Cultural Appropriation, as a term, has only recently entered mainstream culture. As a phenomenon, it has been existing for centuries. The question is: what exactly is cultural appropriation?
Humans have been borrowing and copying from each other since time immemorial. This cultural exchange has always been a part of human experience. However, when this borrowing reinforces a historically exploitative relationship such as a dominant group using elements from a native or indigenous culture for their own ends, it becomes cultural appropriation.
For instance, when a traditional Indian accessory ‘bindi’ is worn by Western celebrities, it is seen as bold and edgy and yet when Indian students in the States dare to go out wearing their traditional attire, they are asked “Where are your cows?”
Sanjana Nidugondi, who is a second-year neuroscience student and has been on the receiving end of such instances, expresses disbelief over these incidents. Similar incidents have been faced by many other students of colour in UCLA.
As a result, students from ethnic backgrounds often conform to society’s idea of normal so that they can fit in and avoid any hassle.
A thorough rejection of their culture identity, when the elements from the very same culture are turned into Halloween and party costumes or used as fashion statements is heartbreaking. It is for this reason that a discourse needs to be started on cultural appropriation in fashion and ways to avoid the exploitation of ethnic groups.
Image source: everydayfeminism.com