Cultural appropriation can be defined as a dominant group adopting elements of a minority culture without acknowledging the original source. More often than not, this occurs without understanding the historical or cultural significance of the borrowed elements. While some argue that cultural appropriation is a form of flattery or cultural exchange, it’s essential to understand how it negatively affects Black and brown people financially and culturally.
1. Loss of potential earnings
When dominant cultures appropriate other cultures’ significant elements, it can result in lost economic opportunities for the marginalised communities. Their authentic products are often overlooked in favour of mass-produced or cheaper options produced by dominant groups.
2. Influence on creative industries
The fashion, art, and music industries often capitalise on culturally appropriated elements, resulting in minimal financial benefits for the original creators. In turn, this may widen the economic gap between marginalised communities and their counterparts, further perpetuating systemic inequality.
3. Reduced market value
If a product loses its uniqueness due to mass reproduction, its value decreases. As a result, communities that create authentic cultural products may suffer market devaluation, leading to lower sales and reduced income generation.
Cultural appropriation often results in a distorted representation of marginalised cultures as it removes essential historical or cultural contexts from the element that has been appropriated. This can lead to stereotypes and reinforce racial biases.
2. Erosion of cultural identity
Communities’ artistic and cultural expressions are essential to their identity formation and sense of history. When components of these cultures are taken out of context for commercial use or seen as “trendy,” marginalised communities may feel stripped of their heritage.
3. Disrespect and disregard
Cultural appropriation can be experienced as an insult or violation by oppressed groups. Their concerns are frequently dismissed as unimportant or labelled as overly sensitive. This lack of understanding and respect reinforces the belief that their culture is not valued, which can lead to further marginalisation.
Recognising cultural appropriation’s economic and cultural effects on marganalised people is crucial. Instead of perpetuating harm by commodifying their culture, we must learn to appreciate and respect all cultures as integral parts of our global heritage. We can work together to create meaningful cultural exchange without causing harm by fostering understanding and empathy.