Why Cultural Appropriation Is Harmful


Look down from your computer screen and take a moment to notice what you’re wearing. Fashion is a reflection of a person. Now if you’re at home, take another minute to sift through your closet. Notice the styles, patterns, and prints that define who you are. Are they trendy? Are they unique? Or are they stolen?

Cultural appropriation of fashion has run rampant down the runways and city streets of America. Urban Outfitters has been selling cheap “Navajo inspired” clothing churned out by sweatshops, big name celebrities like Khloe Kardashian and Selena Gomez has come under fire for appropriating Bindis, and Coachella has been a clustered mess of inappropriately worn headdresses and dreamcatchers.

The real problem with cultural appropriation is simple: it’s unfair to us minorities. Minority cultures are constantly being made fun of by society. We put up with ignorant media icons like the Washington Redskins logo, cringe worthy misrepresentations like Katy Perry’s “Asian inspired” performance of Unconditionally during the 2013 AMAs, and hurtful jabs just because we eat different foods, have different backgrounds, and grow up in different cultures. Then suddenly, when the hijab you’ve worn your entire life is appropriated by some celebrity trying to make a statement and it suddenly makes you “fashionable” rather than a “towel head,” it hurts.

It hurts because your culture was not accepted until the majority went and made it part of their culture. It sets a painful precedent that says nothing outside of the mainstream can be “cool” or “hip” or even acceptable enough to avoid being ridiculed for until the mainstream swoops in and copies it. The “Gandhi dot” that Twitter user @farihaa used to be made fun of for? Now it’s a “fashionable face jewel.” In a single unfair move, suddenly the things that were turned against us became the hottest trend. Why? Because the mainstream says so.

This only fuels the underlying problem: the mainstream has all the power, and if they want to steal something, strip it of any meaning, and repackage it as “trendy” they can. We had nothing to do with it. Suddenly things are cool now that the minorities don’t have anything to do with them. And they’ve gotten away with it, whether it be Native American headdresses, bindis, hijabs, and so many more things. But all we’ve been able to do is watch.