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Cultural Appropriation in Modern Society

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Cultural Appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture from members of a different culture. There are many advantages and disadvantages of cultural appropriation and they vary depending on if you’re having your culture imitated or if you are the one imitating another’s culture. The effects of this vary as well, and it is strongly portrayed in pop culture such as television shows, movies, and social media. The portrayal of cultural appropriation in these different types of media are usually interpreted through language, music, clothing, and general presentation of various groups of people. Because of the use of cultural appropriation in pop culture children learn stereotypes and distinguish differences between different races and cultures. That is one of the many problems with cultural appropriation. Another would be the implied power dynamic of the different cultures. This power dynamic is show when one dominant culture is taking advantage and using an element of the other culture that was once oppressed by the dominant culture. This then leads to a separation of classes of cultures and it assigns certain characteristics or elements of cultures to specific groups of people called stereotypes. With stereotypes comes prejudice against different races and cultures because to participate in cultural appropriation you have to essentially fake a culture and therefore in order to do that you are mimicking aspects of that culture while subconsciously depending on stereotypes to do so. Using a famous quote from the Thomas Theorem to define stereotypes is stated by Mark Jahnchen, “if [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Therefore if people believe what they hear about stereotypes they are likely to act on their beliefs causing hateful actions towards certain groups. This explaining exactly how each genocide and actions that came from discrimination and segregation of races happened. If these are some of the results of cultural appropriation in society, the effects of cultural appropriation in pop culture is on a greater and more intense scale as pop culture and media plays a massive role in all of our lives today. And those effects are influencing how we as individuals see ourselves and others, especially ones of a different descent, in society.

For society today, media is everything. We use different types of media everyday to figure out the weather, what our friends are doing, or just for pure entertainment. However race and different cultures are portrayed through these medias brainwash our society to believe that race is genetic and that certain races have certain characteristics or dispositions. If we just look at the United States population as a whole society the population was and is majorly white, yet as stated by Adalberto Aguirre, Jr., “the percentage of the population of people of other racial and ethnic groups grew in the second half of the twentieth century” (p. 25). Therefore, the white population in the US is still leading but it is not the only color of skin or culture on US soil. As proven in the quote above, once oppressed cultures are now being embraced and we as individuals are obligated to accept these changes as a society. As the world evolves, we should evolve with it. Our media today should be embracing the differences of all cultures yet it is distinguishing the differences amongst the different groups of people by associated connotative meanings to specific characteristics. Making some actions or traits popular for one race to engage in and “too cultural” for its original race to use.

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As E. Gabriella Coleman states, “It would be a mistake to overlook how digital media have cultivated new modes of communication and selfhood; reorganized social perceptions and forms of self-awareness; and established collective interests, institutions, and life projects” (p. 3). Here she is suggesting that the portrayal of race in today’s media is altering our societies cognitives and therefore changing our society’s future. From the use of cultural appropriation in the growing media there has been a newly found field of interest in studying the ethnographics of media and its effects on society. There has even been a new collaborative project in examining the intersection of digital media and the American youth. The study is looking at how the youth has been convinced of erroneous stereotypes that has affected the configuration and dynamic of friendships and relationships, and the youth’s view on publicity and privacy. If the American youth buys the cultural appropriation that the media is selling, the youth will become the American society one day and the nation will lose its authentic aspects.

Ultimately, the mass media is destroying our societies view of itself and our perception of individuals of a different origin. The damage cultural appropriation has done to ourselves is still happening. Through giving into cultural appropriation we have a lost our sense of self for a sense of worth in society.


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