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BSU Discusses Appropriation vs. Appreciation

On Tuesday, October 31 the BSU held a discussion on cultural appropriation in WSC 111.

It opened with Samantha Tingue ’18, leading a brief discussion on the meaning of cultural appropriation, as the majority of those who attended already understood its meaning. Cultural appropriation is misusing any elements from another’s culture, and abusing its intended meaning for pleasure or common use.

Tingue then went on to play a video from MTV News’ Decoded. In the video, Franchesca Ramsey talked about the seven common misconceptions people have about cultural appropriation.

One of those common misconceptions include the idea that, if someone from another culture wears jeans or has straight hair, they are also appropriating. However, that is not appropriation but assimilation.

According to Ramsey, these two terms are not the same.

“Marginalized people conforming to standards set by dominant, or in this case, Western cultures, is often a means of survival,” says Ramsey. “When your cultural heritage is looked down on, often people change or hide things about themselves in order to be accepted by majority culture.”

Ramsey also pointed out instances where schools have punished students for speaking indigenous languages. This means that people are being forced to conform or assimilate.

In a more recent example, twin students Deanna and Maya Cook from Mystic Valley Regional, received multiple detentions and potential suspension from wearing their box braids. This shows that men and women of color do not appropriate jeans or straight hair due to the pressure to assimilate.

Ramsey’s video sparked a larger discussion among the group, along with how appropriation has affected their own lives. Shayane Dalencourt-Simon ’20, started by talking about the appropriation of black hairstyles.

She said it was not okay for people who are non-black to wear hairstyles such as cornrows or box braids, when Blacks or African Americans are punished for wearing those same styles.

In reference to Ramsay’s video and the issues surrounding the scrutiny of black hairstyles in institutions, Simon said, “So, policing black hairstyles when other people are allowed to wear them is counterintuitive because black girls can’t even be black.”

The next topic for discussion was using microaggressions in conversations. Tingue recalled the times people have changed their tone of voice or choice of words, in an attempt to speak the way many African Americans are stereotyped as speaking.

“I know they don’t talk like that with all their friends. It’s kind of like code-switching,” she stated.

“There’s a representation of how black people talk. It’s like knowing a few words in Spanish and being able to repeat that over. It’s more along the lines of racism,” said Mike Sanders ’19.

The last topic discussed was what Halloween costumes counted as problematic. Ashlee Reyes ’20, raised a question by asking if dressing up as certain characters was problematic. As an example she used a child wanting to dress up as Pocahontas.

The group agreed that it was the parents’ decision. However, situations like this could be problematic if the costume had cultural dress.

Overall, BSU hopes for more people to join their open discussions.

Hugmaelle Jean ’20 is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at

Posted by on November 15, 2017. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.