Culture Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation
In current social media controversy, Beyonce is getting a lot of heat over her appearance in Coldplay's new music video for "Hymn for the Weekend". Many are accusing her of being guilty of appropriating the Indian/ South East Asian Culture. I saw the video, you can check it out below.
I watched the video looking for the appropriating of said culture. When the video ended I thought "oh well it's a cool video" that's when I realized I didn't really know what culture appropriation was. In this post-apocalyptic Kardashian time that we are living in, let me be honest and say that I thought that cultural appropriation is when a white person copies something from any culture that is not theirs. Kylie Jenners lips, butt and dreadlocks or Miley Cyrus' twerking are examples of white people's appropriation of Black Culture. But I learned that anybody can appropriate any culture that is not their own. In this video, Beyonce is appropriating Indian culture.
Some of you ask "How? She's not mocking the culture. She looks great. " I think the only reason why so many people associate mockery and looking bad with cultural appropriation is because we're all so used to white people looking crazy appropriating everyone else's culture. (i.e Miley can't twerk, Kylie's locks looked like a mop) But it isn't a matter of who looks bad doing what, it's a matter of respect.
Culture is what makes us different. It's what makes us do what we do. Culture is an adaptation of who we are. When we see other cultures different than ours, it's interestingly beautiful and we're infatuated with it. But there is a fine, crooked, and blurred line between appreciation and appropriation. Cultural Appreciation is educating yourself of a culture, respecting the style of dress, rituals and traditions that it practices. Cultural appropriation is the lackadaisical taking of someone else's culture for your own and doing so for superficial purposes.
If I am infatuated with Chinese culture, I will appreciate by doing my research on China's ancient dynasties, the religions, the history of the geishas and the kimonos, martial arts etc. I can appropriate Chinese culture by wearing a kimono to the Chinese food store blurting out random Chinese incomplete phrases. Understand?
Beyonce appropriated the Indian culture by dressing in common Bollywood Indian attire singing a song that has absolutely no ties to Indian culture. The song in fact is about getting drunk and high together. An actual Bollywood star has a slight cameo in the video, but it's Beyonce who is center stage. If you want a clearer vision, ask your self if you learned anything by Beyonce appearing the way she did. More than likely not. You did not learn that East Asians wear bindis to signify that you are married. Nor did you learn that Saris are worn to protect you from the heat while staying modest. You did not learn that Bollywood films have been around since 1913 and finally made an impact in Hollywood with Slumdog Millionaire almost a century later. This is appropriation.
Everyone has the right to love as many cultures as they please. Do your research, respect the people. People's lifestyles are not fashion. Entire traditions are not "in" one day and out the next. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries as someone on the outside looking in. Appreciate, don't appropriate.