Culture Appropriation and Embracing Culture

The world is wide and diverse, full of beautiful people with extraordinary characteristics. Groups of people all throughout history have developed their own cultural traits to help define their society. Societies are defined by their different foods, dress, languages and everything in between.
Cultural Appropriation.:

Often, many cultural trends are assimilated into other societies. America is generally thought to be a "melting-pot" where many cultures have settled and spread. Many sociologists believe that this will eventually happen internationally and is currently in the process. Over time, with the improving transportation system and international marketing, people are moving around the world in record numbers. We are no longer confined to small villages, the world is now at our finger tips. The internet allows us to access any information with the push of a button. With this power comes great responsibility.

Occasionally people will stereotype cultures based on the meager amount of information they think they know about them. They pick apart a specific culture and will focus on the "exotic" aspects of it. This idea is called "culture appropriation" and is a growing problem world wide. With so many different cultures, it is easy to understand the mystery tied to each history. We want to explore and be a part of something different from our norm. We must be cautious when incorporating foreign cultural traits into our own lives, careful not to offend the original culture.

This especially becomes a problem when the stolen culture come from oppressed or marginalized groups. Dominant cultures do not fully respect the cultural significance of the item they are appropriating. They turn it into something fashionable, in turn wiping out the historical meaning of the item. Laverne Cox recently discussed her view of cultural appropriation by saying "We live in a multi-cultural society where being influenced by cultures different from ours is inevitable. But when the traditions and practices of marginalized communities are used by those in power and the material conditions of those who are marginalized are not changed individually and systemically this is when cultural appropriation is deeply problematic and even potentially exploitative." 

The problem as I see it is that we are ignoring history and consuming everything in typical American tradition. We are a melting pot, so much so that we overlook and under value the original individual histories that are the reason we have these great relics. It's disrespectful and show's a lack of empathetic reverence for different cultures.

The best advice I can offer you is to enjoy different cultures at arms length. Do not adorn yourself in spiritual or ritual style clothing or accessories. Enjoy a Thai cooking class, go see a foreign film, explore Native American reservations and learn from them. They are not ours to do with as we please. We can enjoy culture without stripping it away from its origin and pretend we are appreciating it by exploiting it.