Culture Appropriation vs. Appreciation

The difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation was the topic for this week’s Pizza and Politics.

Students were asked what they thought the difference was between appropriation and appreciation, and how it applies when discussing culture. Many felt that the distinction should be determined by respect and knowledge of a specific culture.

The question was then raised on the potential protections, similar to copyright laws, of religious symbols, such as LDS temple wear and Hijabs. One student raised the point that once something becomes integrated into the public sphere, copyright laws no longer protect it. One student felt that the protection should be related to the scale of the situation. They felt that if one person was disrespecting a culture or is  accused of cultural appropriation the protections should not apply, but if corporations or institutions are found to be doing those things then protections should be in place.

A main theme throughout the discussion was where should the line be drawn that differentiates appreciation and appropriation. Some felt that education and respect should be the basis of all cultural representation, while others felt that intent could not be used as a guideline because of human fallibility.

Parallels were drawn between cultural appropriation and The Stolen Valour Act, which criminalizes false representation of military service or award in order to gain any kind of profit or benefit. One student disputed the connection between the two because of the presence of choice in regards to military service. A counterpoint was raised that in the case of Native American war bonnets, many Native American tribes used them as signs of distinction for the equivalent of military honors, and that the comparison was very relevant.

The issue of cultures as costumes was brought up several times throughout the discussion. Many students felt that presenting traditional dress or customs as costumes was taking the culture out of historical context and felt that the act was disrespectful and degrading.  

One student raised the point that it is important that when fighting for one’s own culture or beliefs that you don’t discredit or disregard other’s. The student felt that it is necessary for minority cultures and majority cultures be included in discussions that deal with cultural appropriation.

One thing most students agreed on was that there needs to be increased education about all cultures to help eliminate disrespectful or offensive cultural representations.

To participate in the discussion, attend Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.

By Lily Shurtleff for SUU News