Katy Perry has been ridiculed as the “Queen of Cultural Appropriation” by the media for her racist costumes, including those her backup dancers wear during her “Dark Horse” performances. Padded dancers are attempting to emulate the bodies of African-American women.
Perry insists she is trying to appreciate other cultures, but her choices are 21st century blackface.
Cultural appropriation is a concept that has caused controversy by attempting to define the lines between cultural appreciation and cultural exploitation. Society, however, does not understand the definition.
Nandra Kareem Nittle, a race relations expert from About News, says cultural appropriation involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less-privileged groups, often with little understanding of traditions.
Although traditions of minority groups are mostly appropriated, it is not just Anglos doing the appropriating. “Five Things White People Need to Learn About Cultural Appropriation,” for instance, is not broad enough. Members of all races are guilty.
The fine line between appreciation and appropriation seems to contort, twist and tangle. It is difficult to know when a new style or type of music may be an appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is more than superficial fashion trends, but fashion ist the most common form of appropriation.
Bindis, for example, are Hindu religious markings symbolizing strength and concentration. They are used at important life events such as marriage, yet are trivialized by society to be a fashion statement at parties and concerts. Ultimately these actions are hurtful to people, because they mock the significance of the symbol.
What is fashionable and what is offensive are often poorly defined.
First Lady Michelle Obama was unfairly criticized for not wearing a traditional headdress on a recent trip to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia. Her style of dress was a flowing blue top, black pants and no head covering. Many in the United States, such as Republican Senator Ted Cruz, applauded her for making a political statement by going against the norms of a country with a very strict dress code for women.
Although she may have unveiled a Westernized political statement by unveiling herself, some said she was being disrespectful by not abiding by the cultural norms of Saudi Arabia and imposing her own Western norms in a country that demands women adhere to having their face and hair covered.
Mrs. Obama was in the right. No one should have to adhere to someone else’s style of dress if it goes against their own customs. Obama, by not wearing the traditional headdress, showed that women could be around men without being fully covered. By assimilating to the style of the region, the First Lady would have continued to contribute to the legacy of oppression, as the styles the women wear continue to oppress them. Wearing references to a culture that is experiencing injustice or violence is a path that cultural appropriation can come about, especially if one’s culture is tied to any oppression that another may be dealing with.
Fashion is never an excuse to oppress people.
Spring breakers in Cabo and college students celebrating Cinco de Mayo should put away on the drinking sombrero and the cheesy bandit mustaches.
Stereotypes have been developed through misunderstandings of cultural traditions and continuing these stereotypes through means of dress are hurtful to the culture.
Just act like any polite houseguest, a good cultureguest is attentive and knows the boundaries. Cultural exchange and appreciation are the ultimate goal, not appropriation. It can be achieved by being respectful cultureguests, by invitation only, for a limited time.