Actually educate yourself about the issues. You are perfectly capable of educating yourself, it is your own responsibility, so do so, and don’t assume that you are already an expert. Keep up with current events involving the issues and don’t be afraid to ask questions, although be aware of how you ask them.
Show your support through action. Attend events or volunteer for events or help organize them or anything. Just be involved. Don’t be all talk.
Actively challenge stereotypes that people may have about different groups, including derogatory remarks and jokes. Remember that your silence condones and reinforces injustice. Confront oppressive statements and structures as well as the assumptions behind them.
Examine the effect different identities and experiences have on people’s lives and development. Identify how race, religion, class and ability intersect with sexual orientation, sex and gender identity, and how multiple identities shape our lives. Don’t conflate different experiences of oppression. Remember that being targeted in one area does not mean that you know what it is like to be targeted in another area.
Respect how people choose to identify themselves. In terms of name, identity and pronouns. If you don’t know how to identify a particular person, it’s ok to ask what they prefer in a respectful manner.
DON’T TOKENIZE OR PATRONIZE individuals from different groups. Don’t ask or assume one member of a particular group to speak for all people in that group.
Don’t speak for a group, even if you are in it, and especially if you are not. Speak from your own experiences only. It’s ok to say if you don’t know the answer to something. Having a friend in a particular group is not “proof” that you are an ally, and does not make you an expert on those experiences. “But my best friend is black/gay/etc.etc.etc.” No. Stop that.
DON’T SPEAK FOR A GROUP - help make room so they can speak for themselves. Offer your support, listen to what they want, need, and are trying to do, and help them do it. Never assume that you know what’s best for a group that you are not a part of.
Expect to make mistakes. We all do. Learn from them and keep trying.
Accept your status in a privileged group, even as an ally. By standing up for groups that you’re not a part of that oppressed group and experiencing institutional oppression. Trying to downplay your privileges, or feeling guilty for them, won’t help anyone. Instead, accept your privilege and use it to help provide a voice and social power for people who might otherwise not have an access to those things.
Prepare yourself for a journey of change and growth that will come from learning to be an ally. This can be a painful and enlightening process that will help you know yourself better. However, it can be hard to acknowledge both areas where you are oppressed and areas where you hold privilege. Be open to criticism.
Confront your own fears, memories and bad feelings about members of a particular group. Recall and release those feelings, therefore diminishing their hold on you. Examine and be aware of your own baggage. Challenge the biases, prejudices, and stereotypes that you learned from society.
Don’t assume that you know what a particular group is about. Don’t assume that all members are the same or that there is only one way to be a member of that group. Acknowledge and celebrate diversity within communities. Each person is an expert on their own experiences. Treat everyone with respect and as individuals.
Encourage and allow disagreement. Issues about any oppressed group are often highly charged an confusing. If there isn’t some disagreement, it probably means that people are tuned out or hiding their real feelings. Keep disagreements and discussion focused on principles and issues rather than on individual people, and keep disagreement respectful.
And above all else, listen. learn. respect. and help others to do the same, in order for everyone to understand and appreciate each other for all their unique qualities that are a part of who they are.
A white girl wore a bindi at Coachella. And, then my social media feeds went berserk. Hashtagging the term “cultural appropriation” follows the outrage and seems to justify it at the same time. Except that it doesn’t.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of a specific part of one culture by another cultural group. As I (an Indian) sit here, eating my sushi dinner (Japanese) and drinking tea (Chinese), wearing denim jeans (American), and overhearing Brahm’s Lullaby (German) from the baby’s room, I can’t help but think what’s the big deal?
The big deal with cultural appropriation is when the new adoption is void of the significance that it was supposed to have — it strips the religious, historical and cultural context of something and makes it mass-marketable. That’s pretty offensive. The truth is, I wouldn’t be on this side of the debate if we were talking about Native American headdresses, or tattoos of Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters or Celtic bands.
Why shouldn’t the bindi warrant the same kind of response as the other cultural symbols I’ve listed, you ask? Because most South Asians won’t be able to tell you the religious significance of a bindi. Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain it’s history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.
We can’t accuse non-Hindus of turning the bindi into a fashion accessory with little religious meaning because, well, we’ve already done that. We did it long before Vanessa Hudgens in Coachella 2014, long before Selena Gomez at the MTV Awards in 2013, and even before Gwen Stefani in the mid-90s.
Indian statesman Rajan Zed justifies the opposing view as he explains, “[The bindi] is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory…” If us Indians had preserved the sanctity and holiness of the bindi, Zed’s argument for cultural appropriation would have been airtight. But, the reality is, we haven’t.
The 5,000 year old tradition of adorning my forehead with kumkum just doesn’t seem to align with the current bindi collection in my dresser — the 10-pack, crystal-encrusted, multi-colored stick-on bindis that have been designed to perfectly compliment my outfit. I didn’t happen to pick up these modern-day bindis at a hyper-hipster spot near my new home in California. No. This lot was brought from the motherland itself.
And, that’s just it. Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamor that is inherent in Bollywood. I don’t recall an uproar when Indian actress Madhuri Dixit’s bindi was no longer a traditional one. Hindus accepted the evolution of this cultural symbol then. And, as the bindi makes it’s way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol. Not only has it managed to transcend religion and class in a sea of one-billion brown faces, it will now adorn the faces of many more races. And that’s nothing short of amazing.
So, you won’t find this Hindu posting a flaming tweet accusing a white girl of #culturalappropriation. I will say that I’m glad you find this aspect of my culture beautiful. I do too.
Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Culture Appropriation
student:yes, also colloquial irregularities occur frequently in any language and since you and the rest of our present company understood my intended meaning, being particular about the distinctions between "can" and "may" is purely pedantic and arguably pretentious