Your Fad or Someone’s Identity?

Post by LeeAnne W.
Featured Image by Beaufinley [removed for copyright purposes]

Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani were ridiculed for their use of Asian geisha as well as Harajuku apparel and make-up, incorporating the very pale foundation, chopsticks in hair, wooden sandals, and the traditional kimonos. Many people ask what is wrong with the stars wearing such clothes for a musical performance. Other people dress like samurais or what they think are Native American outfits, but tend to be offensive and inaccurate. We live in a country where it is normal to see a mix of cultures in an outfit, house, even school. The problem is cultural appropriation– when members of a dominant group exploit the traditions of less advantaged groups, often without understanding the values of them.

People continue to take bits and pieces of cultures, misinterpreting and misusing them to get a quick laugh, a few retweets, or gain attention. It is great to want to embrace other backgrounds, but it’s also important to know the meaning behind what you are expressing. Like most things in our world,it’s probably a good idea to do your research on anything that you are unsure of. When one does not do so (whether intentionally or not) it usually results in one race/ethnicity/religion being seen as bullyng by a more prominent one. Often we see these prominent groups try to make the attributes part of their identity, creating tension. We tend to find that what was strange or uncool become the trendiest things once adopted by a popular group.

Jazz music was once frowned upon, most likely because Pre-Civil War nostalgics were lost in its African American origin. But once it was altered into Rock-n-Roll and became popular thanks to artists like the King Elvis Presley, it was widely accepted upon white youth especially. Jazz was inspired by gospel music as well as slave songs, a way of expressing hardships to the world in a meaningful way. Rock-n-roll, despite being catchy and fun, does not seem to have any deep, cultural meaning. This is not to say that Rock-n-roll is not important to the United States’ history, but it just does not seem to give any indication that it is appreciative of its slave beginnings.

In more recent times, dressing up like another race has become popular, unfortunately.According to an article in Latino Voices on the Huffington Post’s website, Penn State’s Chi Omega Nu Gamma chapter was shut down after hosting a “Mexican-themed” party. The guests arrived in the most stereotypical wear; sporting ponchos, handle-bar mustaches, and sombreros. Two girls even held signs saying “Will mow lawn for weed [and beer]” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it”.The irony of those statements was the report by the World Health Organization stating the “United States leads the world in illegal drug use”. The girls in the sorority had a sick sense of humor and also an inaccurate one.

What makes it even worse is that they are not the first group of college kids to do so. A timeline by the College section in USAToday showcased at least 14 racist incidents in the last 3 years alone. At Clemson University, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity organized a ‘Cripmas’ party where attendants wore blue and red bandanas with Tupac Shakur as well as hand-cuff imaged t-shirts. ‘Cripmas’ is associated with the gang Crips, very violent in nature and a rather large group spread across the country.Many who hear of this account may not understand what is so offensive, but gang violence and association is not something to be joked about. This occurred during a time of extreme racial tension surrounding Ferguson and New York City African American deaths. It also raised the already high suspicions surrounding “racial insensitivity and hostility” on the campus.

 

[Image removed for copyright reasons]

Image from New York Daily News

Those involved in these situations not only embarrass the minorities they put down, but make their own community look bad. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the acts of few can affect the majority.It is sad that people take advantage of challenged races and ethnicities just to get a couple of laughs and shares on facebook or retweets. Instead of poking fun at other cultures, we should embrace diversity in our lives. We can learn so much from people of different backgrounds than if we stay in the mindset of our own. Making assumptions about someone based on their race or religion (as well as gender and other factors) will never get us anywhere!This is especially true when we live in a melting pot country that shows such importance in accepting variety.

Look. Listen. Change.

It Adds Up

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