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Learn & Unlearn: Anti-racism Resource Guide

Lesson 2: What is Cultural Appropriation?

Original post on @saic.maffairs posted 10/30/2020.

Foundation: Prejudice, Stereotype

What is Cultural Appropriation?

Cultural Appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.1

Taking an aspect of a culture + not knowing the historical implications of that culture (and refusing to do actual research) = cultural appropriation

But how is Appropriation different from Appreciation?

Appreciation seeks to acquire a knowledge and an understanding of another culture, you honor and respect the culture,its practices and history. 
Appropriation is when you take aspects of a culture without acknowledging its history or significance, and there is little to no intention of learning about this culture. 

There have also been cases when certain aspects of cultures are adopted by a majority group and become popularized but the people of the culture are disrespected for it even if they have had a longer history with it. 

Understanding cultural appreciation vs cultural appropriation will help distinguish the difference between the two and whether or not someone is appreciating a culture or appropriating it. 


“The more we understand ourselves, the reasons for our actions, and how our cultural explorations might be perceived in relationship to an oppressive history, the more we are able to navigate our way through challenging conversations, build authentic relationships and break down the wounds built up over years of injury. Perhaps even more important, we might be able to avoid enacting a disrespectful form of appropriation.” Shelly Tolchuk, Witnessing Whiteness, 2015

To Read

Flaxman Library Materials - May take up to 3 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here.
I-Share Books - May take up to 10 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here

To Research

To Listen

To Watch

To Follow

Adrienne J. Keene @nativeapprops

To Consider

What is the significance and meaning of the object/image?
Does the source group grant permission? What are the limits? 
Has the source group been or is currently a racially oppressed group? 
Who, if anyone, is making a profit?2

To Act

A common defense is that Cultural Appropriation is a compliment and is showing respect to a specific culture. How would you respond to this? 
Address yourself, your friends, and your family when you observe appropriation, and try asking any of these guiding questions:


Works Cited

  1. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, s.v. “Cultural Appropriation.”
  2. AORTA, “Cultural Appropriation,” Anti-Oppression resource & training alliance, 2015.