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  • Writer's pictureAlexis


Updated: Jan 18, 2019

Many of us see culture as simply being the food we eat, the songs we sing, the specific way in which we express compassion, but more generally, it is seen as the embellishment we wear proudly on our sleeve: the team we root for. When I think of culture, its social meaning, and what it means to be a part of one, I think of the atmosphere created by people who share the same identity. The warmth, the way in which we interact with one another. The struggles we share, the battles we fight. Culture is the shared human experience. Football fans and coffee fanatics alike are what make culture. So, when does cultural appropriation come in to play? People don’t feel offended when someone decides to pick up a new hobby such as biking and become a part of that cycling culture. In my opinion, though culture is not solely confined to the race one identifies themselves with, cultural appropriation is driven by race and the conflicts that have and continue to present themselves as a result of it.

Growing up, there were always high expectations. My first year living in Ohio since having left my old kindergarten school in San Fransisco was and continues to be a process. Transitioning from such a diverse and open society to one where there was no such thing as an accent, much less a hispanic one, there was a certain anxiety to be perfect. It was Kindergarten Picture Day circa 2005 and my mom had woken me up 2 hours earlier than usual to brush my hair. I didn't know why or what was going on. "It's just picture day" I thought in my head. Looking to my mothers anguished face I asked her why I couldn’t wear my hair down? Briskly grabbing the brush she said “you aren’t like the other kids. You can’t get away with messy hair.” Not quite understanding what she meant, I sat down, complacent as she gelled every hair down until I was forced to smile.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, I’m reminded of how much my mom has struggled to integrate herself into American culture. To this day, after 20 years of living here, people still question her validity as an American citizen. And those same people, who make her feel uncomfortable for speaking with an accent and belonging to more than one culture, are the same people who wear huaraches (a common Mexican sandal often woven by hand) because TOM’s made it fashionable, and praise Chipotle for its food, but often neglect to welcome the culture that brought it to them. More recently, in the 2016 election, I have heard people openly praise Trump for his stance on immigration and America First views but fail to acknowledge that this country would not be what it is without the influence of other cultures. This failure to acknowledge cultural traditions and the struggles they had to overcome to stand as strong as they do, is what makes cultural appropriation wrong. You are reaping the rewards of a fight that was not won by you.


Not Your Therapist

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