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CULTURAL EXCHANGE VS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

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The United States has long been known as a melting pot and, more recently, as a salad bowl. Because people from hundreds of different ethnic backgrounds make up the nation’s population, it’s not surprising that at times cultural groups rub off on each other. Americans who grow up in diverse communities may pick up the dialect, customs and religious traditions of the cultural groups that surround them.

Cultural appropriation is  an entirely different matter, however. It has little to do with one’s exposure to and familiarity with different cultures. Instead, cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups--often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions. Accordingly, socially aware people tend to frown upon this phenomenon.

“Borrowing” is a key component of cultural appropriation. In the 1950s, for example, white musicians borrowed the musical stylings of their black counterparts. Because African Americans weren’t widely accepted in U.S. society at that time, record executives chose to have white recording artists replicate the sound of black musicians. This led to musical forms such as rock-n-roll being largely associated with whites in spite of the fact that black musicians were pioneers of the artform. This move also had financial consequences, as many of the black musicians who helped pave the way for rock-n-roll’s success never saw a dime for their contributions to the music form.

Let's talk about cultural appropriation as it affects pop culture today. Join tomorrow, October 1 on DP RADIO XL at 8pm

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