At least 70% of my spare time is filled with me browsing through the wonderful world of YouTube. Last week I happened to trod on a video titled ‘Is Vanessa Hudgens A Racist?’ – with the thumbnail of said celebrity wearing a dream catcher in her hair. The rather opinionated video was addressing claims made by Instagram users that Hudgens was ‘appropriating’ Native American culture. The comment section was crammed with a mass of genuinely confused people, that is when it occured to me just how many people are unaware of what the concept means.
I searched dictionaries across the web to find the exact definition of the term, but found little. The Independent defined cultural appropriation as; the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.
My understanding of it is, that the problem with the use of elements of a certain culture by leading designers in the fashion industry, is offensive to a culture due to two main reasons:
- Adopting an element of a culture for monetary gain.
- Erasing the cultural or religious importance of the aspect taken; hence undermining hundreds of years of practice by the original members of the culture.
With Hudgens being mixed race and said to be part Native American, it may be hard for people to understand why she shouldn’t be able to flaunt dream catchers in her hair, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that many ethnic minorities are appropriated time and again in the media. Such as wearing dreadlocks and cornrows is ‘cool’ when a non black woman does so, but black women are discriminated against for their natural hair in the work place. White privilege ?
Similarly, the bindi is seen as a pretty ‘boho’ aesthetic by festival goers and with that, all its religious and historic significance is lost.
It’s hard to validate such as the appreciation of a culture, especially when those who belong to the culture have to deal with the racism that comes with wearing or dressing certain things, or simply for their ethnicity.
The argument is one that has sparked a lot of attention recently, yet hardly any real understanding, what are your thoughts on the issue?
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