Jihye Lee: Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

Name: Jihye Lee

Major: Biology B.S.

Hometown: Lansdale, Pennsylvania

Year: Junior

Her Campus Ithaca College: How would you define cultural appropriation?

Jihye Lee: When you take parts of another person’s culture, a person who is part of a group that has been historically oppressed and or colonized, and you use it without any acknowledgement of the original culture or its significance.

HCIC: What would you say to people that think there is no such thing as cultural appropriation? Cultural appropriation is really just a “sharing of cultures”.

JL: I would say, “Has your culture ever been colonized or historically murdered for practicing the same cultures that you want to appropriate?”

HCIC: Can you give some examples of cultural appropriation you have seen in the media?

JL: Dreadlocks on white people, Indian headdresses or gear. Another example is when people wear eastern medicine symbols. Many people like to take from indigenous cultures, Southeast Asia, and India. Many white girls like to wear bindis.

HCIC: What would you say to someone who is appropriating you or someone else’s culture?

JL: I wouldn’t say anything. I would just walk away. I don’t tolerate that bullshit. I’m sick of people of color’s role being educators. People should know they’re making others uncomfortable.

HCIC: When did you first notice that cultural appropriation was occurring?

JL: Growing up, I was the only Asian American in my classes and kids thought it was weird that I brought my homefood to school to eat. Lo and behold, I go to high school and I see these girls posting on Facebook that they love ethnic food. These are the same people that thought my food was weird, the same girls that made fun of an Indian kid for wearing his cultural garb to school. These girls say “I love Indian food; I went to a mom and pop store!”

HCIC: Any final thoughts or words of advice for people trying not to appropriate someone else’s culture?

JL: Treat people like people. Stop asking us for answers, you know the answers. Stop expecting people of color to be your diversity educators. We’re people too.