But the truth is that cultural appropriation is indefensible. Those who defend it either don’t understand what it is, misrepresent it to muddy the conversation, or ignore its complexity — discarding any nuances and making it easy to dismiss both appropriation and those who object to it.
Cultural Appropriation is just that, when one culture appropriates elements of another culture. Mythology and folklore certainly count. … One of the threats of cultural appropriation comes with modifying the original source, often a simplification of the ideas present in the original culture.
If you’re white, learn more about anti-racist work and white privilege and do your best to be an ally to marginalized peoples. Do some research into what indigenous tribes are (or were) in your area, and figure out how to connect with living representatives of them, and how to appropriately honor both the lives and the spirits of Native elders in your area. Do some research into your own ancestry and figure out how to begin connecting with those traditions.
Cultural appropriation is more than the continuation of the colonializing process and racist behavior. By appropriating customs and practices from a marginalized racial group, it is a tool of white supremacy and genocide. There is a fine and confusing line in this behavior and can reinvent itself in many ways.
Cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group. That’s why it is not the same as cultural exchange, when people share mutually with each other.
The Improved Order of Red Men is an organization of white people whose rituals and regalia are modeled after those assumed by white men to be Native American. Despite the name, the order was formed solely by, and for, white people. Membership was about half a million in 1935, but has declined to a little more than 15,000 today.