This 2015 video from MTV News weekly series Decoded features Franchesca Ramsey breaking down 7 myths about cultural appropriation, or where dominant groups “borrow” or capitalize upon cultural practices or expressions from marginalized groups who are not similarly celebrated, but rather face oppression or are stigmatized for their cultural practices and expressions. An example she uses is how cornrows and other natural Black hairstyles become “edgy” and “cool” when White celebrities don them, whereas Black women and men have a long history of styling their hair in cornrows, locks, and braids, and are often penalized in schools and workplaces for wearing their hair in these natural styles. Franchesca also goes on to discuss the lines between cultural appreciation, exchange, and appropriation and addresses common points of contention around critiques of cultural appropriation, including, 1) You’re just looking for something to be offended by. It’s just clothing, hairstyles, decorations, whatever…Don’t you have something better to worry about?, 2) I’m just showing appreciation for the culture, 3) I don’t find it offensive, and I asked someone from that culture and they said it was ok, 4) Fashion, art, film, music always borrows from other sources. It doesn’t hurt anybody, 5) You’re just trying to tell everyone what to think, 6) So because I’m white, I’m automatically racist?, and 7) If Chinese people wear blue jeans, aren’t they appropriating my culture? Or what about Black girls wearing blond weaves? Or how about speaking English? After discussing the differences between assimilation and appropriation, she ends the video discussing potential avenues for cultural appreciation and exchange.
This 2015 video from Quartz challenges the idea that cultural appropriation is always negative, with a particular focus on the fashion industry. It features Oskar Metsavaht, a Brazilian fashion designer, who works with the indigenous Ashaninka tribe on a “co-branded collaboration.” The video begins by asking if this is an inspired or exploitative practice, reviewing the various ways cultural appropriation has entered discourse about popular culture. It then argues that Metsavaht offers a positive model for cultural appropriation as an “artist” as opposed to a “cultural tourist.” Metsavaht says the tribe gives him inspiration for his designs, and in exchange he tries to distribute their message regarding environmental concerns as well as royalties.
Representing the interests of American Indian and Alaska Native people, seven elected tribal leaders from the National Congress of American Indians speak out against the professional football team from Washington D.C. using the derogatory slur “Redskins” as a team name and mascot.
This video was created by AJ+, a digital news, politics, and current events channel by Al Jazeera Media Network, and features a range of Native Americans from different tribes talking about their thoughts on “illegal” immigration, which in 2015, has once again dominated the U.S. election season. At the beginning of the video, text is shown stating, “The current national debate on illegal immigration has left out the voices of the people who are native to this land – voices that challenge who exactly is ‘illegal.’” The Native Americans talk about how they dislike the word “illegal,” how they feel invisible, forgotten, and unrepresented, and one woman says, “I don’t think people realize that the first illegal immigrants were European settlers.” Similarly, another woman says that, “if we’re going to talk about illegal immigration, we need to go back in the last 350-500 years ago, of starting with Plymouth Rock and who had permission to come over to our lands.” In another section of the video, the women and men talk about national and state borders, how they impact their families, traditions, and ways of life, and what it would mean to certain tribes that would be split if these artificial boundaries were imposed on them. The video closes with the message that many Native Americans and indigenous people relate to land and the earth as “belonging” to no one, because people are seen not as owners, but as stewards of the land.
“Proud to Be” is a video that challenges stereotypic and derogatory representations of Native peoples by presenting diverse and empowering portrayals of Native tribes and communities. The video is part of Change the Mascot, a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur “Redskins” as the team name and mascot for the professional football team in Washington, D.C.