Last night, I attended the Lighthouse discussion on cultural appropriation and appreciation. It’s a complicated topic, and there is almost no complicated topic that cannot be made more complicated by having an academic discussion about it. It felt like looking at a sample under a microscope, only you have multiple microscopes and you’re not quite sure what the sample is. It got me to consider the issue in ways I hadn’t previously, which is what an academic discussion is supposed to do. That’s why I’m here, to learn how to think.
Before this discussion I had been a fan of cultural appreciation. Because of it I have been able to enjoy things like, yoga, enchiladas, and Celtic music. Looking at other cultures has expanded my world. I recently spoke to my friend who was studying abroad, and she regaled me about the benefits of tea and hijabs in Morocco. Personally, I may not agree with those things, or other cultural traditions I encounter, and that’s okay. Multicultural experience has made me think outside myself.
When it comes to cultural appropriation it gets trickier. No one wants to say that they are a fan of cultural appropriation. Yet, as westerners, I believe that we do appropriate other cultures as well as appreciating them. I have yet to come up with a final answer for this topic. I doubt that anyone has come up with a final answer for this topic. My take on it is that it’s generally okay to use material from other cultures as long as you acknowledge where it came from. Like when you write a paper, you want to include a bibliography.
At Lighthouse I learned that my take may not matter. In the large group discussion, someone made the point that, as members of dominant western culture, we don’t have the right to decide what we can and cannot take from minority cultures. This point makes sense to me. We may not be entitled to just grab whatever we like.
On the other hand…I still love my Celtic music.