Let's Talk: Cultural Appropriation

I like to say that I have grown up in a diverse environment. As I drive through my city I  can pass through Little Armenia, Chinatown, Koreatown, Bel-Air, Silver Lake, Skid Row, and many other economically and culturally contrasting areas. I’ve grown up seeing the differences in skin, food, beliefs, and traditions. It was just the way to grow up in California, somewhere that has become a safe haven for immigrants after our recent election. Rather than discriminate and emphasize differences, we embrace cultural enrichment, participate in the festivities, and sympathize with the tragedies. When seeing another race being attacked, it makes you think about what it would be like if it was your race under scrutiny.

The truth of the matter is that the United States has become what it is because of the multiple amounts of races throughout the nation. When saying “Make America Great Again”, you don’t actually know what “Great America” people are referring to. You could be telling us to go back to the roots of when the thirteen colonies were founded. If you don’t know what the problem with that is, realize that the original culture of the thirteen colonies was created by British settlers who were ruled by the King of England. We can go back to the America that enslaved African-Americans, the America that didn’t given women the right to vote for their leaders, or the America that was founded by people of other continents who chose to create a free and beautiful nation for whoever wanted to live there. But, news flash, we will not go back to that America.

America has always been a symbol for change. We have always had the freedom to change. It did not just come about, but it was discovered as a free space of change for those who wanted it. This is what created the American Dream that so many people strive for. The only standard for the right to the American Dream is to be a human being (look at your passport sometime and read the little captions on each page, as dumb as that sounds).

For some reason, human beings are being denied that right. It is not to say just immigrants are being discriminated against, but it is every person of every race that was not born a fair white color in the United States. One of the largest offenses of this, actually the reason I would get the most offended about, is that while the cultures that have influenced America are being condemned, the very people condemning are the ones keeping their favorite parts as their own.

 

When I speak of favorite parts, I mean when you enjoy the cornrows on your head of natural hair but you make fun of the women who must wear weaves to meet a European standard of beauty. These European standards have been adopted by Americans. I’m talking about when you mock ponchos and sombreros and get plastered on Cinco De Mayo, a day used to commemorate a Mexican battle against the oppression from the French. I am referring to the Native American headpieces worn on Halloween, but they are still being denied the right to clean water.

We have people living here rightfully, like it was meant to be. Yet, we are making them fight for their basic rights. We can not say that others are not oppressed when they do not have the freedom to do the same as someone with a more fair skin tone. At the same time, the fair skinned individuals are trying to alter their looks to meet a different standard of beauty. Why go tanning when you are discriminating the very culture that you are trying to match? People do not come and “invade” a country because they are here to take your jobs and education. They do not just take. They do not have the privilege to have things handed to them, but instead they work as hard, if not harder, to get the bare minumum of success as compared to what corruption they would be facing in their own country.

You can agree that illegal immigration should be punishable and it is definitely being treated as less of a crime through the years. You can have an opinion on racial stereotypes and whether they are true or not. What you should not be doing is choosing what part you like about a culture, disrespectfully use it, and demoralize races because of it. There’s no justification for blackface, for fake Bindis on your forehead, or for reenacting Bollywood-type settings. Your Halloween makeup is not a skull, it is a symbol of the Day of the Dead celebration. There is a difference between honoring and appropriating. To learn about a culture and educate others about yours it to create a beautiful and enriched society. It’s time to evaluate and learn from our mistakes, then prosper regardless of them. That is what makes America great, the ability for the country to be a beacon of hope and freedom for all who choose to be a part of it.

 

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