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What is cultural appropriation?

Nov. 23, 2017
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What is cultural appropriation?

We at Adolescent have devoted a lot of space to conversations about cultural appropriation—i.e., the act of adopting traits from another culture without regard for the significance or context of those elements within their culture. But we've never really set about providing a foundational understanding of the concept. In the aftermath of Halloween—a holiday where people often literally wear other people's cultures as a costume—and in the orbit of Thanksgiving, a holiday built on the backs of Native Americans without their participation, it's perhaps more important than ever to get real about what cultural appropriation is and how it hurts people.

In this new video from Michael Deng, several young people from various cultures discuss what it means to transgress cultural boundaries and partake in traditions or clothing without respecting where those things came from. "Cultural appropriation demeans the identity that certain groups are trying to create for themselves," says one participant.

"I really think it's hard for white people to feel slighted by anything that appropriates our culture because the fact is that we still hold all the power in America, and there are much more serious things we've exploited from other cultures," says another.

Want to hear more? Watch the video above!