Lately, I've become aware of what is called cultural appropriation, which is where one culture takes "cool" aspects from another culture and adopts them into their own, often losing the original meaning behind the object. Some people find this offensive and exploitative to minority cultures, and that if somebody wants to use part of one culture, they should accept and participate in all parts of the culture, including the painful history and oppression of it. Some people find it as just another part of cultural diffusion, which is positive and natural. 

[enter my biased personal opinions]

An example of this is somebody making a Native American-style headdress or buying a real one to wear to a night club because it's pretty. Personally, I have issues with people doing this (they have the right to do it, but I think it's kind of messed up), because it takes something sacred and turns it into a mere accessory worn by drunken wannabe-hipsters. Another example is taking a religious symbol and wearing it without understanding its meaning or importance just because it's pretty. 

However, some people take this notion to pretty extreme grounds and say things like "white people shouldn't be able to make/listen to rap music because it exploits black culture!" Rap music isn't sacred. It's a freakin music genre, and not even one used as part of a ritual or something at all sacred. Yes, music is powerful and stuff, but it's used as communication and because it sounds good. It shouldn't be limited to just one culture or race. 

I think that a huge majority of people are either insensitive to cultural appropriation or are way too butthurt about it. Cultural diffusion happens. Deal with it. But taking something that is clearly belonging to one culture as a sacred thing and making it trivial or meaningless is degrading to that culture. I pretty much think that if something isn't viewed as sacred or being used as a costume/mockery of a culture, there's no real reason to get upset over somebody of another culture showing interest in it and using it. 

Tags: appropriation, cultural, culture, privilege, racism

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If you buy a shirt with a picture of a Hindu god on it because your friend had the shirt and you liked the fit and colors, and it didn't even dawn on you that it's a Hindu god, I don't think you did anything wrong. But knowing that it actually is something sacred to somebody and wearing it as a "cool shirt" anyway is disrespectful. If done out of true ignorance, I wouldn't judge. If a t-shirt designer is browsing clipart and sees an image of a person that's styled in a way they find cool and it happens to be a Hindu god and they had no way of knowing, and they put it on a shirt, I wouldn't blame them. But if they find out about said Hindu god and they disregard its significance and they put it on a totally secular, just-for-aesthetics t-shirt, I think that they did something wrong. I agree that intention and understanding are huge parts of it. I don't think that most of the people who wear headdresses for fun know that headdresses are actually a sacred part of Native American culture and rituals and aren't just pretty hats. Some of them do know, yet they wear them anyway. If an atheist wears a rosary as a necklace because they just liked the beads and they didn't know what the rosary actually meant, I wouldn't criticize them, but I'd let them know what the beads meant. If they continued to wear it or they did something disrespectful to it, then I'd get pissed.

I agree entirely Captain Sparrow.  My heart aches when I see how the secular world has hijacked my spiritual celebrations. 

The consumer driven world has transformed the celebration of the birth of my savior in to the most powerful profit boosting season on the planet.  It is totally disrespectful , the way they shuffle Jesus out of Christmas and turn the entire sacred holiday in to a celebration of a mutated, fattened St. Nicholas championing the virtues of capitalism.

Every year at the end of Lent we celebrate Easter.  I was raised to believe that it was the most joyous time of year, a sacred celebration of our Lord rising from Death and saving all of our souls from sin.  It is supposed to represent the Sacrifice that Christ made for His children, yet all I see every year come April is a mass outbreak of freakish chocolate Franken-bunnies, and never even a suggestion of the sacred rites of the Resurrection, a commemoration of the Last Supper, or a mourning period for Black Friday carried out by reenacting the Stations of the Cross.

Don't even get me started on St. Patrick's Day, or as my Irish immigrant mother calls it: Fake Irish Night.  It bastardizes the Irish culture in to a horde of drunken fools, and turns the whole (initially sacred) day in to a celebration of liver destroying inebriation.  The only thing it keeps from the real St. Patrick ( the Saint who, in a beautiful Christian tale, used his faith in Christ to banish all the serpents from Ireland) is the name of the man.


I absolutely despise cultural appropriation.  I think that anyone that takes a portion of a culture that they are not apart of without the explicit and constantly verified intent of respect and appreciation of said portion should be punished.  When an atheist or non-Irish celebrates St. Patrick's, they should be fined for illegal consumption of sacred alcohol.  When they celebrate Easter they should be fined for illegal consumption of sacred chocolate.  When they celebrate Christmas, they should be fined for the illegal consumption of a beautifully roasted sacred turkey, sacred mashed potatoes with a little bit of sacred garlic, sacred rolls, sacred corn, sacred tofurky( if you have vegetarian guests...I try to be a good host), sacred stuffing, sacred sweet potato pie and yam dish, and some sacred cheesecake for dessert.

And especially, if someone who is not of aboriginal descent wears a headdress without knowing absolutely everything there is to know about the history of the headdress, its people, and its sacredosityness, they should be scalped, and have their tongue cut out and boiled in sacred oil by someone who appreciates the sanctity of the traditional ritual. 


If anyone I know is reading this, I wouldn't mind being fined for possession of a sacred Iphone next Christmas, or maybe a sacred all expenses payed trip to Disneyland. 

I don't know if you're trolling or not, but here goes nothing... 

