What is Cultural Appropriation?

By Rachel Chu

Staff Writer
On October 29, the African American Alliance (AAA) sponsored “What is Cultural Appropriation,” a town hall session in the Social Lodge aimed at educating students on cultural appropriation. Students came away with the knowledge that there is a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and that that difference has to do with each person’s knowledge and history of oppression or privilege in the context of the cultural item or situation. The event was facilitated by the officers of AAA, Adreyauna Lewers, D’yahna Jones, Davante Jennings, Desiree Samuel, Kiera Coleman, and Madison Leathers, (C ’16). Jennings clarified that “though we do have officer positions, we function on a team dynamic and all of what AAA does is done by a core group of 6 (and our members’ input).”

AAA asked professors to present perspectives from their respective disciplines without personal biases. “Though it may have seemed like a lecture,” Jennings explained, “we wanted it to be informative but emphasize coming on a common understanding of appropriation versus appreciation, together as a community, and where the line between the two lies; when does admiration and respect become appropriation.” Dr. Paige Schneider explained cultural appropriation in the context of Politics, presenting examples of cultural appropriation in pop culture, like Nicki Minaj and Sandra Bullock, Dr. Jeffrey Thompson highlighted art affected by cultural appropriation in History, and Dr. Michael Wairungu expounded upon the representation of swag in Kenyan students. Dr. Amy Patterson also contributed greatly to the efforts of the event but was unable to attend.

After the lecture portion of the event, the professors sat in the center of the “fishbowl” style seating “to acknowledge that this is not a lecture, this is not a panel of experts speaking on the topics, and that while affording that respect to the professors, we are wanting to understand this together because it does get tricky when trailing the line between the aforementioned: appropriation and appreciation,” as Jennings later clarified. Gabby Valentine, (C ’17), expressed that she “liked how it showed two different sides of cultural appropriation and how it’s not necessarily a negative thing.”