Cultural Appropriation is Not Your Fad: A Poem

We live in a world bustling with culture.

So many different lives encompassing so many different traditions.

Like me,

A brown Desi girl who loves the centuries worth of traditions and beliefs before me.

I want people to know about my culture.

I want them to see the beauty in my mehndi, my traditional garb, my aromatic food leaving a spice in one’s mouth for days.

However, I need them to respect the years and struggles my people went to, to create this thriving culture.

I need them to realize the pain us POC youth feel when we see bastardized versions of the traditions we grew up with.

The traditions we were bullied for until it became trendy.

Did you know that mehndi is a traditional makeup used for celebrations such as weddings and religious holidays.

No, but you were quick to show off the chemical-filled infinity sign you got during your beach trip in Florida.

Do you understand the time and effort it takes to design and choose the perfect fabric for our lehengas, saris, and shalwar kameez.

No, instead you wrap yourself in bed sheets and put on a red marker bindi to go to your Halloween party.

Do you appreciate the beauty of our spectrum of brown skin and know brown is beautiful.

No, instead you have Kendall Jenner be on the cover of Vogue India, pushing the stereotype that lighter skin is better.

Do you know that hundreds of spices go into making the perfect biryani, nihari, or chicken tikka.

No, you just complained that my lunch in middle school smelled like curry.

Tumeric has been used for hundreds of years in our skincare and food.

It’s not the the “new” trend to put in face masks.

So many of my sisters wear head scarves, and you’re so quick to call them egg heads, terrorists, or ask where their hair went.

But the moment a white actress goes incognito at an airport and wears a headscarf, you claim that they are the peak of high fashion.

You need to do better.

You need to realize the harm you are doing to young brown girls.

We spend our youths leaving home excited to show our friends things commonplace in our household, only to be deemed weird and asked why we would ever do that.

You make us scared to be proud to represent our culture.

I was deemed brave to wear a lehenga and tikka to my prom.

My parents were scared to let me wear mehndi to college orientation because it was a PWI.

Yet when I got there, white girls were showing off the designs they got done on their cruise vacations.

We shouldn’t be scared to embrace the culture you appropriate.

Our culture is not your costume.

Our culture is not your Coachella trend.

Our culture is not your music video theme.

Our culture is not your fad.

Our culture does not deserve to be bastardized.