Cultural Appropriation Elevated by Social Media

Thoughts of Alexia Platenburg

Cul-tur-al ap-pro-pri-a-tion.

Say it with me now, cultural appropriation.

Something that is done on a daily basis but does anyone acknowledge his or her participation?

For those of you who don’t know or are not familiar with the term cultural appropriation, let me explain as to not loose you in following text.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption/theft of elements from within one culture by members of a dissimilar cultural group. Essentially the misappropriation of a culture by one dominant group against a non-dominant group.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear why I view this as a problem and what it has to do with social media. Unfortunately, the very pros of social media and its increase in millions of people’s online presence also prove as a con.

The use of social media has purged cultural appropriation to the forefront of society, where you can see the adoption of valuable culture norms being used as a trend.

One of the major issues with cultural appropriation is not the adoption of cultural features, but the acceptance of said cultural implementations in to more dominant cultures while demeaning and devaluing the non-dominant group for said same features.

The reason I bring this up and find it important to speak on is due to the massive impact social media has had on the communicative nature of members from these groups and the growing acceptance of cultural burglary through social media channels.

Some may have stumbled upon hashtags that represent social issues within ethnic communities that have been in turn redirected or minimalized its purpose.

For example, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first saw inception after the August shooting of unarmed African-American teen, Michael Brown.

A hashtag that continued to be used to bring about awareness of the additional forty slayings by police officers since late 2014.

Now you may ask, how does this apply to #BlackLivesMatter.

Shortly after the hashtag picked up speed and national media attention, a new hashtag came to life: #AllLivesMatter.

Outraged Twitter user expresses his disappointment in the alteration to the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

The simple use of a hashtag creation to bring together a smaller community and unite under a common cause had in turn been debased by the latter message.

Unfortunately for some, social media distorted the message behind #BlackLivesMatter resulting in a burying of purpose, meaning and progress for its creators.

P.S. I will continue to explore cultural appropriation in my next blog and the impact social media has played in its evolution.