Speaking of cultural appropriation.

I like to think I’m pretty woke. I majored in Anthropology, I grew up in the GTA. Toronto is allegedly THE most multicultural city in the world, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

I love that I can jump on the subway and resurface in a neighbourhood full of authentic culture from almost any part of the globe. Learning and experiencing different ways of living is eye-opening, inspiring, humbling and fascinating. It’s good for both parties – the learner expands their world view, and the teacher reconnects with their own customs.

For me, this is cultural appropriation. This is commercializing culture, and taking it out of context. It’s turning aboriginal symbols and dress into a farce in the name of branding. Not cool.

But like, dreads? Justin Bieber, for example, took so much heat for having his hair in dreads last year. People cried ‘cultural appropriation’ and accused him of trying to be black. I don’t think that’s fair, and I think it negates legitimate cases of cultural appropriation. Trying out a style is not a hateful act, and Justin Bieber is not turning a profit based on the exploitation of dreadlocks. Interestingly, dreadlocks are traced back to Hindus in Asia, long before they were embraced by black culture.

What about yoga? Sushi? Fucking denim, for christ’s sake. Should we all stop wearing jeans because they originate in France? Jeans were invented for labourers, factory workers wore denim because it was tough and durable. Now designer jeans sell for thousands of dollars. Is that appropriating ‘working-class culture’? Is it appropriating French culture?

I think we should encourage curiosity, exploration and experimentation. Culture is made to be shared.


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