by William Kerrigan
If you have ever seen a Caucasian person with dreads or an African-American with a Chinese tattoo, they have probably been labeled as a culture vulture by the communities that have made those specific things relevant.
A culture vulture is a person who adopts something from a different community and makes it their own.
I, as a White person living in the United States, enjoy some of the things that the African-American community has given to this country.
Rap music, for example, originated in the Black community.
I personally really enjoy rap music — no, not just Eminem — but others like 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G and the group N.W.A. I’ve memorized probably more lyrics than any one person should.
I don’t plan to stop listening to this type of music, even if someone tells me that it isn’t for me because I’m White. This is not where the issues come from, though.
An article on afropunk.com states that “Black people cannot be guilty of cultural appropriation. Period.”
The article goes into detail on how NBA basketball player Jeremey Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, decided to grow out his hair and put into dreadlocks like some of his counterparts in the league.
Lin was then called out by another NBA player named Kenyon Martin saying he was confused about why Lin’s teammates and coaches would allow this “foolishness.”
Lin responded by saying, “I appreciate that I have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos on your arm,” which highlighted the double standard that Martin was taking part in.
This article goes on about how African-Americans can do whatever they want when it comes to taking from other cultures and everyone else cannot, which is extremely biased and has no real credibility.
“But Black people adopting staples of another culture is not the same thing as other people adopting Black cultural symbols at all. And by conflating what Black people do with appropriation, we easily slide into the common ways we make Black people deserving of the violence against them.”
I think that we live in a sensitive time for every community in this country. But if I want to dress a certain way, style my hair a certain way or listen to a certain type of music, I should be able to do that without labels being placed on me.
It is not like I am disrespecting the culture that provided this style. I have nothing but love for everyone of every color from every nation.
Just because I was born White does not mean I automatically have to be labeled a culture vulture. If I respect the culture, then I should be able to do whatever makes me happy.
The only time someone should be labeled a culture vulture is if they are intentionally making fun of or mocking the community. Then, by all means, call them what they are. But if that isn’t the case, then let them live their lives the way they want to.
by Kiara Brown
If you’re searching for validation in the term “culture vulture,” congrats, you’ve found it.
This term applies to someone who essentially takes something from a culture outside of their own and markets it as an original idea with a lack of respect and attribution to the origin of that trend. It’s synonymous with cultural appropriation, but it is not to be confused with the event in which someone invites you into their space or an aspect of their culture.
Of course, just like your favorite seasonal Starbucks drink, it’s only for a limited time. All good things must come to an end.
Cultural appropriation is something that according to the Black online magazine, The Root, is also referred to as ‘Columbusing’ which is “the dominant culture taking from the minority culture.”
Writer Felice Leon says, “We can’t help but wonder: ‘What will be stolen next.”
And what things do people of color choose to share? Rap music is no longer exclusive to its Black creators, we have opened the doors to other aspiring artists to bring their take to this genre of music.
So no, if you’re White, you don’t have to just listen to the late Mac Miller, Macklemore or Eminem — a.k.a everyone’s favorite go-to defense. He broke the barrier of race by penetrating a predominantly Black industry. We know. We let him in.
Everyone is aware of rap origins. Rap is still very much a “Black thing” in the sense that it has maintained its status in the culture that it has originated from, and no other race tries to take credit for creating rap music, hip hop, etcetera.
In other words, pay your respects and enjoy. Write some bars, and I wish you the best in your lyricism and rap endeavors.
An issue that still exists is people using Black culture to boost their career, create a platform and then disregard it.
Prime example: Justin Timberlake and “getting back to his roots.” Timberlake based all of his career, up until his latest album, on R&B and hip-hop music. Now that he’s reached a comfortable level of celebrity, he claims to be reaching back into his origins, which were actually based on Black culture and imitation cornrows.
But what if you take something out of a culture and still pay respects to it?
If those people are saying that they are offended, it doesn’t matter. It’s difficult to dictate what is and what isn’t deemed respectful when that trend, that clothing print or that face paint doesn’t come from your race.
You don’t get to say, “I want to do it, so it should be allowed.”
Bottom line: It’s not your culture and not your decision to make.
Hurt feelings come from those whose culture is not at risk for threats of cultural appropriation. I have zero sympathy for you and your failures in culture vulture-ing. I don’t care if you have a half-Black child, a Black friend who gives you an OK on all things Black, a Black sibling or a black Labrador Retriever.
If a group of people is collectively telling you not to do it, guess what? You probably shouldn’t do it. Can Black people appropriate culture? Take a second to really think about that question.
Due to kidnapping, rape, colonization and all things anti-black, Black people have forcibly become immersed in other cultures. Black people span the edges of the earth and have roots other than African, which some fail to realize.
Someone Black would have to go out of their way to appropriate culture, but even then it’s basically impossible because our existence has undeniably infiltrated traditions outside of our own.
Let’s note that if someone Black appropriates another culture, that’s not an excuse for you to do the same. Your Kardashian boxer braids are still in fact cornrows, those mini buns are Bantu knots, our Dashiki’s are not costumes and dreads do not fit the job description of all rappers.