When We Talk About Cultural Appropriation, We’re Missing The Point

The Establishment
The Establishment
Published in
6 min readFeb 9, 2016

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By Ijeoma Oluo

Lead image credit: Alannah Giannino

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting on a panel discussing a play I’d seen the week before. The play, Disgraced, is a very interesting and extraordinarily problematic piece dealing with race, religion, and gender. Sitting onstage in front of a majority white Seattle audience, there was so much we could have been discussing on that panel.

But we were discussing cultural appropriation. Only cultural appropriation.

See, in addition to everything else going on in the play, one of the lead characters, a white woman, happened to be an artist who was “fascinated” with Islamic religious art and had adopted a lot of the imagery into her work. So in a play filled with horrific assumptions on race and religion as well as gratuitous violence against women — we were focused on this woman’s preoccupation with Islamic art.

What a waste of time for everyone involved. What a lost opportunity.

I say this not because I think that cultural appropriation isn’t real — it’s very real. I say this not because cultural appropriation isn’t harmful — it’s very harmful. I say this not because I don’t think that people who appropriate the culture of those less privileged and refuse to stop when confronted with this fact aren’t assholes — they…

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The Establishment
The Establishment

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