Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.
– Oscar Wilde
A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.
Maybe if everyone would stop being so offended all the time, they’d see that the exchange of culture is a natural process that’s been happening since…the beginning of culture. Without such exchange, none of our languages, clothing styles, tools, mathematics or even philosophies would exist as they do today.
The free exchange of ideas and yes, culture, is at the heart of the progress and collaboration of humans. Even if the piece of culture in question is “sacred” to one culture, that is no reason to prevent others from using the idea in a different way. Sacredness is a matter of personal opinion and belief. The sacredness of any particular thing is not diminished if someone else chooses to recreate that item for their own personal use.
Telling certain people they aren’t “allowed” to do, use, or say something based upon your personal beliefs and history is controlling behavior. Control is force. Force is the opposite of peace. The “ownership” of specific aspects of one culture is controlling. It only serves to deepen the lines that have been artificially drawn to divide humans into groups. It fuels hatred, bigotry, and war. Only by releasing that control, and realizing that those lines don’t really exist, can we begin to live together as one race: the human race. Only then can we live in peace.
If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
If this is true, then all elements of culture are that of human culture. In which case, cultural appropriation is null and void. The fact that some humans have subjugated other humans isn’t any reason for future humans to not utilize any part of the past humans who were subjugated. (The definition gets a little muddied when you stop thinking of people in terms of race or color or country of origin and simply refer to them as “human”, doesn’t it?)
None of this means we shouldn’t have an understanding of religions, belief systems, ideologies, etc. But understanding promotes unity, not division. Unity precedes peace. Those crying for cultural appropriation aren’t promoting understanding, they’re promoting division.