From Caucasians sporting cornrows to music festival attendees wearing bindis, cross cultural trends (read: cultural appropriation) are prominent in the United States.
Jenni Avins, a lifestyle reporter at The Atlantic magazine and well versed in cultural appropriation, defines it as people of one culture borrowing trends from another.
“In the 21st century, cultural appropriation — like globalization — isn’t just inevitable; it’s potentially positive,” she said. “We have to stop guarding cultures and subcultures in efforts to preserve them.”
While borrowing culture-specific trends with proper homage to the culture in question may signify increasing diversity, often trends aren’t borrowed so much as stolen without proper tribute given. This practice detracts from ethnic groups.
For example, model Karlie Kloss strutted down the Victoria’s Secret runway in 2012 decorated in a floor-length, traditional Native American headdress and little else. As feathered headdresses are a clear symbol of indigenous culture, Kloss wearing one along with lingerie objectified Native American culture nationwide.
“The headdress is reserved for our revered elders who, through their selflessness and leadership, have earned the right to wear one,” Simon Moya-Smith, member of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota, said. “It’s a spiritual garb, not just cultural; it’s not merely an addition to one’s attire. Wearing one, even an imitation headdress, belittles what our elders have spent a lifetime to earn.”
Similar incidents involving Native American clothing and trends have seen a rise in popular culture under the guise of “celebrating diversity.” However, while the United States may be built upon cross-cultural experiences, it is necessary for the preservation of said diversity to avoid trivializing important traditions and to pay proper homage.