Is it… Appropriate?

I’m having issues with the whole concept of cultural appropriation. I read somewhere, and I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it so I can give them credit, a fairly accurate summation of it. Imagine you write an essay and turn it in only for the professor to give you an F. Then someone else copies your essay and the teacher gives them an A. That’s cultural appropriation. It makes sense why someone would be so upset. They worked hard on the proverbial essay and to have someone swoop in, claim it as theirs, and for whatever reason make it a hit.

But I feel like the plagiarized should be mad at the teacher. Not the plagiarizer.

Obviously the teacher reading the essay is too dumb to realize they’ve already read that essay and hated it. Why does it matter if the face of the writer changed? It’s the same essay. Either you like it or you don’t, but don’t make yourself look stupid by praising a copycat.

Copying anything for profit or metaphorical profit is wrong.

However, what if you just like it?

Is it just me or is the world starting to get a little too sensitive? I might be completely oblivious to the whole situation, but is it really that bad if someone who isn’t from Africa want to wear their hair in dreadlocks, or if someone likes cheongsams is it bad that if they wear it if they’re not Chinese? And if it is, why? Seriously, is it?

There seems to be a common denominator here, though: cultural appropriators are almost always white. Regardless if they’re wearing traditional Native American earrings because they think they’re pretty or if they’re hosting a Mexican themed party by donning fake mustaches, it’s cultural appropriation. Alright. I totally get it.

So then where do we draw the line?

I went to a high school where about 90% of all the students were some sort of Hispanic. And every year on Halloween there were at least ten or more kids I’d see dressed as cholos or “beaners.” That was their costume. But they’re Hispanic, so that’s okay, right? Halloween costumes are almost a category of their own in terms of appropriation. Rally cries of, “I’m a culture, not a costume,” always pop up on my Facebook feed at the end of September and go through October. Some of those costumes are very sketchy in terms of appropriateness. Sexy geisha, lazy Mexican, the list goes on. Whoever thought those costumes were a good idea are dumb. Keeping on with this idea of racist and culturally insensitive costumes, are sexy German beer girl costumes okay? What about leprechaun costumes? Sexy Swedish girl? Stereotypical French guy costume? Sexy bullfighter? Mafia costumes? Russian guy? I have yet to hear anyone complain about these costumes and the best answer I can think of is that people can’t appropriate white culture. On the contrary, if you even like white culture, you’re seen as a disgrace to your ethnicity.

To some of my more Hispanic friends, I’m their designated “white friend.” I live in a very homogenous neighborhood. While my friends tease me, I’ve been mocked by others for my “whiteness,” because I don’t speak Spanish and spicy foods make me sick. I don’t like mariachi music and I’ve only gone to Mexico on vacation, never to visit family. I’ve gotten the dirty looks and I’ve had a cashier in Mexican food stores outright ignore me because I didn’t speak Spanish. So I wonder, do I have to like those stereotypical things because I’m Mexican or because I want to? If I don’t like them am I a shame to my ethnicity? And if I do like those things because I’m supposed to, then am I not just being a stereotype?

I love my Mexican heritage. I’m proud to be Mexican. But I also like Asian cultures. I love Avatar: The Last Airbender and want to have my wedding Avatar themed. But the show is based off many Asian cultures. If I use some elements of these cultures is that appropriation? I asked that once in the comment section of an article about appropriation and someone told me don’t bother. It’s appropriation.

So… Overthinking or underthinking? Where do you draw the line? Is there even a line? Do you like Avatar: The Last Airbender? (I do.) Share your thoughts below. And please be civil.


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