want to turn your attention to some of the key words here.
- Stealing-Taking something without permission (Key wording here “Permission”)
- Something significant-This will almost always mean something spiritual, ritual and/or sacred
- Without respect or regard-Showing no care for the fact that you are taking something that has great importance to a culture
- Purposes other than original intent-This often (but not always) means using for fashion or some sort of financial gain without regard or approval
When you read the description and the break down of the description, if you read that as “white people don’t touch” you need to go back and start over. Anyone can appropriate. Anyone. It’s about intent, willful ignorance and disrespect.
Now, in the Dreadlock discussion. SO MANY PEOPLE went straight to “I’m not racist and I have Dreadlocks.” Well, if you said this, you are racist because you denied something no one accused you of. Non-racists have no need to do so. Now, I also realize that people were absolutely saying that “white people should not wear them.” I am not going to speak for those people but let me give my view on that comment.
First, it comes from numbers. When we see white people with dreadlocks and have a conversation with them about their reasons why, what do you think they say? Do I need to finish this sentence? I feel like you know the answer to this question. Whether you want to admit it or not, this is the majority. Now, YOU might be someone who studied the tradition, asked permission and went through all the proper steps to make sure that you were very respectful. If you were, I am pretty sure that statement was not for you. With that being said, if you truly ARE one of those people then you already knew that the statement didn’t apply to you and there is no way you were saying “I’m not racist…” on the post. Second, people that wear them in a traditional way have a very specific look and no, that look isn’t just about race. Did you not see the ongoing conversation about people that have both Dreadlocks and tattoos? What did you think that was about? There was a reason for that discussion. If you don’t understand it then you shouldn’t be commenting at all.
Finally, the “Racial issue” of cultural appropriation. Is there one? Maybe. Here’s the thing though, if I see a Black person with a Chinese symbol tattoo’d on their body, my instinct is going to be that it is cultural appropriation. After discussion, I may find that they know exactly what is tattoo’d on them, why it’s there, what it means, that they studied and got permission from multiple people within the culture itself. Without the discussion, my mind is going to go to cultural appropriation.
If we are talking about a tattoo and we get into the conversation, sure I might say something. However, for something like a tattoo, I am not going to seek people out. We are talking about permanent ink. Dreadlocks on the other hand, well you seem to think they are just a hairstyle anyway so what problem is there for you to NOT do it or cut them off if you are doing it?