Cultural Appropriation and Awkward Conversations

In my AP Lang class, we were given the option to pick any topic we wanted and prepare a speech/presentation centered on it. TED Talk style, and if you don’t know what a TED talk is, think of it as an opportunity for people of different backgrounds and professions to give information about subjects important to them. There’s more to it than that, but just bear with me.

Anyway, I struggled to come up with a viable topic until I eventually decided to do my presentation on cultural appropriation. My school is predominantly white and I’m one of three black people in my AP Lang class which is a high number for most classes at my school.

So with my topic chosen, I set out to research and learn as much as I could. In other words, venture out past twitter for more information.

Here’s my speech down below.(There is weird spacing and directions that I used as a guide while presenting)


It’s no secret that America is a giant melting pot. We have people from all over the world coming here to start over, to live out their dreams, whatever. And it’s always been this way,most people came by choice, while others were forced. Either way, they’re here.


When people come over they bring suitcases, maybe a little money, sometimes a relative. But these are just the tangible things that they can bring. Each person also brings something that is part of their identity. This is their culture.


Culture is defined as the customs,social norms and behaviors associated with a specific group of people or a nation. Dancing, food, music, art, clothing- these are all unique to every culture.


When different groups of people begin to mix and mingle, these other traditions and mannerisms are new and exciting. People take interest and people borrow, which is only natural when we encounter different types of people and different traditions everyday. But the line between appreciation and appropriation is thin, and because many people don’t really understand what this means, it is a line that is constantly being crossed. The textbook definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. But the textbook definition does not encapsulate the whole of the argument. There are so many lines and complications that make defining cultural appropriation difficult. There are hundreds of debates on social media about this topic everyday because no one can say exactly what it is and what it isn’t. Who is guilty of it and who is not, it’s a difficult topic to discuss but it has to be discussed.


We see it music videos(picture)

We see it in fashion(picture)


Most people don’t even realize that wearing traditional garments of another culture can be offensive because we just assume that it’s okay. I realize that not every person who puts on a Sari for fun is doing so because of a lack of respect for indian culture. They don’t recognize that some of these traditions may have meanings or implications which can be very important to these specific groups.Whether it’s speaking ebonics in a rap song with forbidden words that haven’t been an accepted part of the english language since the 50’s or wearing bindis at musical festival because it’s boho without realizing the cultural meaning behind it. You can celebrate and appreciate someone’s culture without abusing or disrespecting it and the issue is finding a common ground between those things.


Culture is not a costume, it’s not something that should be worn or done because it is fun. Especially when groups are oppressed or harassed for expressing their culture. Black women are sometimes denied jobs or are deemed “ghetto” for wearing their hair in a certain style,but a white woman wearing the same style is often praised and considered edgy for doing so. We all know the example of Zendaya Coleman being ridiculed for wearing faux locs at the Oscars while Kylie Jenner was praised for repeatedly posting photos with cornrows on her instagram page.

I felt like having this talk was important because it brought up points in a conversation that we simply were not having that I felt like we should be. It’s difficult as a society to move on from our mistakes or even learn from them if some of us try to ignore them or fail to acknowledge that they even exist.


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