White people have borrowed cultural accessories over the years, and turned them into edgy, exotic ornaments. I admit that most of these trends are disgusting examples of cultural appropriation. For example, Selena Gomez dressing up as an Indian in Come and Get It, and portraying Indians as hypersexualized teases. Other cultures are not trends, and I get it. Selena Gomez* doesn't care about eliminating racism against Indians; all she cares about is making money and looking sexy. What makes it worse is that white people are only validating certain aspects of their culture. They're picking parts they like, for example: forehead jewels and saris, but they don't appreciate the culture its entirety. Chinese tattoos and Native American headdresses only became cool because white people embraced it.
However, when I see keyboard warriors commenting 'ZOMG CULTURAL APPROPRIATION' without considering the context, I think they lack nuance. While awareness of cultural appropriation is necessary, I find it counterproductive when internet activists rely on the buzzwords 'cultural appropriation', without explaining why or how a certain incident is offensive. This cheapens the phrase.
There shouldn't be a blanket ban on cultural accessories. I find it lovely when people of other races try on the cheongsam and admire it (though not when they wear ACTUAL chopsticks in their hair, that looks silly)(Why do white people do it? We stick those in pork buns.)(Hair chopsticks =/= kanzashi)(For Halloween I'm dressing up as a white person with knives in her hair). It's a nice break from the usual white-people clothes we see all the time. I'm sick of the fact that only white people clothing, like shorts and crop tops, are considered fashionable. I do like seeing people wearing clothes from different cultures.
Furthermore, cultural appreciation helps POC. By getting henna done by an Indian woman, you're supporting her business. Conversely, if everyone decided that henna was only for Indians, then Indian henna artists might lose their jobs. I think it is very important to spread the beauty of various cultures. Eliminating cultural appropriation doesn't mean that we have to stick to tee shirts and jeans. I've thought about it, and I think there should be four main guidelines that differentiate cultural appropriation from cultural appreciation:
- Social awareness. Have a basic understanding of the oppression that various races has gone through. Acknowledge that POC still experience racism on a daily basis.
- Wear the accessory or garment in its original state. Don't mutilate it by producing a monster love child like Katy Perry did. It's a bonus if you get it directly from the culture itself, eg. buying a kimono from Japan, but it might be hard knowing where it comes from exactly.
- Don't treat it like a joke, don't turn POC cultures into something else. Don't portray POC the way they are stereotyped, and definitely don't wear a cheap tribal costume at Halloween. Don't use accessories meant only for certain occasions and people, for instance, Native American headdresses which are only bestowed unto certain people. Accept the POC as they are. A white person with a bindi is not cooler than an Indian person with a bindi.
- Don't be racist. This is pretty self-explanatory.
So, I hope you all can go out and enjoy punjabi suits and hanboks and add some variety to your closet, while supporting POC.
*Selena Gomez isn't 100% white, but she is generally a part of the privileged majority.