Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. It occurs when a person from one culture adopts the fashion, iconography, trends or styles from a culture which is not their own. It is claimed that some of the most harmful examples of cultural appropriation occur when when the culture being appropriated is one of an historically oppressed group. Use of a culture's symbols, artefacts, genres, rituals, or technologies by members of another culture is called cultural appropriation.
Central to this aspect of today’s culture wars is looking out for offence where none is intended. Indeed compliment may be being offered. It is not wanted or accepted. Most examples are to be found in America. Critical race theory is behind this over sensitivity. There is abundant meanness of spirit and mind. For example:
• Offence is taken if a white skinned person wears a North American Indian head dress.
• It is forbidden for white people to put on black makeup in drama and musical presentations.
• Garden Creamery in San Francisco is owned by Erin Lang, who is white. But on social media, many have called for a boycott of the ice cream shop, which sells Asian-inspired flavours like Thai tea and coconut
•At a fashion show predominantly white models displayed Marc Jacobs’ line while sporting hand-dyed
wool dreadlocks. Jacobs later apologised for the “lack of sensitivity” in his initial response to the
controversy, an Instagram comment in which he stated, “I respect and am inspired by people and how
they look. I don’t see colour or race—I see people.”
•Hairstyle trends like cornrows and wearing chopsticks as hair accessories borrow from black and Asian
cultures, the latter being inappropriate and inaccurate.
•America has had many sports teams take on names and mascots which are symbols or titles of Native
•Tattoos are often taken from other cultures, often ones those using them don't understand or whose
history they don't fully appreciate.
There is such pettiness involved here. One is tempted to use the phrase ‘Get a life’. There is also much complaining about the speck in the white person’s eye while ignoring the beam in the person of colour’s eye. Perspective is wholly lacking. I want to suggest that there is ‘reverse cultural appropriation’. This puts into perspective the claimed offence against cultural appropriation. Non white people throughout the world for the last three hundred years and more have availed themselves of much that they did not originate. Today the critical race academic will sit in her well built, warm in winter concrete, brick, wood and glass university room working with her personal computer, lap top, iPad and mobile phone which were invented by white men. She will not acknowledge her debt to them. Here are examples of reverse cultural appropriation.
• The wheel
• English as the international language of the world
• Reading, writing, literature, learning and libraries
• The academy and the university
• Nursery schools, primary schools and secondary schools
• Mathematics and science
• Classical music and great art
• Electricity, nuclear fission and nuclear fusion
• The internal combustion engine and the jet engine
• The train, the ship, motor car, the aeroplane
• The telephone, the radio, the television, the mobile telephone
• Cookers, washing machines and microwaves
• Computers and the internet
• Medicine and surgery
• Democracy, civil society and government
• Coca Cola
These were discovered, invented and developed by white western men. Insofar as others benefit from them and do not acknowledge that debt this is tantamount to reverse cultural appropriation. There is no need for such absurdities. Humanity is interlinked. We all benefit from the best in each other’s contributions. It may be argued that white men were never part of an oppressed group. But geniuses, innovators, discoverers and inventors nearly always suffered and sacrificed in order to benefit succeeding generations. They were also risk-takers such as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Time to abolish one way cultural appropriation. Let everyone enjoy whatever we humans manage to make and do for our collective benefit.