Synthesizing the Appropriation of Sensitive Cultures and the Effects Stereotyping has on Identity America loves appropriating African-American culture -even when black people don’t get that same love reciprocated. This appropriation is seen many times in pop culture, schools, and the media. In the passage, “Appropriating Native American Imagery Honors No One but the Prejudice” by Amy Stretton, she emphasizes that racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals do not honor a living breathing people.
Similar to black culture, Native American culture is often appropriated through the use of mascots and offensive naming of sports teams. The following passage depicts the negative effects that stereotyping can have on a person’s identity. The author of “An Introduction: At the Root of Identity” -Claude M. Steele describes the effects that stereotype threat has on a person’s sense of self and actions.
Whereas several critics today -such as Amy Stretton and Claude M. Steele -recognize the damage caused by Native American mascots, and culture appropriation effects on identity, a similar argument could be made about the appropriation of black culture. Essentially, Stretton’s argument challenges me to understand how Native mascots are harmful to Americans who are not Native. I understand how insensitive and disrespectful these mascots are to Native Americans, but I never thought about how they are harmful to regular Americans. Stretton claims that the stereotypical images of American Indian mascots had a negative effect on all students.
According to the American Psychology Association, American Indian Mascots “undermine the educational experiences of members of all communities -especially those who have little or no contact with Indigenous peoples” (524). By including this quote from APA, Stretton urges us to consider the negative effects that stereotyping has on both American Indian and American students. The author advocates that these mascots promote ignorance towards Indigenous people and bullying within the school-house.
I happen to sympathize with Stretton, though, perhaps because my culture is also a constant victim of appropriation. As an African-American female, it is easy to be upset by today’s culturally appropriated runways, workplaces, online shopping stores and even schools. For years, AfricanAmericans have been racially targeted by the police and store clerks for having their hair in braids and dreadlocks (a common cultural hairstyle symbolizing power and pride), while different color models and celebrities wear them religiously on the runway and to market their merchandise.
These certain styles that make people uncomfortable are the same styles that are glorified in the media as opposed to when those who are indigenous to the culture wear them. Personally, I am not offended by different color people wearing the hairstyles per say, but I am offended by the profiling of African-Americans for wearing these style when they walk into these stores that use their culture to market their merchandise. With that being said, I can understand the outrage behind American Indian mascots.
American Indians were exploited by Europeans and nearly exterminated from death and disease, so it is rude -and indescribably ignorant to force a sports mascot onto a group of people have already suffered enough from the inconsideration that Americans have already bestowed upon them. Claude M. Steele notes an identity contingency where he believes a standard predicament of life is a stereotype threat. Stereotype threat derives from the human awareness of another group’s attitude and feeling towards the other. Steele describes how stereotype threats extend far beyond one race and one group of people.
These threats can also be found in Native American and African-American culture. Seeing your cultural hairstyles and clothing portrayed in the media as urban and trendy is one thing, but when an African-American person is afraid to wear their braids or their dashikis to school and are made fun of or racially targeted by law enforcement by practicing their traditions -it can become problematic. Being one of two white students in an African-American political science class composed of mainly African-Americans, and being afraid to speak out in class to avoid being seen as ignorant and racially insensitive is also a stereotype threat.
As well as a black male aking a different route down a street to avoid the crowd to spare them fear is also stereotype threat. Stereotypes affect all people in some way or form. Stereotype threat is very real and is integrated into each of our identities. Steele concludes that people will perform differently when they are under the pressure of being stereotyped. Their performance will reflect negatively as their sense of self is literally being threatened.
This can be seen in the Princeton golf study where white students performed poorly after being told that their “natural athletic ability” in golf would be measured, and in black students who performed poorly after being told that their “sports strategic intelligence” would be measured. Both groups of people would perform poorly when faced with a stereotype that negatively impacts their sense of self and being. More importantly, and most unfortunately, this is also seen in education. When a black student is under the pressure of being negatively stereotyped it takes a toll on their identity and their place in society.
These identity contingencies become problematic and can interfere with students’ ability to learn when they are threatened with these stereotypes. Also seen with native American mascots, students who felt offended by these mascots did not feel comfortable in school. These students did not feel comfortable in school because they felt as if their culture was being burlesqued, just like how black culture is appropriated in the media. From dreadlocks to durags, “America has taken black traditions and used them for their own gain by failing to give proper credit, ignoring historical context or blatantly erpetuating stereotypes” (Omowamide).
A 2013 Chanel fashion show came into question after dressing their models in “urban tie caps,” which all too closely resembled a headwear typically worn by the black community to create waves. Renaming a durag to an urban tie cap is not appreciating black culture, but stripping it of its meaning and stealing the idea to make a profit. When these high-fashion companies set the bar for the latest fashion trends, it’s like a slap in the face to the people who have been wearing these hair pieces.
People who typically keep track of the new releases will buy into the product for an inflated price, and pretty soon everyone will be walking around in “urban tie caps. ” It is unacceptable because these corporations have the resources to know better. They spend millions of dollars marketing and researching the market to know that they are copying something that has already been made. It resembles a deliberate disregard to black culture and an urge to profit from African-American ideas. Some might disagree that one’s culture is being appropriated, and is rather being appreciated.
It may be seen as expressing a common interest in that culture that is being mimicked, but this unintentional appropriation is not right. The person who is committing the act may not be intentionally appropriating one’s culture to adopt as its own, but to show its common interest in that culture. However, it is still not suitable to do so and here’s why: “A white man decides to grow dreadlocks, with preconceived information about the value of growing this popular black hairstyle and the symbolism it represents.
He wears them, without undergoing the several obstacles that a black man with locks will deal with. He is not called a thug, he is not looked at as if he sells drugs, he will not be told that he looks like he smells like “weed and patchouli”, but he may very well might fit all of those described” (Omowamide). It is the African-American man with dreadlocks who will suffer those stereotypes because of his color. The white man will not have to endure the stereotype and negative assumptions that come with a black man wearing this hairstyle.
A white male will not have to fear for his life after being pulled over on a routine traffic stop because he was profiled based off of his culture. It is a given that you can appreciate a culture without making a mockery of what that culture stands for. Because when it comes down to the basics of everything, a white person wearing dreads will not be treated the same and profiled in a way that members of the “appreciated” culture will be. As the world is constantly expanding and diversifying, it is principle to acknowledge everyone’s culture.
Although, it is also important to be aware of the extent in which you evince your own depiction of that culture. It remains salient to exchange cultural traditions and ideas, but it is even more critical not to neglect the origin of these traditions. To pass another culture off as your own is not appreciation and is a mockery of someone else’s heritage. Moreover, it is vital to stay alert in how you reflect on another persons culture and know the background and hardships that the person may have to experience as a result of expressing their own culture.
Essentially, attention must be paid to the identity contingencies that have been engraved into society as they can have a negative effect on a persons’ sense of self. I urge you not to be ignorant to what you do when you are participating in another culture. Do not pass these cultural traditions off as new “trends,” “school mascots,” or “styles” because it is offensive to those who have been part of that culture for longer than you have appreciated it and takes a toll on the identities of the members of that culture.