On Wednesday night, October 28, the Mother Org Coalition at UCLA, composed of the Afrikan Student Union, American Indian Student Association, Asian Pacific Coalition, MEChA de UCLA, Muslim Student Association, Pacific Islands’ Student Association, Queer Alliance, Samahang Pilipino and Vietnamese Student Union, held an event to discuss the meaning of cultural appropriation and its role in mainstream culture.
Cultural appropriation, or the adoption of a cultural artifact by another culture with negative consequences, has been a long debated issue, and in light of both the recent incident regarding UCLA’s Sigma Epsilon fraternity’s Kanye West themed party and upcoming Halloween, students have come together to tackle this issue.
A major concern of these students is that many of the “costumes” that people choose to wear for fun or fashion can’t just be bought and worn for a single night; they are a sacred right that has to be earned. For example, one cannot simply wear the headdress of a Native American without knowing the traditional value of it as well as the history and struggles those people faced while wearing it.
A brief presentation was given by representatives of some of the Mother Orgs discussing the history of racism at UCLA, the need for a discussion on cultural appropriation Then, the attendants formed discussion circles where opinions on how to recognize and discuss cultural appropriation and its consequences with others.
Although a majority of what was said was in regard to the appropriation, “cultural appreciation’ was also a big part of the discussion. “Appreciation through certain mannerisms starts with respect and mutual understanding.” Erineo Garcia, president of MEChA, said. “Indigenous people still exist today and it is disrespectful to romanticize aspects of their culture that they consider to be sacred and precious.”
As the event came to a close, Garcia proposed that all who were present stand up and gather in a circle for a unity clap: a way to remind us that despite all differences, these efforts and aspirations are that of a united group.