Cultural Appropriation: What is it and Why You Need to Know


Dakota Tavares-Varios, Grade 9


 Cultural appropriation is the act of copying specific elements from a different culture without the consent of people who practice that culture. Many people might not even know they’re copying another culture unless they’re told. Culture appropriation is made up of two words, culture and appropriation. When you search culture up in google you get the terms like traditions, way of life, and art. Appropriation means taking something away from someone without their permission. An example of cultural appropriation is wearing war bonnets from Native American leaders with your Halloween costume. That’s mocking the male leaders of Indian tribes that have worked their way up to earn a place of respect. Cultural appropriation is offensive and belittles the people from that culture. It reduces the culture to stereotypes rather than perpetuating authenticity. Furthermore, culture appropriation is often used to generate money for people and companies who aren’t from that culture. When we are culture appropriating, it’s taking credit for someone else’s culture.

One way cultural appropriation belittles a culture is it reduces it to a narrow stereotype rather than ignoring their genuine culture, often in the name of profit. “These trends are damaging because they treat an entire culture like a disposable fashion trend and only engage with a culture superficially. This debasement of an entire culture is racist” (Mahawatte).   When we contribute to cultural appropriation we are using another’s  culture as a costume for our own entertainment. It’s disrespecting everything people of that culture are and everything they’ve created that reflects who they are. 

Cultural appropriation mocks other cultures. It is a form of bigotry. While “Blacking up” is an obvious case of bigotry – some argue the name of the Washington Redskins didn’t feel much different” (Chesterton). George Chesterton, a political editor at GQ explains that culture appropriation might not look like mocking, some may say it’s a compliment. For example, football teams use the terms “redskins” or “Aztec” as a way to show power. Even some styles of clothing, jewelry, and dances are seen as compliments but it actually may offend some people. 

Is it right that a dominant group can get away with using another culture’s style without  repercussions ?  “A person of color might be discriminated against because of a hairstyle that relates to their culture, while you as part of the dominant group can get away with appropriating that same hairstyle, making it trendy, and never understanding the experiences that contributed to the invention of the hairstyle in the first place” (Cuncic). When we decide to do a hairstyle or even just a dance from another culture it can be seen as being uneducated and not understanding the meaning behind it. 

 Many people think it’s fun and games to dress up or pretend to be someone from another culture. These people see other cultures as  aesthetic or ‘pretty to look at’. 

For example, wearing an evil eye is seen as a fashion accessory by some. However, this is mocking Greek culture. The evil eye “is a curse thought to be given by a malicious glare that can cause bad luck or loss.” Therefore, using other cultures’ objects for aesthetic reasons or using it to dress up can affect “the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world” (“What’s the story behind evil eye jewelry?”). Culture appreciation and culture appropriation lie on opposite points on the spectrum. Culture appreciation is when we are willing to learn about other cultures to broaden our knowledge. When you support culture appropriation it may cause riots which could harm others. In order to appreciate a culture you can’t use their objects in a mocking or inappropriate way , like for personal or financial gain.  If we want to use objects or clothing from another culture we should do research about them first and understand the meaning behind it. 

Sources Cited

Mahawatte, Royce, “Cultural Appropriation is belittling and demeaning”. February, 2016,

Chesterton, George, “Cultural appropriation: everything is culture and it’s all appropriated”. September, 2020,

Cuncic, Arlin, “What is Cultural Appropriation”. August, 2020,