Content warning for descriptions of racism.
Cultural appropriation, a term that originated in late twentieth century postcolonial studies, has gotten more and more popular attention in recent years and is often misunderstood. It its core, it describes a process through which members of a culture or identity adopt elements of another culture or identity. While it’s a neutral term that simply describes a phenomenon or behaviour, it is often considered harmful when members of a culture takes on aspects of a culture that has been oppressed by that group.
In these cases, the people who appropriate may get cultural or economic capital – such as admiration, money, or artistic inspiration – from it, while the appropriated culture gets mistreated for doing the exact same thing. A common example is the appropriation of black hairstyles by white people. Cultural appropriation may therefore lead to cultures being exploited, misrepresented and erased.