The Myth of Cultural Appropriation

Olivia Pan

Opinions Editor

It has been become common to accuse people, most commonly white people, of appropriating another racial group’s music, fashion, hair, etc. And it’s not just white people who are accused of cultural appropriation. For example, Bruno Mars, who is a mix of Filipino, Jewish, Hawaiian, Spanish, and about 10 other ethnicities, has recently been accused of appropriating black music, specifically with regards to his last album, 24k Magic. This shaming of artists who create and imitate certain music genres is also quite arbitrary.  For instance, Eminem is considered a talented rapper, but a Jamaican immigrant, DJ Kool Herc is known as the founding father of hip-hop. Why is it ok for this white boy, Eminem, to rap but Mars is criticized for creating an album that has influences of hip hop and R&B?


In my personal opinion, I think the whole concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ is just more political correctness run amuck. Yeah, I said it. A specific race of people does not own or lay claim to an entire genre of music, nor do they own a hairstyle or a specific way of dressing. By that same twisted logic, we could accuse black women who straighten their hair of appropriating “white culture.” Not to mention, the Chinese basically invented everything, so is anyone who wears silk or uses chopsticks appropriating Chinese culture? I would certainly hope not.


In addition, so what if people do borrow from each other’s cultures? Why is this a bad thing? I personally think it’s a good thing, and something we should all be able to do without being accused of racism or cultural appropriation. America is a huge melting pot of cultures and backgrounds that we should openly share with one another. It’s what makes this country unique. The inability to be influenced by each other’s cultures is what keeps us culturally segregated, and segregation is never a good thing.


Let’s recognize the real enemy.  People need to learn how to recognize actual incidents of racism (like what took place recently at Starbucks) versus non-incidents and examples, such as Bruno Mars making a great album. Two black men were harangued while waiting for a colleague, and then removed by police from a Starbucks that has a non-loitering policy. The entire company is founded on people loitering, on devices, while drinking coffee. The entire matter was cringe- worthy and heavy handed. As a biracial woman, I have no doubt that racism is still alive and well in this country, but ‘cultural appropriation’ is simply a myth that provides people with an excuse to be hostile towards each other. We have to take a step back and applaud someone like a Charlie Pride who, as a black man, pursued a music career in a predominantly white country music industry when no one of color was seen in that part of the music industry.


Not too long ago, I viewed a video that went viral of a black female student physically accosting a white male student for wearing dreads. The rage in this individual over a hairstyle worn by someone of another race was disturbing to say the least. You can have rage over the injustice of unarmed black men being shot by police, or women being sexually harassed and violated, but enough with this wimpy “you stole my culture” stuff. This is the American culture and the lines are blurred as they should be. If you want to use chopsticks, go for it. I don’t do so well with them. If you want to straighten your hair, do it. And if I want to wear cornrows, I will. And if I want to become the first half Chinese country music star, let me be. We have much bigger items to resolve in this country regarding race. Let’s do that and enjoy every bit of one another’s culture, ethnicity, and ancestry. It’s the only place on the planet that has that opportunity.


Photo Credits: American Outlook

Categories: Opinions, Uncategorized

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3 replies »

  1. Agreed, it seems like things are becoming incredibly rigid and people are taking notes from capitalism and wanting to trademark culture. It is aweful that we have gotten to this point due to very real problems such as people refusing to back down on co-opting Native imagry for sports mascots or the disrespectful use of headdresses and ‘peacepipes’ in the new age and festival scene, calling every generic robe a kimono, blackface, exoticization, general mockery of the oppressed by oppressors, etc. We know there are real problems. Calling every bit of influence between cultures ‘appropriation’ is extreme, and actually limits cultures from meeting and finding common ground. Let’s be honest, just about every culture in the world as we know it would not exist in their current form without having been inspired by (best scenario) or conquered (terrible, but reality) by another culture. Culture in an evolving living thing, and living things often ‘crosspollinate’ as Eugene Hutz described the influence of musical traditions on eachother. This can create new and beautiful things, especially in the arts. It anyone calling anime, art nouveau, or matryoshka dolls appropriation? They were all born of cultures meeting eachother long before this was a debate.


  2. You’re missing the whole point. It may not be a big deal to you but cultural appropriation is a big deal and it’s rooted in history of discrimination and violence. For example There has been a lot of discrimination towards black people for their hair and hair styles. Black people were forced to assimilate to white culture in order to get jobs so they could survive and to lessen the hate they already received, so when you say straightening hair is cultural appropriation it’s just simply not true and it’s actually offensive. And another major things is exploiting another’s culture for the benefit of another group who’s culture it is not. Models wearing locs and cornrows making money of the style when black peoples were told its unprofessionally messy and dirty looking. You can’t tell me you think that’s okay and not a problem. There are a lot of problems in this world yes we need to focus on the true crimes, the murders, the robberies the stealing of identity etc. however nothing in this world is black and white so we can address more than one issue or a few issues. We can do the little things to make the change. Black people in a way did have their identities stolen and their culture has been and is still being robbed. So no it’s not okay for you to wear locs. It’s the history of discrimination and continued discrimination that made this the way it is


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