To be fair, most Christmas traditions were actually adopted by Christians from pagan solstice celebrations, so if an atheist has a Christmas tree, a feast, and gives gifts, they're most likely celebrating something more similar to a solstice celebration than Christmas. Same goes for Easter and how it parallels some pagan celebrations of the coming spring and the rebirth of nature, and things like chocolate eggs and bunnies are more reminiscent of that than Jesus rising from the dead. Lots of people who celebrate the secularized Christmas celebrate it as a winter holiday, not as a "Happy Birthday Jesus" day. They sing songs like Frosty the Snowman and Sleigh Ride. They celebrate winter using things traditionally used to celebrate winter with- feasting, decorating trees, spending time with their communities, etc. Also, for many cultures, Christmas and Easter are not just religious, but tied to the secular parts of the culture. People of Italian descent, for example, usually have a large seafood dinner on Christmas Eve, regardless of how religious the family actually is. It's part of their ethnicity, and they might decide to keep the fish dinner part of their culture, but not participate in their culture's religion anymore. 

I wouldn't use the term trolling, as my intent was not to antagonize.  I like to think of it as using irony to hilight fallacy.

And I know that Christian holidays are insane Frankenstein monsters of pagan traditions and celebrations, that's why I think cultural appropriation is good.  Traditions are traditions because they have been around for a long time, and appropriation is a mechanic of cultural evolution.  When Christianity appropriated aspects of European Paganism and other local pre-Christian traditions, it wasn't in appreciation of Pagan culture, it was used as a means to adopt (and coerce, I am an intelligent Catholic) European cultures in to Christianity.  The same thing has happened to Christianity through the ages by things like atheism, secualarism, and denominational branching, and that helps to create new traditions and practices and ideas.  It stretches both ways too.  Practices were adopted and adapted from pagan faiths, and those pagan faiths would have been evolved collections of local traditions, and those traditions would have been collections of tribal practices from when European civilization was in its infancy. 


And as a side note, I think chocolatey Easterness has less to do with old pagan rites and is more related to consumerist adventurism.


And as a side side note, I think my creation of the word "sacredosityness" is enough to dispel any notion of ambiguity from my post, and plant it firmly in the realm of precise, if not blatant, satire.

I don't think that you can appropriate an object or tradition that is found and viewed differently from many cultures and still be inappropriate, unless you do so to mock one specific culture. That's why I can't really see Christmas as cultural appropriation. You have Christmas in the various Christian religions, you have Christmas as a national holiday, you have Christmas as a celebration of winter, you have Christmas as an ethnic tradition, etc. Most people who celebrate Christmas are somehow tied into a culture that has Christmas as a part of it. The original people who took pagan symbols and Christianized them may have done something wrong- attempting to change the connotations of a symbol sacred to a group and using it to manipulate them into converting- but in the year 2011, I think we can all get over the fact that you had preach-happy missionaries invade places centuries ago and push their culture and religion on the people whom they conquered. 

The chocolate eggs are definitely mostly to do with the candy industry than pagan traditions, but the actual symbols of eggs and rabbits being used in the springtime, if I understand correctly, were adopted from pagan cultures. 

Christmas was appropriated from the druids. So. You know.


Alright then, we've come as far as we're going to come, the rest of the distance will have to be the "agree to disagree" zone. I prefer to laugh stuff off than get offended, but I guess you're from a position that's more sensitive about cultural stuff. That's cool with me :)

I don't get offended by stuff easily myself, but I respect the views of people who do get offended by me showing I don't care about the meaning of an object, and am willing to change the things I wear or do win order to not piss people off. I'm fine with laughing off stuff that's viewed as offensive, but that's my personal preference and I understand that some people may not be able to just laugh something of because it's that personal of an issue.
I think all things should be shared AS LONG AS the person adopting something is fully aware of its importance.
If I were someplace where someone was wearing a Native American headdress just cause it looked pretty and treating it like just a normal hat i'd be angry. Does that person know why we use all the types of feathers? Do they know what the decorations mean to that tribe?? It should be treated with respect! 
Although music, i think is something to be shared by all, even if people dont understand its importance. I think they should learn what it all means and stuff but if they enjoy it, hooray, go crazy.
If its some sort of chant or dance thats sacred or special to a culture then I think people should learn what its used for and why. And dont they dare make fun of it. 
If its a word like honky, peckerwood, or the like i think people should learn its real meaning and original use before using it. 
(honky- white person - back in the earlier 1900's mainly white people had cars and used honking as a status symbol)
(peckerwood- white person - back in the early 1900's (&before?) white people we're compared to woodpeckers for their loud and annoying nature, thus peckerwood)
(sorry to those who find honky and peckerwood racist)
Also, I think that even if something's sacred to some culture, if its something like a family heirloom passed from generation to generation, I think its okay for the person to abandon the original meaning of it 'cause it probably is important to them.although i think people should try to educate themselves more and find out what it means but its okay in that case if they dont.
I actually think this is a really good point. I personally am not any type of Christian- at least, I think it's Christian, forgive me if it's not- but I still have and appreciate a rosary my grandmother gave to me because it's not only a religious symbol but a beautiful piece of art. I don't use it for its original use, but I don't use it for anything disrespectful either. If I treat it well though its value has changed, I don't think that should be considered cultural appropriation either.
The person wearing the feather headress PROBABLY didn t mean to offend anyone.  However why so thin skinned. Why cant he wear it just because it looks good? He isn t meaning to disrespect it. The coplor purple useed to  be the color of royalty. We adopted it pretty well because it looks pretty. People used to get killed for it. Now its my grandaughters favorite.


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