Every day throughout social media, we hear the phrases “computer guru” or “karma will come back to hit you.” However, we fail to understand the deep roots such words carry, just to name a few. According to Oxford dictionary, cultural appropriation is defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” Due to the predominant influence of westernization, we tend to twist the traditions into normalized activities and sayings.
We see cultural appropriation of Indian culture everyday when we ask someone why their hair is so oily or why their food is so smelly. Instead of walking into a situation with such preset mindsets, we as a society need to be more acceptant towards new culture. The Bay Area is full of immigrants who have come into the US from different backgrounds, societies, cultures and religions. But instead of embracing our culture, why do we try to fit into society with such preset notions? Why are we somehow cast out if we do not listen to Cardi-B, or eat sambar rice instead of turkey on Thanksgiving? The amount of times I have been asked after 5 seconds of reading my name on an attendance sheet “oh sorry I can’t pronounce it, do you have a nickname” is uncountable! Instead of automatically associating a name or term that is not western as “unpronounceable” make an effort to ask “please tell me how I should pronounce your name right so I can learn.”Instead of normalizing cultural appropriation, we as a society need to adapt to cultural appreciation. Many people practice and teach yoga regularly. The industry for yoga training has rapidly grown in the past decade. While it is amazing to see many fascinated by the benefits practicing yoga provides, it is not when we see the century year old practice get westernized. Nowadays, we call yoga poses such as vrikshasana the “tree pose.” Or we refer to Adho Mukha Svanasana as “downward dog.” While many may argue that the English name is easier to pronounce than the Sanskrit name, we need to learn to appreciate the culture by attempting to pronounce the original name. By not doing so, many people do not even know that the “downward dog” pose is actually from yoga.
Cultural appropriation has become so common that we fail to recognize it when we see it! For example, how many of you have binge-watched the new TV series “Never Have I Ever?” The TV show creates predominant stereotypes about Hindu pujas and traditions such as Ganesh Chathurthi. Another example is the appropriation of the Hindu swastika. Everytime a common person hears the word swastika it is automatically connected back to Hitler’s Nazi symbol. But how many of us know that the word swastika is from Sanskrit and its symbol represents sun, prosperity and good luck? Due to the appropriation of the term and symbol Swastika, people automatically correlate it with the Nazis, rather than understanding it is a core part of Hindu culture. This leads to many Hindus all over the world feeling afraid to draw the Swastika on their porches, afraid that people will misinterpret it.