Appreciation vs Appropriation

April 25, 2014

When we borrow cultural items in an uneven system, are we honoring and respecting the culture of origin, or are we misusing the items and offending those that understand their real meaning? This was the subject of discussion on Tuesday, April 8th. Students met over lunch to discuss the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation, and how we can strive to be more sensitive toward other cultures.

IMG_0514Angelica Ibarra, Assistant Dean for Institutional Diversity, led a seminar that brought up numerous examples of appropriation in modern U.S. society, from racist caricatures of Mexican people at sorority parties to the use of Native American headdresses by Victoria’s Secret in fashion shows. She explained how dominant cultures can absorb subservient ones by appropriating symbols of their culture, making them their own and distorting their meaning. This is a difficult issue to tackle, especially in America, which is considered somewhat of a cultural melting pot.

IMG_0520A discussion ensued about the ways in which we tend to take other cultures for granted, and how we can be more sensitive in the future by showing appreciation without appropriation. A couple interesting, informative, and funny videos that were shown to help explain the issues of cultural appropriation, one is listed below:

A class project on cultural appropriation

The seminar was part of OID’s “Through Another Lens” series, which seeks improve our understanding of the perspectives of other races, cultures, and socioeconomic classes.

Article written by: Graham Gordon ’15

For more pictures of the OID Through Another Lens: Appreciation vs Appropriation discussion, like Harvey Mudd College Dean of Students on Facebook.  You can also follow us on Twitter@HMC DOS.