Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

By Won Ho Song

Until now, the term “culture” was something native to one particular group, unique and shrouded with an aura of exclusivity. Anyone who belonged to any kind of group – ethnic, social, religious – was proudly entitled to a specific culture he could call his very own. But, in light of recent developments, the distinct boundaries which kept different cultures disparate began to subside, catalyzing a peculiar and unorthodox phenomenon of culture assimilation. Cultural appropriation has turned into a sort of crime.

According to Cathy Young from The Washington Post, an “artist or artwork which incorporates ideas from other cultures, no matter how thoughtfully or positively” can be seen as cultural appropriation to critics. An example of an artist accused of cultural appropriation is the Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, who was accused by Daily Beast Entertainment of attempting to separate the art of hip hop from its cultural context, and using her privilege to benefit from a tradition of an oppressed group. With the globalization of the world, the blending of the lines between cultures is inevitable, but how can we avoid appropriating cultures and begin appreciating them?

ISM shows how cultural appropriation could be overcome through the implementation of cultural appreciation. ISM boasts its diversity with individuals of various cultures comprising the student and faculty body. With so many cultures, ISM hosts different clubs such as Chinese Cultural Club, Korean Cultural Club, Philippine Cultural Club, and more. Each of these clubs celebrates a certain culture and learns its traditions, beliefs, and nuances. However, contrary to popular belief, members do not have to hail from the country, or culture, the club is celebrating. These members are examples of cultural appreciators, as they learn about new cultures, thus making themselves more aware.

The more subtle cultural exchanges happen between the social groups in school; this is exemplified by the cultural assimilation among the athletes, musicians, gamers, and many more discrete groups. Each different group enjoys and displays a unique culture unlike any other. In the ISM community, cultural appreciation is an integral aspect which keeps the school in seamless unity. Cultural appreciation ensures that the different groups share something in common, acting as a cohesive agent and creating harmony.

The fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation causes a lot of confusion about cultural boundaries; however, it is evident that once one takes the time to learn about a culture, s/he is simply a cultural appreciator and not appropriator.