Cultural Appreciation vs Appropriation: Where do you draw the line? Somebody left a comment on my blog asking if it was okay for her, a white American woman, to wear a dress with cherry blossom print. I guess she was afraid it would come across as cultural appropriation. I did not respond because I am in no way connected with the culture that she was trying to show sensitivity towards.
Where to draw the line
However, it got me thinking.”Can my children never wear anything except traditional Indian clothes with traditional Indian prints and motifs?” Should I carry the burden of “white guilt”, even if I am not white? Should we take the white out and pass on just the guilt? Why is cultural sensitivity important? I am certainly not advocating culturally insensitivity. I am talking about cultural acceptance; about opening our hearts, taking down those perfectly trimmed hedges, and letting wildflowers grow on carefully manicured lawns.
Have you ever incorporated practices from other cultures into your own and over the years tuned them into a harmony, or set them as counterpoints? Have you had to decide between cultural appreciation vs appropriation? Is it wrong to mix and match? Over the years, I have peppered my life with words, gestures, foods, accents, adopted or derived from cultures that I have passed through or have touched my life fleetingly. Isn’t that how culture evolves? And evolve it must, or it is condemned. A follow up question that has always bothered me in this context is, can you appropriate your own culture? I cherry pick the aspects I like and interpret them to suit my sensibilities all the time. What I believe, I retain, the rest I modify or outright reject. It is my culture, I have as much right to it as the people I share it with.
Appreciation is Key
My maxim is to appreciate the culture, and embrace the traditions but don’t try to appropriate the heritage. At all times, you should be respectful. Let’s all open our hearts, take down those perfectly trimmed hedges and let wildflowers grow on those carefully manicured lawns.