Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation

Recently there was news circulating about how an African American girls was suspended from her high school because she came to school in her natural hair, similarly, there was also a story about another girl who was fired from her job for it. Then at the same time, a renowned magazine featured a white girl wearing dreadlocks on their cover which received a lot of backlash immediately for appropriation. We all know plenty of celebrities that were slammed and received a lot of harsh criticism for appropriating different cultures like Khloe Kardashian and so on.

The debate between cultural appreciation and appropriation is a very popular and at the same time, a very tricky one. The most common argument people get to hear is that they are not appropriating the culture, rather they are appreciating it, and so what they are doing is acceptable. However, that isn’t usually the case. If you are unaware of how the two differ, you can keep on reading below.

Cultural appreciation refers to having proper knowledge and understanding behind the customs of a certain place and appreciating them in order to enhance you knowledge. An example being Angelina Jolie visiting Pakistan and opting to cover her head there is a sign of respect because she knows it is a country with a culture where women cover their head.

Appropriation on the other hand, is not picking certain parts of a marginalized group’s culture, adopting it and then getting praised or profited off of it. A popular example would be people who aren’t Native American wearing feather headpieces to music festivals, or non-Asian people wearing the kimono at a party and so on. These people who are appropriating are getting praised whilst the people who actually the trend or culture are ridiculed, and this is why it is important to understand the difference.