How is a model wearing tribal makeup on Victoria’s Secret runaway less offensive than the Asante gold weights on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London? It’s not. Both instances ridicule a marginalized group of people through appropriation. There is a big difference between celebrating a culture’s rich heritage and ripping off that culture for dollars.
We appropriate a culture when we exploit it for profit, just like when the colonizers looted Native American graves to sell the artifacts in Europe. We are no better than them when we culturally plagiarize marginalized communities for the latest ‘fad’. Culture is stolen either way.
By far, Black women in the US and the UK continue to be one of the most marginalized communities. Black women are continuously penalized for their natural traits. Everything from their hairstyles to fashion has been deemed acceptable on women of no color, such as the Kardashians. However, some brands are focusing on appreciation rather than the appropriation of Black women.
Brands like Joeanna’s Collection (JC) where cultural appreciation is a core value. According to the University of Victory philosophy professor and author of Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, James O. Young, “ full appreciation involves understanding.” Cultural appreciation is when we seek to learn, explore, and understand the cultures we are admiring. It’s when you take yourself out of the predatory position when viewing a marginalized group.
Professor Young states that “If one understands a cultural product, one is unlikely to use it inoffensive or otherwise objectionable way.” JC study and celebrate the rich history and traditions of African waist beads. “For example, one will be less likely to misuse something that is considered sacred if one understands it,” he continues. We share our cultural respect and admiration with our clients through educational sales.
With the unlimited access and influence of other cultures, we must be mindful of how we engage with other communities. JC understands that selling a traditional product, like African waist beads, carries a social responsibility for the seller and the buyer. Being a black woman-owned business also adds to the incentive to continue our cultural appreciation of the African waist beads.