How Cultural Practices are Becoming Whitewashed Trends

Neith Pereira reports on appropriated cultural practices on social media that are gaining a lot of attention and stirring up a debate. These now include manifestation, which has its roots in certain spiritual beliefs, as a way to achieve your goals, and is now trending on TikTok.

The Manifestation Trend on TikTok

TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps today. It has become the most downloaded app of 2020, allowing trends to gain popularity among a wide audience. On the app, different hashtags are trending every week. These hashtags breed all kinds of internet challenges and dances. Most recently, videos hashtagged with the word ‘manifestation’ have gained a lot of attention. The Wikipedia definition of manifestation is “the act of becoming manifest, to become perceptible to the senses, which is then followed by examples from the Bahá’í Faith and Hinduism.

On social media, with nearly five billion views on TikTok, manifestation has become a new fad for those who have never heard of the age-old practice.

Above, one of the most popular TikTok videos on the platform with over half a million likes by user @amandar0s3

These cultural customs and practices that are being presented on social media apps have been criticized as culture appropriation. Again as defined by Wikipedia, cultural appropriation “at times also phrased cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.”

Those who have never actually researched manifestation partake in the practice as they would any other internet challenge. In result, the practice ends up becoming less about the tradition and more about the hype. Users upload videos with the hashtag ‘manifestation’ for views and exposure. Something that is sacred to certain cultures, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, then becomes an activity to do for fun or use for attention.

A large amount of manifestation videos on TikTokgain gain popularity by promising its viewers positive outcomes after wishing for things like money or love.

Cherry-Picked Practices

Individuals taking part in the white-washed version of the practices have also been criticized for cherry-picking. In this, users choose to only participate in the most beneficial parts of the culture and not practice the traditional practice to its full extent.

In Hindu and Buddhist spirituality, manifestation is not simply done when looking for gains and benefits. It has a history that stems from beliefs and worship. The whitewashed trend focuses more on asking the universe for something and receiving it.

The biggest concern with cultural appropriation, or whitewashing, is that parts of a culture become commercialized rather than being fully appreciated.

Other examples of this include yoga and mindfulness. These practices have become extremely westernized. There are all kinds of apps, tools and classes for these— many of which make profit. The custom or practice then transforms into a form of elitism, which often leaves out people of color, rather than an expression of spirituality.

As a result of whitewashing, cultural practices that have been around for thousands of years are appropriated and changed while the stigma towards the cultures stand.

Explainer Journalism by Neith Pereira shared with the Reynolds Sandbox

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