How Does the Public Feel About Cultural Appropriation?

A Survey To Find Out (#5)

With Social media being the main outlet many people use nowadays for information and news, it is a lot easier for people to directly express their opinion, rather than simply making a comment to the person sitting next to them and leave it at that. A lot of stories of cultural appropriation have been popping up left and right, and people do not hesitate to comment their opinion on the matter. A common theme with these comments though is that the people who are angry and/or disagree, are usually the only ones who comment. You often only see the extremes of either side of the argument, but don’t get to see the opinion of the people in the middle. So, in order to gain more knowledge on how the general public feels and thinks about cultural appropriation, I conducted a survey using the popular website, SurveyMonkey.

The Survey consisted of nine multiple choice questions and one free response. I posted the link to my survey on my Facebook page, so anyone I was friends with had the ability to respond. In total, there were 68 responses ranging from ages seventeen to fifty and up.

Demographics

The first few questions acted as identification, asking the respondents’ gender, age, and ethnicity. This was to see how (or if), the opinions differed between age groups, genders, and ethnicities. The majority were either between the ages of 17–20 or 50+, with a few in the middle.

The majority of the respondents were women, being 56 of the 68 (82.35%). Men represented 11 out of the 68 (16.18%) and one identifying with ‘other’ (1.47%).

For ethnicities, I asked them to mark all that apply to them from a list. The majority identified as being White/Caucasian at 89.7%. Meanwhile, 2.94% identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native, 7.35% as Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.88% as Black or African American, and 10.29% as Hispanic or Latino. When I first read the results, I was nervous having one ethnicity dominate so many of the opinions because that did not show as much diversity as I had hoped. That doesn’t change the effectiveness of the opinions though. The U.S is composed of many different kinds of people and cultures, and just because someone identifies with the majority, does not mean that they agree with that majority’s opinion. Therefore, the results are still very telling of how people feel/think.

Concepts/Opinions

The next set of questions were more conceptual and covered the basic principles of cultural appropriation. The first was to see whether or not they simply knew what cultural appropriation is, and if they did they were then asked to define it to the best of their ability. Sixty-seven percent knew what it was and below are some of the responses:

“When (usually white people) take another person’s culture and use it in a way that is offensive to the minority group.”
“Adopting rituals, dress, customs, outside of your own culture usually displaying them as novelty.”
“The adoption of a culture by people not of that culture.”
“The exploitation of another culture for your benefit.”
“To stereotype, generalize, or mock a certain culture”

The official definition of cultural appropriation is “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.” None of the respondents have any expertise with race relations and cultural appropriation but yet the majority knew what it was and knew how to appropriately and clearly define it. That is very telling, because with any controversy, the most important thing to help change the situation is by knowledge. The fact that general public knows what it is is important.

The next questions asked if they believed cultural appropriation exists in the U.S., What races they think fall victim the most to appropriation, and what their reaction is to it. The majority believed it is an issue in the U.S., African-Americans fall victim to it the most, and believed that it is okay to embrace parts of other cultures, as long as you do it respectfully and do not try to take credit for it.

The last section of the previous statement was the most recurring opinion throughout the whole survey. People felt that keeping different cultures separate would do more harm than good by forcing us to only relate with people of our own culture. However it is important that we treat other cultures with respect and don’t try to claim credit for them or treat them as a joke or novelty.

Conclusion

Doing this survey offered a lot of insight on how the American general public feel. Doing a series of post on cultural appropriation, you begin to from your opinion on the issue and have conversations with your friends and family, but this kind of format really helped me understand the issue even that much further and deeper. The consensus determined that cultural appropriation is something that everybody needs to be aware of and that it is very prevalent in today’s society. Many people feel that members of the white culture are insensitive to cultural appropriation because it is not something they really experience, and people of that culture have been shown in a negative light regarding it. Even though it was not my initial intention, this showed that that is simply not the case, and that whites and people of color all have similar opinions/feeling towards it. This then means that we are all a lot more similar than we realize, and that is a powerful thing.