In honor of Columbus Day (unfortunately Massachusetts still hasn’t changed it to Indigenous People’s Day) I decided to do a quick post on cultural appropriation. As a white person, I think it’s really important for me to be using any influence I have to bring attention to this and other racial issues, but I’m definitely not the best person to actually speak on the topic, so let’s start by hearing what Amandla Stenberg had to say about it:
As Amandla says,
“The line between cultural blending and cultural appropriation is always going to be blurred, but here’s the thing: appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture that they are partaking in.”
This is the reason why so many people were upset about Marc Jacobs’ Spring/Summer 2017 show in New York last month. It’s also the reason why Marc’s “I don’t see color or race” response to the criticism was disappointing. It’s easy not to “see” race when people don’t treat you differently because of yours. Colorful dreadlocks might not be the most offensive racial statement that you can make, but the United States is a country where children are sent home from school, people are discharged from the military, and others aren’t hired for jobs because of their natural hair, their cornrows, their twists, and their dreadlocks. The act of taking those things, which were created as part of Black culture, putting them on white people, and then calling them “high fashion” is an act that perpetuates white supremacy in our culture.
Obviously this is a complex issue, and I encourage you to watch more videos and read more articles where people of color talk about their experiences with and opinions on cultural appropriation. A day that’s inexplicably still devoted to a man whose name is now inseparable from the United States’ history of violence against people of color seems like a good day to learn more about these things.