Mulattea is a blog written by Skye Haynes. Her posts explore mixed identity, feminism, race, religion, and privilege.

Is it Cultural Appropriation if a Mixed Person Does It?

Is it Cultural Appropriation if a Mixed Person Does It?

I’ve found that the topic of cultural appropriation is a bit of a touchy subject. It seems everyone has a different opinion on it. Some feel that cultural appropriation isn’t real, others think the concept is too narrow minded, and some don’t even know what cultural appropriation is.

For those in the latter group, hi, here is a definition for cultural appropriation.

Philosopher James Young defined it as: “a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.”

It’s a pretty wordy definition, so I’ll give an example.

A Bindi is a red dot applied to the forehead, symbolizing “the cosmos in its unmanifested state.” Bindis are commonly worn decoratively in South Asia, by people in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka, and in Southeast Asia by Bali and Javanese Hindus. It is commonly known as the third eye chakra in relation to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

So if a person who is not of South Asian or Southeast Asian descent wears a bindi at a music festival because it’s “trendy”- that, my friend is cultural appropriation.

Why? Why can’t we all just share each other’s cultures?

Because there are people across the world being discriminated against for wearing bindis, when it is a regular part of the Hindu/Buddhist/Jains faith, and the daily lives of South/ Southeast Asians.

Wearing a cultural icon because it’s “trendy” or “fashionable”, and being ignorant of its true meaning, is cultural appropriation.

What’s a case where it wouldn’t be culturally appropriating? If you were invited to a wedding for someone of that people group, it would be encouraged that you assimilate for the purposes of that wedding. That could include a sari or a henna tattoo, even.

When in doubt, choose appreciation over appropriation.

 

The concept of cultural appropriation is fairly new, which causes people to say, “You just made that up, you’re just coming up with things to get offended about!” I’d like to remind those people like that:

  1. The field of sociology is relatively new when considering other fields of scientific study.
  2. If you aren't from a people group, stop policing what they should be offended by. You wouldn't know.

SO. That is cultural appropriation. What does that have to do with being mixed?

Here's a reminder that you can take my advice with a grain of salt.

Being interracial, you find yourself toeing the line of being called an appropriator very often. In my own experiences, some people will tell me I’m not, “black enough” to say something, a statement I find ridiculous.

My personal rebuttal is: What is black enough? I’m ½ Jamaican. If you so recall, during times of slavery in America, there was something called the, “color line” which stated in slave codes that if a child had a drop of black in them- guess what? They’re black. I’m black.

I can’t appropriate a culture I’m a part of, I’m sorry. By all means, call me out the next time you see me wearing a bindi.

My advice for interracial people wondering where they stand on the cultural appropriation spectrum is:

If your ethnicities consist of the group you’re afraid of appropriating, you can participate.

HOWEVER,

If your instinct is telling you not to do it, play it safe and let the opportunity pass.

Honestly, cultural appropriation is a term that’s only applicable to our flawed world. In a perfect world, there’d be no “privilege”, no appropriation, no microaggressions. People would treat others the way they want to be treated. Everyone could share everyone’s culture because no one would be discriminated against for it. However, I'm sad to say that we don't live in a perfect world.

So in response we have to address the discrepancies. 

That's all I have for today! Definitely check out my articles at College Magazine or reread some of your faves from Mulattea! Be sure to like, share, and let me know what you think!

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