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When Cultural Appreciation Turns into Appropriation

It starts out as a harmless costume because somewhere in America a little girl wants to be Pocahontas for Halloween. Or, it is the social media influencer getting “canceled” she dreadlocked her hair. When does it cross the line from cultural appreciation to cultural appropriation? Leonydus Johnson, writer and host of the Informed Dissent podcast, argues that it is never anything besides appreciation of other cultures. In fact, he feels as though calling out individuals on their alleged appropriation is not noble, it is the opposite. However, Professor of Education and Democratic Strategist Wendy Osefo does not agree. Cultural appreciation is one thing, but when you cherry-pick what you want to appreciate from a culture, it crosses the line into appropriation.

Difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation

Cultural appreciation is something that both Osefo and Johnson can get behind. It is great when you are taking time out of your life to genuinely learn more about a certain culture. Becoming more informed and versed on said culture is appreciating the history and roots of it, whereas cultural appropriation is not. When an individual picks a couple aspects of a culture, they are making a statement that they only care about current trends and what can get them the most attention, not the culture itself. Wanting to understand the inner workings of a culture is one thing, but making a mockery of it is a completely different agenda.

Can you avoid the intertwining of cultures?

Johnson made a point that the accusation of cultural appropriation happens far too often to be taken seriously. Anything outside of downright disrespect to a culture is off the table, Johnson feels as though cultures are constantly “borrowing” ideas and aspects from one another. More often than not, your daily life consists of either using something or saying something that has originated from a culture different from your own. Having a deep understanding of a culture is not particularly necessary to be doing said things, but that also doesn’t mean that it should be counted as appropriation.

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