I've been thinking a lot about marketable trends lately. . . and after following a link from an anonymous reader (who was complaining of Pamela Love's obvious cultural appropriation) I started contemplating the popularization of Native American culture in fashion. I wanted to brush up on my knowledge of what cultural appropriation actually meant so I bopped on over to . . . wikipedia!
I feel like this sums it up pretty well: "Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion,language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held." (wiki) . . . In most cases they are stripped of meaning all together.
I think the trouble begins when you are "borrowing" from a historically oppressed culture. The element of disrespect is inherent when you take a cultural item, artifact, or way of dress and use it in a trendy/superficial way. The whole Native American trend fits perfectly into this description. Native Americans have had so much of their culture and beliefs taken, twisted and distorted by outsiders (not to mention they were massacred/stricken with disease when Europeans were colonizing America).
I actually had a waitressing/work nightmare last night in which I was accused of being racist/ignorant by a Native American customer. In my dream I found myself totally flustered and defensive as the customer and his family stormed out of the restaurant. I have no doubt that the dream was directly linked to my recent thoughts on whether i'm ever guilty of cultural appropriation. . . though I've never dressed up in an Indian headdress at a music festival i do like Native American textiles. I also like to use feathers in my jewelry. So what is ok to borrow from a culture and what isn't?
There are many aspects of the Native American culture that non-Natives may admire and want to incorporate into their lives. . . Their strong relationship with/respect for nature (it's pretty obvious by now that everyone should respect nature by the way). But nonchalantly wearing a headdress is pretty fucked.
"You can’t just take a cultural sign and act as if it has no history, as if a headdress or dreadlocks just exist ‘in itself.’ Because if you do, you’re doing a very real kind of violence. Culture lives in the signs, so when someone tries to deny the meaning of signs, they’re trying to kill that sign and so try to kill a little bit of culture." -(fuckyeahculturalappropriation.tumblr.com)
I know i'm touching on some insanely complex/complicated shit here. . . (And yes, I was a Sociology major in college). I'm sure i've been guilty of cultural appropriation and i'll probably continue to be guilty of it in the future. I'm just trying to bring some awareness to the subject. Hopefully you'll think twice the next time you wanna dress up as a Native American for a costume party. . . because there is just so much meaning and history that you are walking all over when you do that.
**While writing this post i discovered fuckyeahculturalappropriation.tumblr.com. Although it's a bit in your face, it's a great place to check out if you are interested in this subject matter.
These two are covering all their bases!! Indians, Mexicans, and Bloods. C'mon, make up your mind!
Craft store crap. Looks like something your kid sister made in Kindergarten class.
Cultural Appropriation continued:
Rachel Fucking Ray. gross on so many levels.
Some of my sources: Wikipedia, racialicious.com, newspaperrock.bluecorncomics.com, http://www.amptoons.com, blogs.denverpost.com, http://fuckyeahculturalappropriation.tumblr.com/