There is a major difference between appropriating and appreciating a culture. I love watching anime and reading manga, I appreciate the story lines and the artistic styles. Though I do not participate, many fans attend anime conventions fully costumed which is acceptable because it is apart of the event. Outside of this space, costume wearing could be offensive because eastern culture is ingrained in anime. Therefore the line between appropriating and appreciating is very thin. Culture is not a trend nor is it a commodity to be exploited or used out of context. So, if the line is that thin, take it as a sign and DO NOT DO IT. So, let the rant begin:
Cultural Appropriation is not new. Exploitation of marginalized culture has existed for a long time in the USA. For example, indigenous traditions have turned into fashion, logos for professional/college sports teams, and in movies without the indigenous population present or approving. Black culture has been appropriated many times over for American entertainment and all people around the world. Minstrel shows is a great example of a perpetuated and stereotyped culture which included the degradation a group of people in the process. Another example is Rock and Roll. White executives hired black artist to train white artist how to dance and sing so they would be more appealing to the masses. These black artist were never given credit and did not make a dime. So instead of thinking that Rock and Roll is from the black community, it has and still is associated with white America. So instead of Elvis Presley, we should be saying Little Richard or Chuck Berry as the foundation and growth of the genre.
The worst type of appropriation is when a culture is vilified but gets accepted because there is financial gain or is accepted because the dominant group decides to “participate”. It is one thing to be familiar and understand a culture, but its another when members of a dominant group exploits the culture of oppressed people. The dominant groups rarely understand the traditions and experience of the culture that are exploiting. For example, Katy Perry dressing up as Geisha and saying she was paying homage or a group of Russian women teaching a twerking class with no respect to African people, or everyone creating and wearing mask during the Day of the Dead Holiday but do not truly understand the Mexican ritual. Miley Cyrus (do I even have to explain this one?). The dominant group gets credit for being creative and innovators while the minoritized groups get criticized for their culture as if it wasn’t stolen and modified.
Museums and private collectors make money off our ancestors and claim to own it. How can you own artifacts that belong to another country, city, or a people? How can you own a mummified corpse? They open caskets and have our ancestors on display. How would you like it if someone dug up your ancestor and broken the sacred ritual? What if George Washington’s corpse was on display?
This part is for the opposition: Not everything is cultural appropriation. Respecting the culture while participating is legit. I do not agree with the dominant group wearing dreadlocks or wanting to be Rastafari without understanding or just viewing it as a fad or a portion of your identity. I do not like it when black people do it either. There is somewhat of a reverse side to this such as Usher or Kanye West wearing kilts. Why are you wearing a Kilt? I have never seen them wear traditional African clothing in public. During St. Patrick’s Day, I see so many black people claiming their so called Irish Heritage or just celebrating but I never see them celebrating Kwanzaa, Black August, or even Juneteenth. Another issue is the acceptance of being culturally appropriate. The viral video of a White Kappa shimmying (not even dancing spectacular might I add) has gotten more love than any black Kappa on social media is a great example. Oh, you want more examples you say? Missy Elliot chose to highlight Alyson Stoner in her videos Hip Hop dancing. While she was/is talented, you mean to tell me, out of the thousands of little black girls who can dance (probably better than her) they could not be picked? Usher with Justin Bieber (who actually thinks he is black now but when the revolution pop off, which side will he choose???) and T.I. with Iggy. This is not a black and white thing or a attack on Europeans. Though I love anime, I see a lot of racism in Asian cartoons. They portray many of their evil doers as black people or stereotype hip hop culture. In Kill La Kill, one character talks “black”, is a pimp, gold teeth, and is powered by money. On the other hand, you have responsible anime like Samurai Champloo that merges Hip Hop and traditional/Feudal japan culture.
The melting pot concept is nothing but propaganda. Just because many different people live in a country doesn’t mean they respect or share the same culture. How can this country be a melting pot when we were slaves, the indigenous murdered and non British Europeans discriminated against during the inception of the USA?Hip Hop is the closest thing to a melting pot, created by African people and accepted properly by many people around the world. But like Paul Mooney said, “Everybody wants to be a nigga but no one wants to be a nigga.” Everyone wants the benefits of being a person of color, but not the struggle. Cultural appropriation is a wonderful thing isn’t it?