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West Torrance High School

Op-Ed: Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation

On the very few times I scroll through Twitter, I am dumbfounded at what people get mad at. It is all empty anger that creates no action or change. When I scrolled into the recent “Civil War of Twitter,” I had no idea what to expect. What I found was possibly the most toxic and hateful attack against a high school girl at prom. What? That is who we are mad at? A teenager in a dress?

This “controversy” began when a white girl decided to wear a Qipao, a traditional Chinese dress to her prom. She did not imitate, humiliate or attack Chinese culture at all. With no malicious intent in her heart she wanted to look good and in her eyes this dress was perfect. After she posted pictures of her dressed in the dress, Twitter immediately pounced with a certain shameful troll commenting “My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress.”

But my fellow Chinaman, it was never your culture in the first place. A culture isn’t a locked safe that one can own. OUR customs, OUR people, and OUR culture is OURS to share. By segregating ourselves from others, what kind of message are we sending?

Historically from as far back as 1882 and the Chinese Exclusion Act, we have been an unwanted piece of American history but within the last 70+ years we have grown and been accepted into society.  We have no place as people or a culture to exclude people of any race or creed from appreciating our culture.

As a Chinese human being, I would take pride in knowing someone without any ties to my country would appreciate the beauty of its art and traditions. An argument of cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation isn’t valid. Sure, she is wearing a dress that isn’t usually worn by white women, but to call a bold fashion choice cultural appreciation is on par with attacking me because I listen to BrockHampton.

At the end of the day, anyone who attacked this girl is blind to the acceptance, the family, and the love that is Chinese culture and can catch me (and my hands) prom 2019 wearing her same dress.

2 Comments

  • Reply Stephanie Kiang May 11, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this article!! It was very well-written!

    Like

  • Reply Richard Coca May 12, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    I don’t think cultural appropriation should be seen as “heyyyy you can’t wear that”

    instead, it should be framed as “why do some people get bullied / harassed / denied professional positions for their culture / natural looks but when others copy it, it adds to their social capital

    Like

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