There’s more than meets the eye about culture…
The culture you are a part of depends on your ethnicity. Your ethnicity is determined by the community you were raised in and the community you continue to live in and participate in. Your ancestry is also considered a part of your ethnicity, but unless your family makes an explicit goal to have a connection to that ancestry, your ancestry does not define your ethnicity. Your ancestry can’t really define your ethnicity if neither you, nor your parents, nor your grandparents know about it.
Your genetic ancestry, your genetic/physical/biological traits, on the other hand, define your race. Your race does not change dependent on where you live (but perceptions about it sure can. See: Racism), where you are born, what culture you grow up in, your beliefs or how you lead your life. For example, if you’re of Irish descent with matching genetic or physical traits, you won’t suddenly become Asian if you are raised by a Chinese family or you go on vacation in Japan.
Some people may not find the distinction very important, because for the most part the dominant race in a given area is that which we associate with the ethnic background and culture. However, a misunderstanding of how race and ethnicity differs can cause problems, for example, how some people in Western society will use "Hispanic" and "Latin@" interchangeably without remorse (in fact, the US government uses them interchangeably). Interestingly enough, this also leads to problems such as referring to some cultures within the continent of Asia as “Asian” while other cultures in the exact same continent by a different title. The statement “Not all Asians are Asian” is then by sheer technicality, analytically true.
This would also mean that we can’t exactly tell what is “cultural appropriation” and what isn’t just by looking at someone’s skin colour. Someone with light skin colour may have been raised in a culture you associate with darker skin tones, and someone with darker skin tones may have been raised in a culture you associate with lighter skin tones. The same can be said of non-skin tone racial characteristics about facial features or body shapes.
This is especially a problem for people in the conglomerate Western society who have not been raised with a traditional culture but display physical characteristics associated with it. Such people might later in life seek to “know more about their culture” or “get in touch with their cultural side” when in reality, the culture they associate with their physical appearance is in no way their own culture. It is a culture that belongs to those who inhabit its beliefs, its practices, and its community.
If what I have said is true, then it is possible for cultural appropriation to be perpetrated by people who appear to be what you judge as “the right colour for the costume” so to speak. I believe that an amount of ignorance concerning race and ethnicity prevents people from calling out legitimate forms of racism and cultural appropriation and/or causes people to call it out where it doesn’t exist.
Personally, despite where either of my parents are from, what their parents believed, how they lived, who took their land and whose land they took, their spirituality, etc. I was not raised with either of those cultures in mind. I am Canadian.
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- heyheypaula said: Race is a cultural construct. Perception of race changes based on where you live because culture is tied to location. Race is NOT a biological reality, as you seem to describe it. Race is not real. Stop saying it is.
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- memeengine said: It’s too bad that last sentence has come to evoke a beer commercial!
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