Last week, Snapchat featured a piece called “We been poppin” on the Discover page. It was a quick and simple piece highlighting appropriation. And in the subtlest “low key” way, they got their point across.
Cosmopolitan displayed a series of cartoon images including “Bamboo Doorknocker Earrings”, “Twerking”, and “Cornrows”. Then they provided the audience a brief description and origin of these popular culturally appropriated trends. [Fun Fact: twerking derives from a dance called Mapouka. Originating in the southeast area of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the dance translates to “the dance of the behind”.]
Interestingly enough, the concept of appropriation was trending so vastly within the social media community that it was about time someone with a broad audience spoke up. Snapchat may not have known what Cosmo was up to with their feed this day, but either way I applaud them both for beautifully tackling this social controversy in a respectable and fun manner.
In case you are blissfully unaware of stereotypes and what appropriation actually is, allow me to enlighten you. Appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the intellectual property rights of the originating culture. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures' traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission.
Appropriation, in my honest opinion, is harmless. As mentioned in the definition, it is nearly unavoidable when a group of cultures reside amongst each other, hence the beauty of America. The problem however, comes in when the same trend that makes “Sarah” cool and interesting is the exact reason why “Laila” got denied a job. How can it be ok for one race to be referred to as trendy while wearing cornrows and another race called “ghetto” for the same style?
This is Cultural Appropriation. Know your history and know the history of those around you. Become aware of the unfair double standards placed in today’s society and tear down the walls. Imitation is the highest form of a compliment but not one its stolen, re-named, and deemed as lesser than when associated with its original owner.
Written by: Raven Noelle