Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon. What is it about and how can we avoid it. I think it is time we discuss this at length. If you’re Katy Perry, for example, you believe it’s A-OK to don corn rows and gel down your baby hair, put on some long fingernails and so-called sassy mannerisms with a “blaccent” and slang to portray how you believe certain black women behave and speak. But when you do it, as a white artist, you perpetuate a long legacy of white cultural theft—in addition to bypassing all the racist and misogynist insults those black women must contend with on a daily basis. That includes being called “ghetto” by white (and other) people, typecast as a welfare queen or otherwise told that your natural hairstyles and expressions are inferior and unwelcome. These are symptomatic of slavery and segregation in America and, yes, this really still happens every day. And it’s cultural appropriation.
As writer Tamara Winfrey Harris expertly notes over at Racialicious, it’s the oppression that causes the intense offense that many people—mainly white people—seek to explain away rather than critically question.