Pieces of other cultures are used in the United States constantly. They are in fashion, music, art and even religion. But how aware of it is the average person? When Urban Outfitters released a “Navajo” clothing line in 2011, they may not have known that it would be offensive to sell shirts, underwear and even accessories such as flasks with the label of the Navajo Nation. But the company was forced to recall the clothing line after they received a less than positive reaction from the Navajo Nation and consumers.
Cultural appropriation is an issue that often goes ignored and the Associated Students Social Issues Resource Center is bringing it to light. Cultural appropriation is when a culture adopts aspects of other cultural groups, such as fashion, language, art or religion. This can lead to using symbols, language or images from those cultures in an offensive or insensitive way — even if a person is not conscious they are doing it.
The SIRC will host “Cultural Appropriation Day” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. on May 16 in Red Square.
The event consists of conversation and passive demonstration, Skillingstead said. Red Square will be covered in posters that depict images of situations that might be considered cultural appropriation, she said. A table will be set up with materials to educate people about the issue and people to have discussions with and answer questions, she said. It is an opportunity for students to have discussions with a SIRC representative and with each other.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness about cultural appropriation as an issue, said Cara Skillingstead, outreach coordinator for SIRC.
“We hope that students will walk away with a new perspective on popular culture and fashion and begin to critically analyze how certain styles, costumes or behaviors may be offensive to other cultures,” she said.
This isn’t to tell people what’s right and wrong, only to start a conversation about cultural appropriation and how students feel about it, she said.
Cultural appropriation has no single definition — it changes for each culture, for each area, and for each person, Skillingstead said.
What may be offensive to one may seem perfectly fine to another, she said.
It affects everyone everywhere, in the fashion, art, costumes, language and media we are exposed to, she said.
“Because we live in [the United States], practically everything is appropriated from some other culture,” she said. “It is important as consumers, students and citizens to be conscious of this and to think about what types of things we are promoting in our everyday lives.”