Mar 29th, 2017, 12:42 AM

Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation

By Emily Frigon
image credit: Flickr/ Sergio Gimenez
Where is the line drawn between appreciating a culture and appropriating it?

At a school with such an international student body like The American University of Paris, it's easy to get caught up in all of the diverse cultures. It seems as if everyone is from everywhere, and welcoming in and sharing other cultures is encouraged. However, where is the line drawn between appreciating a culture and appropriating it?

Cultural appropriation is a tricky subject. How are the ways we represent each other taken differently? And how do we educate each other on the difference between enjoying a culture that is not ours and insulting it? 


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Frances Eby, a Freshman at AUP, had a lot to say when asked how she felt about the line between cultural appreciation and appropriation, sharing that, "Cultural appropriation is using aspects or traditions from a culture that isn't yours without giving credit to the original credit and without understanding the implication, connotations and history of it." student Alexis Moore specified how exactly to reach that level of understanding by adding that "Cultural appreciation is submerging yourself in a culture. Going there, learning, and enjoying the many different types of culture we have around us. Cultural appropriation is picking and choosing parts of a culture that look cool or 'aesthetic' simply for those reasons without taking in consideration [where] you're stealing that 'look' from." 

However, it can be a bit difficult for someone uninformed on the difference to understand. Moore added, "I think the worst I see is when celebrities and festival goers wear bindis or Native American head dresses because they think it makes them look cool or something."

Multiple celebrities have had controversies revolving around cultural appreciation. The Kardashians have been known for appropriating black culture by wearing cornrows and especially Kylie's large lips. The problem, it seems, isn't that they're using black culture, but that they aren't giving black culture credit for what they are doing.

Image credit: Flickr/ Disney | ABC Television Group

Eby noted in an interview, "I feel like a lot of white people, especially women, will take fashion trends that are traditionally African American or Latina and credit them as being the next biggest trend without realizing that this it has existed in other cultures and has usually been used to degrade women of those cultures."

Lauren Morris, another AUP freshman, describes cultural appropriation as, "It's like exploiting a culture that you don't belong to for aesthetic reasons. It's like taking one part of it (a culture) without having to face any repercussions that the people in the actual culture would have to face in their daily lives. For example, a white woman wearing dreads to be indie or whatever meanwhile black people who wear dreads get seen as dirty or unkempt."

Image credit: Flickr/Chris Phutully

She continues later with, "cultural appreciation can look like enjoying food from another culture, enjoying music from another culture, learning about another culture, or learning another language, et cetera."

So while it is completely okay to take in one's culture and admire it, it isn't okay to merely take aspects of it without being educated on the culture itself. It's hard to know when its okay and when its unacceptable to represent parts of a culture. Thankfully, the students of AUP seem to be educated.