America is known worldwide as “the melting pot” for her rich ethnic diversity, cultural fusion and smorgasbord of languages. However, lately, it seems to many people from immigrant households that America’s well-worn diversity hat has turned into a t-shirt reading, “What’s what of which culture?” and “LOL, will this look good in my Instagram post?”
That’s right, folks, cultural appropriation is America’s new hidden enemy and, it’s taking NO prisoners.
In recent years, ethnic tensions have exploded across television screens and monopolized front page headlines with stories of race riots and prejudice.
Junior Jordan Tinitigan said, “Racism has always been there, but it’s like suddenly the millennials are getting involved and now these injustices are getting more media attention.”
To some, it feels like the nation went to sleep one night and woke up immersed in a cultural standoff the next.
Many people blame millennials and the PC trend for all of America’s “new” race problems. However, these problems are not new at all.
As one of the most silent political groups in the country, Asian-Americans constantly play the victim to pop culture’s cultural appropriation.
In Coldplay and Beyoncé’s new music video “Hymn for the Weekend,” the artists are seen dancing in Bollywood garb with impoverished Indian children.
Indian-Americans pointed out that showing such a stereotypical image of India to create atmosphere for a music video is not only making profit off of appropriation, but also preventing Western society from understanding Indian culture.
They have also campaigned against Coachella goers and Kylie Jennerites for wearing bindis on their foreheads and henna tattoos on their body.
Likewise, Chinese-Americans have admitted how uncomfortable it is to see white people use religious markings and figurines as home decor. They have also highlighted that using Chinese characters for just about every photo caption is as equally offensive and ridiculous as sticking chopsticks in one’s hair.
Other Asian-Americans, like Japanese and Korean-Americans, find this misrepresentation of Chinese culture annoying, too, but not as annoying as having their very different cultures marginalized into Chinese stereotypes.
Besides Asian-Americans, Native-Americans also face inaccurate representation in the media and pop culture. At Halloween, stores sell cowboy and Indian costumes to people of all ages. These indigenous Americans take great offense at seeing people wearing their ancestral clothing so insensitively.
Similarly, Black-Americans are ambushed with pictures of white women on catwalks with dreadlocks and Bantu knots, and West coast figureheads like the Kardashians appropriating black fashion.
In particular, Hollywood is guilty of steamrolling people of color and their ethnic roots.
Whitewashing and misrepresentation in media has been a problem in America since Mickey Rooney slapped on buck teeth, cat eye makeup and a shoddy accent to play a Japanese man in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
More recently, films like “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which took place in Egypt but featured an almost all white cast, and “Aloha,” a movie about a half Hawaiian, half white woman but featured Emma Stone as the lead, have added Egyptian and indigenous Pacific Islanders to the list of misrepresented ethnicities in the media.
As a result of this insensitivity and lack of diversity in film and award nominations, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have blown up timelines and news feeds with hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite.
Eventually, the Academy and film studios recovered from this carpet bomb attack with a promise to increase diversity within the award show next year.
This prominent effort to make change is proof that more members of society are realizing that understanding a culture, instead of just turning it into a fashion statement or a best seller, leads to better cooperation between ethnic groups.
Junior Brandi Galindo said, “Understanding a culture is one thing, and appropriating it is another.”
Plenty of people of color have taken to social media to explain that they welcome the chance to educate outsiders about their cultures and religions. They have explained that teaching people about their ethnic backgrounds is the first step to eliminating prejudice.
They are shouting from rooftops their desire to be accurately represented and seen as different, but equal in society. First, however, society must shout back.
What part will you play in closing the gap between cultures? Will you begin the change?