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.
What is cultural appropriation? How does cultural appropriation differ from cultural exchange and cultural appreciation? Do you agree with the ways in which these terms are defined in this video? Why or why not? Why does talking about cultural appropriation matter?
What popular culture examples does Franchesca Ramsey use in this video? Can you think of other examples of cultural appropriation in popular culture?
What 7 myths and common discussions about cultural appropriation does she address? Do you think she convincingly addresses each point? Why or why not?
Who do you think is the intended audience of this video?
What argument is made about when it is ok to participate in cultural expressions or practices that are different than your own? Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?
How do stereotypes and costumes relate to cultural appropriation? Is it possible to “dress up” in ways that show respect, acknowledgement, and a social and historical understanding of the culture you are referencing? Why does awareness of your own identity and social position matter?