Throw Away Your Hoop Earrings! Cultural Appropriation Police Strike Again

By Nancy Flory Published on March 12, 2017

As a white woman in America, I’ve recently learned that in addition to being forbidden to wear cornrows or kimonos, enjoy ethnic foods without guilt, wear a beautiful turban if I am bald from cancer or even dress up as a character from a TV series, I am no longer able to wear hoop earrings.

Hoop earrings are now a sign of cultural appropriation, according to a group of Latina girls from Pitzer College, who recently painted a wall with the words, “White Girl, Take Off your hoops!!” “Why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic[?]” mused one student in an email thread to the entire student body.

Other offenses the student listed included wearing winged eyeliner, lined lips and gold name plate necklaces. What’s next?

Cultural Appropriation Hysteria

Some other recent examples of cultural appropriation hysteria include a Filipina woman chastised for wearing a bracelet with a yin-yang symbol on it, a cancer-stricken teen in Brazil called out for wearing a turban to cover her baldness, and two students wearing Orange is the New Black costumes to a Bristol University costume party (including the aforementioned offensive cornrows). The pair is now being investigated by the school, which has set up an entire “task force” to handle the grievance.

Slam poets Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad are two African-American women who have won multiple awards in competitions for their craft. Though they’re clearly gifted, the message they are spreading is just making the cultural appropriation topic more difficult to address. Beginning with a slam against Kylie Jenner for “turning black” before their eyes, the poem then describes, as BET reports, “what and how white people have stolen from Black culture and why it hurts.”

They go on to say, “No more giving away our secrets. When you invite your white friends over, hide your shea butter. Hide your coconut oil and hide your loc gel. Let those white dreads unravel.”

Now, I’m not by any means in favor of clear instances of racism. I would never condone making fun of someone’s race or making fun of someone because of their race. However, there should be a clear line between acts of racism and the assimilation of a specific culture’s artifacts into another — like America, the melting pot.

Don’t Steal the Joy of a Multicultural Society

“The exchange of ideas, styles and traditions is one of the tenets and joys of a modern multicultural society.”

Without the many cultures that comprise this country, we would not have so many wonderful experiences — like Oktoberfest,  Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day parades; jazz, classical music and the “British invasion” no less; pizza, yellow curry and pulao. And then there’s the little fact of the English language comprising multiple languages, includin French, Latin and Germanic influence (among others).

Feverishly protecting aspects of cultures just isn’t “how culture or creativity work,” said The Atlantic’s Jenni Avins. “The exchange of ideas, styles and traditions is one of the tenets and joys of a modern multicultural society.”

Not only that, but fighting against other cultures in this way only chills creativity and artistic expression and potentially hurts diversity, reported Cathy Young of The Washington Post. “When we attack people for stepping outside their own cultural experiences, we hinder our ability to develop empathy and cross-cultural understanding,” said Young.

Katherine Timpf from National Review commented that “we live in a country where people from many different cultures are interacting with each other, which means that some elements from one culture are inevitably going to influence the people of another. And do you know what? That’s not bad. In fact, some might even say that it’s one of the things that makes this place so special.”

I, for one, agree. I’m getting out my hoops.

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