What is cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation has been a raging topic for many reasons, including cultural insensitivity. It is the opposite of cultural appreciation. It typically entails the use of objects and practices that are peculiar to a particular culture for reasons that show disregard for the culture to which those items belong. It occurs when you use objects, styles, or practices peculiar to a culture disrespectfully and for selfish gains such as personal enrichment.
A key characteristic is the absence of appreciation for the culture from which the object was borrowed. This lack of appreciation is shown by the effort to brand the borrowed object with a new name, such as when a celebrity wears cultural artifacts and symbols that have historical importance solely for aesthetics. That is no more than reducing a culture to a mere fashion statement. That is disrespectful.
How can cultural appropriation occur in the braiding industry?
Can cultural appropriation occur in the braiding industry? Yes. Among the rampant examples is one the most notorious; Kim Kardashian’s when she wrongly attributed African cornrows to BO DEREK, a ’70’s white model and actress. Of course, she was dragged for her disrespect and lack of cultural appreciation for the culture, which is the source of the hairstyle. Many other examples abound in the braiding industry.
Sometimes, we forget that cultures are like living beings. They are never static. They continuously exchange and borrow from each other. This makes culture dynamic. So, the question is; why so much controversy over the celebration of a cultural style?
Three reasons why cultural appropriation is taboo in the hair industry
- Some think Cultural Appropriation leads to unnecessary frictions
As Jenkins pointed out, cultures borrow from one another out of curiosity and respect. To imply that cultures borrow from one another for financial exploitation is far-reaching and unreasonable, and it leads to needless everyday cultural anxiety.
Some hair braiders may start wasting valuable time debating whether a white woman can wear box braids or not every time one walks into the salon to have her hair braided. This fosters unnecessary enmity and friction between people of different racial groups and cultures in the work environment.
We stall financial progress when we imply such ideas and waste valuable time in age-long arguments that may not end anytime soon. Instead, we need to focus on the fact that she wants the braids for esthetic value. We should be willing to share even though it holds more than just esthetic value to us.
- Some think Cultural Appropriation increases division
Many other cultures have greatly influenced the American culture in the last few centuries. It has gone beyond football and hotdogs to embrace tacos and burritos, sushi, lasagna, and countless Chinese dishes. This is called cultural inclusion. For the sake of cultural exchanges in the braiding industry, we should be willing to share the same view in the braiding industry.
How can we build a harmonious world if we continue to intensify what cultural inclusion seeks to blur?
As Lambert puts in her article, cultural appropriation is like saying black people can wear suits and eat hotdogs. Still, white people can’t play jazz or wear cornrows. We can make the world a better place by sharing more in terms of cultures. We neither forget the value of our culture nor its history when we share.
- Some think it communicates cultural insensitivity.
Everyone comes from an ethnic background, and each group has its history, which invariably shapes its cultural beliefs and practices. Sometimes, even the identity of a people is a product of their culture and history. So, some cultural objects and features of your cultural background are central to your identity as a person. The significance of African cornrows and box braids, among others, illustrates this point so well. Wouldn’t it be insensitive to someone who did not understand the meaning of a cultural style or practice misusing it? And worse still, even misattribute it to a wrong source? Of course, that would be offensive. It would signal cultural insensitivity, especially to those whose culture is being disrespected.
Cultural Appropriation causes rifts, divisions, and many other detrimental drawbacks. At Mariebraids, we believe that culture, especially in the braiding industry, can be shared. Therefore, we accept and respect the cultures of people from all backgrounds and genders.
Want to get a new braid style? You can do a little research to know its real name or its cultural significance. Alternatively, you can ask us, and we’ll be willing to help you with the information.
To appreciate a cultural style, you may also want to listen first with an open mind and then try your best to understand the significance and origin of the style. These measures are essential in appreciating a culture. They are also crucial for realizing an all-inclusive community.
Cultures can exchange practices and ideas with other cultures. Hence, we share.