Adopting foreign culture as fashion is not trendy
February 12, 2015
Filed under Op-Ed
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By Maddy Buffardi
Managing and Op-Ed Editor
Cultural appropriation has and is still going on in today’s society. In order to combat this issue, it’s important to first understand what cultural appropriation is, and then what’s wrong with it. The definition of appropriation is; the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.
Rapper, Iggly Azalea has come under fire recently for her consistent appropriation of black culture. Azalea is from Australia, and naturally has an Australian accent, though when she’s interviewed or performing she has adopted an extremely stereotypical southern “black” accent.
Hip-hop music is a part of black culture. Hip-hop is generally considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. While at a Halloween party, Herc used a brand new technique with a turntable to extend a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. This was then popularized and used more often.
Furthermore, rap music developed from hip-hop music. Rap started as rhymes spoken over hip-hop music beginning as a commentary on the ability, or skills, of a particular DJ while that DJ was playing records. White rappers and hip-hop artists should be aware of the origins of their genre. This is not to say that white people shouldn’t take part in the genre but more so that they should not pick up an accent in order to be a part of said genre.
Another starlet who’s been stealing from cultures in an attempt to be trendy and relevant is Katy Perry. Perry, and her boyfriend, Horst Christian Simco – better known as Riff Raff, blatantly appropriated back culture in their music video (not to mention the song itself) for ‘This is How We Do’ remix. Both Perry and Riff Raff have their hair in cornrows, Perry with her baby hairs oiled down – a very recognizable way black women style their hair.
Black women’s hairstyles are not meant to be cool or trendy. Hairstyles are an integral part of black culture. Cornrows originated in Africa and the Caribbean and were worn by both men and women. It’s no secret that a black individual’s hair and a white individual’s hair are different. Black hairstyles — like cornrows, dreadlocks, and oiling down baby hair — commonly started as a functional way to manage their hair and not as of a fashion statement. When adopted as a statement by white people, with blatant disregard for the origination of the style, it’s offensive.
The cornrows were not Perry’s first offense, in fact at the American Music Awards, in Nov. 2013, she performed her single “Unconditionally” as a geisha in a kimono and a powdered face. Celebrities have been appropriating cultures that are not their own for a very long time. Madonna received criticism for sporting a bindi – a decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead by Indian women – as a mere fashion statement. In 2013, at the MTV Movie Awards, Selena Gomez performed her single “Come and Get It” in Indian-themed garb, wearing a bindi on her forehead.
The list goes on and on, and it can’t be ignored that cultural appropriation is alive and well at Neshaminy High School. For a moment ignoring the racist nature of our mascot, and focusing more on the depictions of said mascot – firstly it’s important to note that Native Americans in the area did not wear headdresses, but you cannot walk four feet in Neshaminy without seeing one.
Even worse is the attire students choose to wear at sporting events – headdresses, face paint, and some girls have even gone so far as to wear entire “Native American” costumes. We are participating in a cartoon- like depiction of a culture as if they are caricatures and not humans with a history.
This is not to say no one should ever take aspects from other cultures and use them if it is by way of appreciating them. But, in order to appreciate something, you must be educated on it. Some things to remember if you choose to adopt parts of a culture that don’t belong to you are, first, to cite your sources — credit the culture you’re appropriating.
Also, understand the culture you’re appropriating, know the roots of the attire, understand the reasons behind the tendencies, and so on. Most importantly, understand that stereotypes are not trendy. It has to be apparent that cultures are not something to try on like costumes when you want to be edgy or different, it’s insulting.