Is Giving Credit When It’s Due Not A Thing Anymore?
There is a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. If you ask me, just about every part of American Culture is appropriated. The very ground we walk on doesn’t even belong to us. We are a nation known for theft of land, culture, and even people! Due to the seriousness of this issue, cultural appropriation means more to me than the cornrows and boxer braids debate.
What is Cultural Appropriation?
There is a difference between having a genuine interest in a piece of someone’s culture and wanting to participate in a culture’s customs in order to appear “trendy.” Cultural appropriation is the theft of a minority culture’s traditions, ideas, and fashions that are stolen by a dominant culture. This is not a typical white versus black thing, this issue occurs throughout almost all cultures. When the customs are stolen from a subset of people and praised by someone who does not belong to their group, it is a huge slap in the face! The ideas that have been stolen typically have been around for decades but they were never appreciated until they were made mainstream. When artifacts of significance become modern accessories, the fine line between appropriation and appreciation has been crossed.
What is Cultural Appreciation?
On the other hand, Cultural Appreciation is the admiration for one’s culture and ideas. When a culture is appreciated, credit is given to that particular group when ideas are taken and the individual(s) educate those who are unaware of history. Appreciating and being respectful to one’s culture can also mean asking for permission to mimic one’s heritage.
Cultural Appropriation on Social Media
When it comes to social media, examples of cultural appropriation can be found in seconds. From blackface to faux locks, exaggerated lip injections, and offensive Halloween costumes, you simply can’t go a day without seeing something offensive. People have to face discrimination daily for wearing clothing native to their cultures while others are able to wear it and feel beautiful with no judgment. Even celebrities with large platforms have been victims of cultural appropriation. You would think that their publicists and stylists would filter offensive content, but in a lot of cases, the material is approved
Model and reality television star Kendal Jenner has been a target for offensive content over the years. When you hear this name, your first thought might be her more recent controversial Pepsi ad. Hand an officer a Pepsi and you’ll be able to make peace, right?
However, Kendal has also been criticized for some of her outfit choices. Kendal Jenner recently posted a photo on Instagram wearing a headscarf that closely resembled a hijab. She decided to use the caption “I’m not a spy, you’re a spy.” Her fans flooded her comments with statements such as, “love the scarf!”, “love this vibe,” and “omg this outfit is so good.” However, if a Muslim woman who traditionally wears hijabs wore this same exact outfit she would most likely be called a terrorist. When the fashion model wears the headscarf it automatically becomes a trendy fashion statement that is widely accepted. For others, they face daily criticism for wearing the exact same thing while also fearing being attacked by certain individuals that participate in radical racism.
Celebrities such as Kendal Jenner have to realize that they are a brand. Their actions are directly associated with their name. Every ignorant action isn’t done intentionally, however, there are multiple ways to prevent it.
In 2017, Designer Tory Burch created an advertisement that sparked a heated conversation. In the commercial, the designer chose to use the popular hip hop song “JuJu On That Beat” while Caucasian women danced along in the background. The song was created by two African American males and the dance that goes along to the song was one that was popular in the African American community.
Famous model Poppy Delevigne was one of the women featured dancing in the center of the video. As the models were dancing, a monkey-shaped bag rested on the backseat of the car they were in. The controversial bag was also seen placed in the background during a scene on the yacht. The internet expressed their outrage by stating their disappointment with the absence of people of color in the video. Tory Burch decided to respond to the negative statements by releasing a statement to Vogue UK that read, “The video was intended to celebrate music that we love with our spring collection. It was never meant to be insensitive in any way. We have removed the video from our channels. I personally feel very badly if this hurt anyone and I am truly sorry.” They clearly missed the mark on this one and shorty removed the video from all platforms. The commercial can be viewed here.
How Can Cultural Appropriation Be Prevented in Advertisements?
DO RESEARCH. If a company is creating an advertisement and they are not sure if the message that they will convey will be controversial, their first step should be to thoroughly research the history their message is associated with. It is also just as important to make sure the message is direct and clear so viewers aren’t able to misinterpret the advertisement. Companies should also make sure that they are creating content that promotes racial inclusivity which ensures that everyone is represented. If the advertisement is created involves a particular culture, actual members of the culture should be a part of the production and recognized.
At the end of the day, the media plays a huge role in the way a group is perceived. Spreading positivity also to spread awareness and it provides information that helps the public live their lives in a less ignorant manner. Companies should always make sure to test their campaigns with the community they are using in their ad to confirm that it is respectful and properly represents their culture.
Together, we can help to make sure that every culture is properly represented throughout media and in the real world.