Respect the culture or leave it alone
By Martha Giron Quijano Staff Writer, Photo by Sylvana Uribe Community Editor
The phrase, “my culture is not a costume” is the perfect representation for how cultural appropriation affects us. It also encapsulates how big of an issue it is in our society.
What I find most problematic about dressing up or using items sacred in certain cultures is the fact that some people find it completely acceptable to do. I’ve seen people on social media defend themselves by saying they are not disrespecting the culture but rather, they are simply appreciating it.
When I think of cultural appropriation, two things immediately come to mind: Coachella and the NFL. Both places celebrate the idea of fun and coming together for the purpose of either music or a game, but use Native American Culture as their accessory.
With team names such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins, it’s no secret that the NFL often uses offensive Native American terms for fun. You also see it in other professional leagues and high school sports teams, but the NFL has gained the most publicity for their controversies.
Recently, actress Shailene Woodley wrote about her arrest for trespassing the construction for the Dakota Access Pipeline, while explaining the importance of not eliminating the true culture and values of Native Americans.
Woodley criticized Coachella in Time where she wrote that “we wear their heritage, their sacred totems, as decoration and in fashion trends, failing to honor their culture...we grow up romanticizing native culture, native art, native history...without knowing native reality.”
For three consecutive years starting in 2011, students at Ohio University created a campaign fighting against the use of cultures as a costume. Titled, “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume,” they created posters showing students of different race, ethnicity, and religion and the stereotypes made about them hovering in the background. In the 2012 campaign posters it said, “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.”
Cultural appropriation is never okay. There are other ways to appreciate and immerse yourself in someone’s culture without mocking or erasing the history behind the clothes that they wear, the things that they use and the songs that they sing. Respect cultures by not disrespecting cultures.