One Anti-Racist Action You Can Take Today: Appreciate, Don’t Appropriate

One Anti-Racist Action You Can Take Today: Appreciate, Don’t Appropriate

By Guimel DeCarvalho
Vice President of People & Culture

Cultural appropriation is one of those terms you may have heard repeatedly, but many not really know what it means. John Paul Brammer defines it as “the majority plucks the characteristics of disenfranchised communities for profit—without crediting or even acknowledging the creators.” In the articles linked below, you can read examples of when this has occurred to the Black and Brown LGBTQ community with language and ballroom culture, with Indians with the practice of yoga, and with Native Americans with sacred headdresses.  At the core of each example something that was created by a marginalized community is used by a majority culture without proper understanding of the context or significance and then monetized for the benefit of the majority culture. As stated in the linked articles “it occurs on an uneven playing field where white, cisgender, heterosexual people are more likely to receive credit for something they didn’t create. That, in sum, is the definition of appropriation.”

What each article also talks about is that the goal of not appropriating does not mean that there shouldn’t be an exchange of ideas, cultures, and connection. You can still do yoga. Rina Deshpande writes that instead you should be “asking deeper questions such as:

  • “Do I really understand the history of the yoga practice I’m so freely allowed to practice today that was once ridiculed and prohibited by colonists in India?”
  • “As I continue to learn, am I comfortable with the practices and purchases I’m choosing to make, or should I make some changes?”
  • “Does the practice I live promote peace and integrity for all?”

It’s also important to celebrate and appreciate the culture when the people from that culture are showing it to you, have a part in creating it, and hopefully have a part in financially benefiting from it. TV shows like FX’s Pose are a good, but not perfect, example of this. Pose casts transgender actors of colors, has transgender writers of color, but is developed by a white, gay male, and owned by a TV network owned by white people. Read the below articles to find out more.

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