Why Cultural Appropriation Needs to End

Why Cultural Appropriation Needs to End

By: Masif Khan

In June 2015, Rachel Dolezal was a trended topic on Tumblr. Rachel Dolezal is a woman who was born as a Caucasian, but changed her physical appearance in order to appear as an individual of African descendant. As the president of the Spokane NAACP Chapter, her case is quite relevant to the black community.
Rachel Dolezal may believe that she has helped the black community. Yet, considering that she has taken opportunities from black people by lying about her race and her experiences as a black woman, that could not be further from the truth. 
Ezra Dolezal, her adopted brother, calls what she did as "blackface." He said, "It's kind of a slap in the face to African-Americans because she doesn't know what it's like to be black. She's only been African-American when it benefited her. She hasn't been through all the struggles."
Some may refer to this as cultural appropriation, the act of taking aspects of another culture without being aware of their significance. Cultural appropriation belittles the experiences those of another race have gone through, wearing their culture as an accessory that can be taken off and thrown away. 
This has not been the first time something related to cultural appropriation has trended on Tumblr. During Coachella, #reclaimthebindi was trending. The hashtag showcased women of South Asian descendant reclaiming their cultural accessories that those in Coachella had worn. Women were outraged that parts of their culture that they were once ridiculed for were used so frivolously. In 2013 at the American Music Awards, Katy Perry dressed as a geisha while singing "Unconditionally.” This was deemed to be "yellowface" and perpetuation of stereotypes of Asian women.
Wall Street Journal's Jeff Wang writes, "The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, “unconditional” worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.”
Slavery and segregation have ended in America, but systematic racism is still prevalent. In a country built on the work of the enslaved, this may not come as a surprise. One can have perspective on another's struggle, but cannot understand the struggle itself. With unity, sympathy, and compassion, different cultures can hopefully be appreciated, not appropriated. 

America is called a melting pot, but what good is it if different cultures exist separately and are falsely portrayed as being respected?

Masfi Khan currently attends a high school in New York, where she has founded the Creative Doers club. When she is not busy studying for upcoming exams, she enjoys writing stories and poems, searching up quotes that describe an exact moment in time for her, and reading works that have changed her perception of life and society.



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