The Difference Between Cultural Appropriation and Appreciation Is Tricky. Here’s a Primer.


Susan Scafidi was quoted in a Huffington Post article about cultural appropriation.

As Fordham University law Professor Susan Scafidi told Jezebel in 2012, appropriation is “most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

To expand on Scafidi’s point, look at Kim Kardashian’s recent “Bo Derek braids” controversy. Kardashian, who is inarguably privileged, posted an image of herself wearing cornrows, crediting Derek as her inspiration. But cornrows, a hairstyle very much associated with black culture, have a complicated history that goes back further than Derek.

As Manigault-Bryant pointed out, Kardashian wearing braids “becomes a kind of symbol of beauty in some ways.” But black students have been punished for wearing similar hairstyles. That double standard, she said, “complicates the idea of appropriation.”

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