Someone else’s culture is not your costume

Caitlin Alexander, Co-Editor in Chief

Culture appropriation is when one or a group of people exploit another culture for personal gain or simply because they are ignorant of the culture. This could include wearing hairstyles that are a part of another culture, reinforcing negative stereotypes, and taking credit for one’s culture. You also see cultural appropriation in the media and you may not even notice it. For example, the Kardashians and Jenners. You’ll often see them wearing braids which are a part of African American culture. Culture appropriation is not something to be taken lightly due to the fact that culture is what helped many groups through harder times.

This is also something we see in school festivities almost every year. For example, Tropical Day. It’s a day where you often see people wearing plastic Leis, grass skirts, and “Hawaiian” shirts. In Hawaii, a Lei is a symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor, or greeting. Lei making is a very significant process and for people who are not Hawaiin to go out and buy plastic leis actively disrespects the time and effort that goes into making a lei. When you go to a store and see a Lei they might often only come in flower form. Yet in Hawaiin culture, Lei’s can be made from leaves, seashells, nuts, and feathers. 

Now, let’s talk about the misuse and miseducation of grass skirts. The ones you might see in stores are made from fake plastic grass. While hula skirts in Hawaii are made from Ti Leaves. Ti Leaves are from a plant that is often found in semi-shaded areas in wet valleys. To make a Hawaiian Ti leaf skirt, take 50 Ti leaves and individually tie each of them onto a string. 

Hawaiin culture is often overlooked because of the constant colonization of their practices and rituals. When you don’t experience what a certain group experiences it’s important not to take their culture along with you without educating yourself on it first. If you’re not Hawaiian, respect and appreciate their culture, don’t appropriate it.