Appropriation and How to Avoid it

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24 Oct 2020 22:07 #355610 by
This might seem like a silly question, but I'm still a little new to dealing with the topic.

How is the best way to research which things are appropriation?

Currently, I'm trying to train myself to remember to look into things that are new to me and find their origins. Then I try to google that culture and their thoughts on the topic. It's not a very expedient method, and sometimes I fail to find anything. In those moments, I'm left to wonder if my search was poorly worded or if there really is no problem. So in the interest of working smarter, not harder: What methods do you use?

I am not interested in answers from those who do not actively attempt to go out of their way to avoid it.

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26 Sep 2023 13:45 #374271 by Kwitshadie
My Girlfriend is Hindu and I was raised in a Catholic/Chinook Animist household. I’ve just been playing it by ear and asking questions. Her mom just ordered Indian Pajamas for me just recently to go to the events.
Don’t be afraid to participate in the culture, just don’t poke fun at the traditions.
Stop, looking and listening is key.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering ~ Yoda

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23 Oct 2023 18:49 #374558 by ZealotX
Appropriation isn't about doing or experiencing. Cultures are meant to be experienced and shared. I don't know of any culture on the planet where the people would be upset by your interest.

But I appreciate your desire not to appropriate. It's obviously coming from a good place.

Appropriation is about "stealing". And this word has come more into social consciousness because there are many people who seek to profit on things they have adopted from other cultures and/or things taken from individuals of different cultures where that individual may have been the one to create or design or choreograph the thing and then someone else comes along, sees it, and takes it, and acts like they were the ones who originated, created, designed, choreographed etc.

If you quote someone... same thing and therefore the same rules should apply. Example. Let's say that someone who is interested in Japanese culture, learns a Japanese tea ceremony. That's a beautiful thing! There's a reason why you CAN learn so much about so many different cultures. Sharing is caring! But most people wouldn't rebrand that Japanese tea ceremony as their own. Now we're not sharing, we're taking, because we're not giving proper credit to its origin. That's all you have to do to avoid cultural appropriation.

And I'd like to personally thank you on behalf of all cultures just for having this awareness. Seriously.

Common sense isn't always common.

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25 Oct 2023 02:52 #374574 by Cornilion Seadragon
This topic was started several years ago by someone who no longer has an account on the website, so they probably won't see the responses. That being said, this is turning into an interesting conversation.

Here are a few examples of appropriation that I've seen people be particularly upset by in recent times, and I think they fit ZealotX's assessment pretty well.

1. A mahjong set that had been Westernized (the traditional images on the set were replaced with images from Western cultures) found it's way into an ad a friend saw. They shared a screenshot of it on Facebook. My friends of Asian descent were livid! These are pretty calm people who I've hardly ever if ever at all seen this pissed off. To take something from their culture, strip the cultural history away from it and sell a Westernized version of it was peak appropriation in their eyes. I've played mahjong with some of my Asian-American classmates, I've celebrated Lunar New Year with them, celebrated Mid Autumn Festival (despite not really liking moon cakes, unfortunately), and so on, and I've never had a hint that any of that was cultural appropriation. Just the opposite. They seem glad that I am interested, particularly the professors who came from China. When I was in charge of our student senate I shied away from hosting a Lunar New Year event because I was afraid of the image of cultural appropriation, but was told by my Asian-American classmates that they thought I should have organized the event and they didn't see it as cultural appropriation. (I was however gently corrected when I tried to call it Chinese New Year... it's Lunar New Year).

2. Acupuncture has been rebranded by some professions as "dry needling". This was originally done for legal reasons to skirt regulations on minimum qualifications to perform acupuncture, but the implications have gone far beyond that. They took the same methods, tools, and techniques, stripped any of the cultural history that supported it (and any credit to the people who developed it and in some cases have literally sacrificed their lives to make it available to people) away, and in many cases now market it in a way that disparages acupuncture (by perpetuating incorrect myths about it in order to make their own services sound superior by comparison). It's a pretty sore subject for a lot of acupuncturists, particularly those who have to take a back seat to far less qualified and skilled providers or those of Asian heritage who see it as stripping away the rich history and theory that the therapy was built on.

