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Cultural Appropriation: Why It Matters

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Kimberly Olson (Left), Allisyn Meeks (Right), students at ASU’s Preparatory 
Academy talk on their way to the lecture hall at the Project Humanities Event.

Kimberly Olson (Left), Allisyn Meeks (Right), students at ASU’s Preparatory Academy talk on their way to the lecture hall at the Project Humanities Event.

Anta Diallo

Anta Diallo

Kimberly Olson (Left), Allisyn Meeks (Right), students at ASU’s Preparatory Academy talk on their way to the lecture hall at the Project Humanities Event.

Anta Diallo, Staff Reporter

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Tiptoe along the barbed wire that is offense. Equip yourself with awareness and empathy.

 

October 31 is Halloween; a fun solicitation of candy from neighbors, but also a parade of cultural appropriation.

 

To loosely define it, it is taking on a race or cultural identity that is not your own, for entertainment or other thematic uses.

 

The problem comes when a style is fetishized and its history is ignored.

 

Students attending ASU’s Cultural Appropriation Symposium were there to make a change. The question of, “is ignorance innocence,” was re-occurring.

 

Jaylah Reed, a junior at ASU Preparatory Academy would agree. She chose to address the cornrow dispute on Instagram involving Kylie Jenner.

 

Cornrows were worn by black slaves to appear “neater” when working in homes.

 

No one wears cornrows to pay homage to slaves, instead it’s popularized on runways and by stars as fashionable.

 

“Sometimes I get angry, and sometimes I think they just don’t understand. They just need a lesson on how to go about things in a respectful way,” said Reed.

 

Not to excuse someone’s actions, or to give them the benefit of the doubt, but to teach rather than condemn.

 

Like many students, William Walker, a junior was able to recognize cultural appropriation, without knowing what it was.

 

“You’re wearing someone’s reality like a fashion,” said Walker.

 

This Halloween, there were Native American headdresses, afros, sombrero’s, and no end of La Catrina makeup (sugar skull makeup). Take a moment to think about what the “costume” represents.

 

Cultural appropriation is not purely in dress. Misrepresentation of a culture is also verbal.

 

“Words reflect how you think or don’t think” said Dr. Lester Neal, the director of Project Humanities.

 

The “N” word was discussed, especially in light of controversy at Desert Vista.

 

In response to the claim that the “N” word is a term of endearment, Dr. Lester said, “Would you call your pastor that? Would you call your dad that? Would you call Dr. Martin Luther King that?”

 

The classroom responded in uncomfortable silence.

 

And it is an uncomfortable conversation, but even as students, we have to take initiative.

 

Seventeen year old Amanda Vargas is a student at ASU Preparatory Academy, and was a facilitator of the event. She spoke brazenly on the disunity of the world and how that plays into cultural appropriation.

 

On racism, Vargas said, “There’s like a layer of it, we just don’t see it.”

 

She also stressed the importance of being conscience of these issues.

 

“We’ve taken a step backwards,” said Vargas.

 

The foundation of nearly any issue begins with miseducation. Recognizing cultural appropriation, and deciding for yourself its importance, is crucial to the improvement of our  humanity.

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