Society waters down ethnic cultures


photo used with permission of Hailey Chung

Students celebrating Lunar New Year at the school with food, games, and music. Everyone brought pieces of their own culture to share with others.

Chloe McGeehan, Staff Writer

Immersing in new cultures is always a good learning experience, but along with the benefit of gaining a new perspective for foreign cultures comes a controversial issue: the diminishment of original cultures and practices that are often not promoted properly.

On social media, people post content of their culture’s food, events, fashion and more. Although this is a great way for cultural communities to connect with one another, there are many instances of those who aren’t a part of that culture, who appropriate it to fit their personality. 

“I think the watering down of culture and traditions within a culture is a prominent issue, especially in the age of social media,” junior Hailey Chung said. “We are exposed to other cultures so easily that it is easier to just take something at face value than to understand it.”

Social media has a plethora of information that makes it incredibly easy to self-educate. Before posting, think about whether or not the content can be offensive or disrespectful in any way.

Many companies take parts of certain cultures for the sole purpose of keeping up with trends, where they can easily profit off of. 

“During Black History Month, you’ll find every commercial has a Black person and brands start coming out with new clothes or shoes that are specifically for Black representation,” junior Leila Jones said. “And while I appreciate finally seeing people who look like me being represented, what happens when the month is over? Where do all the Black people go? Where did the Black models go that were on the front of magazines? It all gets put on the back burner until next February.”

Last month, according to USA Today, big retailers such as Nike, Target and Under Armour all did some kind of promotional merchandise for Black History Month. After months like Asian American, Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month that are meant to support these groups, big corporations tend to forget about them until the next year.
The disrespect of cultures has been extremely normalized, especially in the media. Whether at award shows or on their social media, many celebrities are no stranger to this. According to an article from Seventeen, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and multiple Kardashians have been called out for their ignorance by being disrespectful to different cultures.

“It feels wrong when people decide to ‘wear’ a culture temporarily,” Chung said. “It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a sexy version or even if it’s worn ‘properly.’ In the case of dressing up as a culture for a costume or fashion, it feels like the culture is taken as a joke.”

Many don’t see the harm in seemingly small things like wearing a piece of jewelry such as the Evil Eye purely for fashion purposes. This and many other examples are using cultural objects for the aesthetic and not for their true purpose, therefore watering down their meaning. 

“Choose to not stay ignorant,” Jones said. “Educate yourself on why these things are important to different cultures so that you can respectfully enjoy their histories and beautiful contributions.”