It’s music festival season aka the season of cultural appropriation. For those who have never experienced the embarrassment of being teased for bringing your mom’s homemade aloo parathas to lunch at school, and then seeing the same white girls who made fun of you, wearing bindis for Coachella ten years later, it can be hard to understand cultural appropriation. First of all, let’s get this straight; cultural appropriation is not appreciating a culture’s food, music, dance, clothing, language, etc. Cultural appropriation is when a person steals a culture’s religious or cultural attire without any consideration of what the attire means and the rich history behind it. For example, I used to be teased for bringing “smelly” Indian food to school lunch (news flash, white kids, that’s what flavor smells like) and now I don’t have to scroll too far down on the Instagram explore page to find yet another makeup artist wearing a bindi to Coachella and tagging the picture with #festival #foreheadgem #gypsy. It’s one thing to appreciate something beautiful from another culture and maybe even participate in that in an appropriate situation- like when Angelina Jolie wore a hijab when she visited Pakistan. It’s an entirely different thing to take something from a culture, give yourself credit for it, and completely undermine all of the history and meaning behind it. You can’t just pick and choose what you like and dislike from a culture. You can’t just shame certain parts of a culture and appropriate other parts.
Being conditioned by euro-centric beauty standards to hate one’s own culture/religion disconnects one from their roots and strips them of their history. Then, when people go and use exactly what they had previously shamed others for doing (like the bindi, dark skin, dreads, natural hair, headdresses, etc) and taking the credit for it, it makes one feel robbed. And that’s because cultural appropriation is just that- theft. Theft of culture. Theft of credit. Theft of identity. So, this Coachella/ music festival season, reconsider wearing that Native American headdress, that bindi, those cornrows, and that blackface. Because while you may think that you’re just looking boho chic, you’re actually stealing and undermining cultures.
Post written by guest writer Amal Khateeb