Cultural Appropriation Part 2

Hi Friends!
Thank you for engaging with the cultural appropriation update I wrote last week. I received some questions, so I wanted to follow up with some clarification.
One question was about whether white people (kids in particular) can dress up as an historical figure as part of a school project (as a performance piece of a research project) and as a way of honoring that person. Since I am white and have not experienced racial marginalization, I turned to resources written by POC for answers:
(1) The Root has a great article by Michael Harriot about this related to Halloween, but which can be applied to other costume-related situations, including Moana. This phrase in particular was helpful to me: “The only way to mimic a culture without appropriating it is by experiencing the bad things they went through.”
(2) That led me to more about Moana — Emmaline Matagi (indigenous Fijian) wrote about how white children can be able to dress up as her character (not her people as a whole) and the nuances to that. Her article includes a clear description of cultural appropriation: “This is called cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is, in basic terms, taking something from a culture which you don’t belong to and using it for a purpose which it is not made for, without knowing or understanding its cultural significance. It is turning it into an accessory for your own fun or entertainment and therefore changing the true meaning of the item.”
(3) Which led me to Jarune Uwujaren (Nigerian-American) and great examples of the differences between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. One takeaway — “Cultural appropriation is itself a real issue because it demonstrates the imbalance of power that still remains between cultures that have been colonized and the ex-colonizers.”
(4) Related to honoring someone from another culture, American Indians/Native Americans came to mind. I found Tate Walker’s “4 Ways to Honor Native Americans Without Appropriating Our Culture,” which leads to a wonderful blog called “Native Appropriations.”
My overall sense after learning so much about this topic in the last few weeks is that it ends up being about humanizing the person who is being represented. If someone is really going to learn about a historical figure and understand their struggles, the challenges they faced, etc., couldn’t that lead them to understand that the humanity of that person requires NOT dressing up like them? But showing photos of them instead? Or talking about what they wore and looked like without embodying that person? And maybe how those struggles continue for their ancestors today? Understanding oppression means understanding that a person isn’t a costume, that being able to put on a marginalized person’s identity and take it off again is a function of white privilege.
I also have a huge collection of resources for you this week:
Related to relationships:
(1) Kim McLarin wrote in The Lily — “Can black women and white women be friends? Not until this changes.”
(2) A friend shared this amazing article by Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz (basketball for those, like me, who are not big sports fans). It says so many valuable things — please read it.
(3) A group member shared this article by Todd Finley from Edutopia.
Related to housing:
(1) The National Low Income Housing Coalition published a report called “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes.”
(2) Arlington Presbyterian Church has been wrestling with affordable housing as many churches consider their role in their communities.
(3) Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law came out recently and a group member let me know that there is now a short film based on it called “Segregated by Design.”
Related to environmental justice:
(1) The NAACP released a report about how fossil fuel companies misrepresent themselves and their industry at the expense of communities of color.
(1) SURJ is having its next chapter meeting on April 28 focusing on Survived + Punished related to the criminalization of sexual assault survivors.
(2) Jessica Kaplan of the Arlington Historical Society is presenting her research on “The Bottom: An African-American Enclave Rediscovered” on May 9.
(3) The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is hosting an Evening with Joan Trumpauer Mulholland on April 30.
Keep challenging your biases.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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