The jury is still out on the issue of cultural appropriation. For those who haven’t heard the term before, and are currently scratching their heads, cultural appropriation refers the adoption of the culture of an ethnic group or other demographic by members of another culture.
This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing; sometimes, cultural appropriation can be a way of fostering bonds between divergent groups, or encouraging the diffusion and celebration of different forms of music, cuisine, dress and language throughout the rest of the world. But if someone’s culture is misappropriated, and used in an ignorant or flippant fashion, then it acts as more of an antecedent to prejudice.
Put it this way: as a Scot, I’m often heartened by the fact that people from all over the world enjoy and celebrate Scottish culture. People from as far afield as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even Hong Kong and Malawi, take part in cultural practices that I consider “mine” – bagpipes, golf, the poetry of Robert Burns, and drinking great quantities of whisky, to name a few.
But if someone was to take part in these same practices disrespectfully, and show ignorance about the culture they were participating in, I’d be offended. However, the melting-pot nature of modern society means that it’s almost impossible to keep cultures separate, and it’s human nature to adopt new practices out of curiosity.
It’s a tricky issue. But that hasn’t stopped social media users lashing out at those celebrities who are supposedly guilty of this perceived offence. This week, Katy Perry came under fire for her supposedly disrespectful hairstyle.