We had some medical students at my acupuncture school several years ago for an open forum and one of them asked if acupuncture itself (being largely a field of white people in the US today) is cultural appropriation and who benefits from it. The reality is that half of our faculty are from China and when our school visits China they are very excited to host us. For them it is a mutual sharing of knowledge that allows them to grow as much as us.

3. Most things related to Native Americans can be pretty touchy. The fact that for so long they had their culture stripped away from them as they were forced into boarding schools that punished them harshly for any exercise of their culture (clothing, language, practices, anything) and banned any of their cultural events or rituals makes it really hard to swallow when other groups get to enjoy Native American culture even as they themselves couldn't. As always no culture is a monolith, though, and sometimes it is viewed as a respect for and acknowledgement of their culture in stead of an appropriation. The University of North Dakota mascot used to be the Fighting Sioux. It was eventually changed because that was deemed offensive, but the problem is the local Sioux tribe wasn't offended. They took it as an honor. It was white people being offended on behalf of the Sioux that got it changed despite the objections of the Sioux who they were claiming to protect. The Land-O-Lakes logo features the fertile Midwest land that their cows graze on and a Native American woman in full Native American regalia. The artist who created the logo was a Native American artist and the logo was meant to celebrate the local tribe. Amidst the wave of political correctness a few years back the Native American woman was removed from the logo. The joke at the time was, "Typical, they removed that Native American, but kept the land!"

On the other hand the Washington Redskins were named after a racial slur and was generally considered to be not only offensive but a way that some rich white guy got richer off Native Americans. Amidst the same wave of political correctness, that name was changed and from what I can tell most Native Americans support that change. There is a very vocal (and financially well-backed) group claiming to represent Native Americans around the country trying to get that name reinstated, but they've been riddled with scandals including the revelation that basically their entire board was made up of people who weren't actually Native American but had a financial interest in keeping the name. Notably there was at least one genuine Native American member within the organization's leadership and interestingly that person was actually from the Sioux tribe in North Dakota that wanted to keep the Fighting Sioux name at UND. I imagine the removal of that mascot without the support of the local Sioux tribe motivated him to support efforts to block removal of other Native American inspired mascots and he seemed to be coming from a place of genuine desire to have Native American culture more prominently recognized despite most of the others he served with in that organization having less genuine motivations. All of this seems to highlight why this can all be so confusing. Different people from within a culture have different opinions. Past events and how outsiders have treated a culture can also shape how open a group is to sharing their culture. Outside entities with a financial interest are also eager to shape the popular opinion in society and often use people's desire to be respectful of others to their advantage and profit, too.
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25 Oct 2023 12:43 - 25 Oct 2023 12:52 #374579 by Tavi
As someone who grew up directly within Native culture (Muskogee Creek,) I really appreciate your observations of the appropriation of Native cultures. 

The point you make about Natives being brutally punished - even killed, for practicing their own traditions and using their own symbols while colonizers have blatantly used both without prejudice against them or even an understanding of their deeper meanings is still incredibly devastating to modern tribal groups. 

You are also correct in that the people most offended by the use of native symbols or terminology are white folks. Even now, native voices are being silenced or belittled by people who claim to be allies. If the point is to support and to make Native voices heard - often the opposite is accomplished by further removing symbols and terms that are not considered offensive to actual Native people. 

A good example of this is the fiasco that was Standing Rock. The whole point was to protect the land and water - not to become a festival where the land was trampled and people flocked to the area in an attempt to relieve their “white guilt” by posting pictures of themselves on social media as if they were truly making a difference and not just there for appearances. 

It's also true that many people are true allies and very respectfully and honestly study and engage with Native cultures. Even at the Temple, I've seen many great examples of this recently. There is always a balance, just like there is always a balance in the Force itself. 

(Also want to include that this is my experience and my opinion - I do not speak for all Native people.)

Also to ZealotX - I'd say giving proper credit is definitely a huge part of it, from my own perspective - I would say putting in the effort to understand the origins and purposes of those things is also another huge part of it. The real appreciation side of it. 

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Last edit: 25 Oct 2023 12:52 by Tavi. Reason: I cant speel woot.
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