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We All "Appropriate" Cultures, So Stop Crying About It

Elisabeth Wong

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I appropriate white culture.

I do ballet. Ballet originated in Italy before spreading across Europe and then to the rest of the world.

I never once was told that I could not do ballet because I am Asian, and it would be “appropriating” a culture that is not mine.

But I once was in a class with a white girl who wanted to learn how to do some traditional Chinese dances. I offered to teach her because I know a bit of it from my grandmother, who immigrated here.

She was told that she was appropriating my culture from the other people in our ballet class, so she should not learn how to do it.

Yet why is it okay for me to learn ballet and her not to learn dances from China?

If I am allowed to participate in a culture from Europe which is not my own, why can’t she participate in an Asian culture that is not hers?

If you think there is a double standard, you would be correct, and if you think that there is nothing wrong with that double standard. Think again and think harder.

Cultures are meant to be shared, and they have been shared for centuries. That is how we have languages, alphabets, and customs that are from different countries but are the same. For example, both Europe and Asia have many cultures that take the art of tea making very seriously. European and Asian cultures are different, yet she shares that in common because of our overlapping histories with one another. That is not a bad thing. That is a beautiful thing.

Another example- braids and dreads. In many African countries and cultures, braids and dreads are prominent in styling hair. But they were also seen in Nordic Viking cultures before Europe and Africa started to interact with one another. yet why are only black people are allowed to have braids and dreadlocks? Don’t the Nordic people have rights to that hairstyle also being it is deeply rooted in their history as well?

What about alphabets? Is that cultural appropriation also? Is anyone who speaks English appropriating British culture? How about anyone who wearings silk? Are you appropriating the cultures along the silk road because that’s not native to your area?

I can go on and on.

Cultures are meant to be shared. Food, clothing, music, dance, stories, all of that beautiful stuff that is either unique to our cultures or is shared are meant to be celebrated. Gatekeeping cultures doesn’t paint you or your history in a good light, especially when you are allowed to take part in other’s cultures, but you don’t let someone take part in yours.

If you don’t think cultures are to be shared and they are to be separated at all costs, then you want segregation.

And last time I checked we all agreed segregation was a bad thing.

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