Cultural Influences or Cultural Appropriation?

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Amani Jackson, Staff Writer

Appropriation is 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. Cultural Influence means being influenced by one’s way of life or culture, specifically in the way they dress, talk, eat or what they believe in. The two mean completely different things, but people tend to confuse the two ideas. 

A situation that highlights this occurred when Kylie Jenner posted an Instagram photo of herself with cornrows in her hair. Many fans backlashed by calling her racist, but that leads back to what Cultural Influences and Cultural Appropriation mean. Many people didn’t attack her on the fact that she wore the cornrows, but mainly on the fact that if she respects the culture with her hierarchy in status, she should do something for it. “When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter,” stated Amanda Stenberg, “Hunger Games” actress and young activist. Since ancient times, cultures have been influencing each other, but why does it seem like such a negative thing?

There are many people and businesses ignorantly representing Cultural Appropriation, by dressing as stereotypes or representing a culture out of context. In 2012, Victoria’s Secret had their annual fashion show, but a costume wasn’t broadcasted due to controversy. A calendar theme runway included a model wearing a Native American costume for the month of November caused the controversy. Adrienne K, a blogger, wrote that the incident represented, “egregious cultural appropriation, stereotyping and marginalizing of Native peoples.”

Music also has been accused of Cultural Appropriation. Many music groups and artists, such as Iggy Azalea and Katy Perry, associate a certain genre of music with what they must wear or do in the music video. But is it influence? Many may see it as appropriation and some as influence. What most don’t know is that maybe the artist is influenced by the culture and wants to express their gratitude in their music. Alexis Jones (17’) responded after watching a music video of Korean boy group Ikon’s hip hop single “Rhythm Ta” by stating, “Sounds very westernized. They included a basketball court and basketball uniforms, which kinda screams African American influence and their style of dancing is hip hop like.” On whether she felt the video represented Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Influence, Jones replied, “I think its Cultural Influence because I wasn’t offended by it. We see this a lot. The African American culture basically makes up majority of our music today. If people recognize where it started and respect the people who started it, then it would be influenced.”

With that, what are your views? Do you think ongoing confusion of Cultural Appropriation and Influence will ever end, or that Cultural Appropriation will end?