Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation


Hey Advocates,

I’m looking forward to an extended weekend, as Monday is Indigenous People’s Day. This week, I was a guest lecturer for my dear friend Dr. Cheryl Wright’s Kansas University C&T Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion K-12 course. I discussed the 4 Tenets of Teaching Through a Culturally Diverse Lens with her teacher candidates. I also gave a keynote address to the Worchester School District regarding SEL and how we can use our talents to overcome challenges at home and school.  

Next week, I look forward to working with Encorps STEM Teachers Program, Linn County Health Department, Townsend Elementary, Seattle Schools, and Mending Matters. 

I’d love to work with you and your organization to help you achieve your goals. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me, and let’s chat!

This week, I’ve been thinking about Cultural Appropriation. Some teachers contacted me about projects they wanted to do with their students. One teacher, in particular, wanted to know how to teach his students about Kente cloth. In the past, he taught his students about the various symbols on the material, and how the fabric was woven and would have the students create their own Kente cloth. He wanted to know if it was cultural appropriation. I told him it was indeed cultural appropriation because what the students were making in his class was not an authentic representation of Kente cloth. I assumed the teacher had the best intentions behind this project, and I appreciate him for reaching out to ask for my opinion. For those who may not be familiar.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, not the best source, but I was in a rush), Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.

The question of how I can appreciate culture instead of appropriating a culture may be challenging for some. Here are a couple of tips:

  • You are a cultural outsider if you teach your students about a cultural tradition outside of your identity and background. Some ways to teach your students about other cultural norms may include videos, podcasts, and literature. Make sure that the creators of whatever media option you use come from cultural insiders.
  • It may be tempting to have your students create a project in which they make something related to a cultural practice. Please remember that these are not arts and crafts/hobbies for the cultural insiders participating in these traditions daily. This is their lived experience; these traditions are often sacred to them. Your variation is not an authentic representation if you are a cultural outsider.
  • Traditional/Ceremonial attire for many ethnic groups is not a “costume.” I’ve had conversations with educators about this. Especially when it comes to international school festivals. Teachers will tell students to represent a country and wear the country's “costume.” Please consider not referring to an ethnic group’s attire as a costume.

I have a webinar I facilitate entitled “Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation,” in which I provide strategies for educators to foster an appreciation for various ethnic group traditions. 

Finally, did you catch my Livestream yesterday with Andre Daughty? We discussed Four ways to help students take calculated risks. Follow the channel to stay up to date on our weekly live sessions.

Content created this week:

Show Highlights

  • The Maroon communities
  • Maroon leadership structure and societies
  • Language and communication
  • Bringing the Maroon history into our classrooms

Session Description

With technology in their hands every moment of the day, your students are creating businesses, pursuing opportunities, learning how companies operate and going viral with their creativity. Your students are dope and are executing their dreams much earlier than previous generations. In this session, we explore how to help students not only dream but plan and take calculated risks during their learning to connect learning to their dreams.

 - Sheldon


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