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99 Problems but My Culture Isn’t One

All around the world, countries develop certain traditions and beliefs that build their culture to what generally defines them. The past and future generations have the honor to share and educate others about their culture, but, others take advantage. Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group adopts certain aspects of a cultural that has experienced oppression.

History has proved time after time that white people are the ones who continuously have oppressed, tortured, exploited, and killed those that were considered less than them: people of color. So who gave them the right to use parts of cultures from the minority groups that were oppressed by them for their own benefit? Chola and African-American culture have constantly been ridiculed yet used as a sort of fashion statement.

 People need to take the time to educate themselves about the history and the meaning behind traditions in a culture which would be a major step in dissolving people’s participation in cultural appropriation. Chola culture has been a subject which seems to have been circulated in the media for some time now, and not in the way my fellow latinos and I would hope it should be.

The dark lip liner with a light gloss filler, slicked teased hair, buttoned-up flannel and tattoos are some of the many things someone would think of when they hear the word “chola”. It seems as though the Chola style is seen more for its harsh feminine exterior rather than the internal meaning behind the fashion that’s conveyed. The word “chola” was reclaimed during the 60’s and 70’s by LA gangs from its prior term, pachuca, referring to the Mexican American community.

 Growing up as a chola includes the harsh reality of gang warfare, systematic oppression, and faulty stereotypes that occur in their daily lives but is reinvigorated with the sense of unity that is strong among family and youth to really convey what it truly is to be Mexican. Celebrities have found a way to make a mockery of what being chola is, Sandra Bullock and Rihanna to name a few. You would think these prominent figures would be more sensitive to something this serious, but their ignorance is evident.

Sandra Bullock was transformed into a chola on the George Lopez Show in 2009 and Rihanna took to the chola style as her Halloween costume in 2013. Both wore the top buttoned flannel, slicked back hair with the bandana, cat winged liner and teardrop tattoo under their eye. Both and many others insinuate that it’s okay to take from this culture as a way to “look cute” and to emulate the negative connotations being chola has. But they aren’t the ones who have to go back home to a life of violence and gang life that is set upon the chicano community. No, they just want to enjoy the costume for five minutes and ignore the history of what being a chola really is. African Americans and their culture have also been in the eye of the media outlets during the past few months.

The recent upheaval for black features and dialect has caused a stir of grievance and invalidation to the privileged by the black community. The use of the n-word by people who aren’t black is by far the most disheartening topic that needs to be fixed quickly. This word only served as a purpose to dehumanize the worth of Africans during slavery. White people created this word to emphasize their superiority and ability to control whoever they wanted. So absolutely no one, not even other minority groups, should ever use this word under any circumstance. It’s only fair that black people reclaim the term and use it as they please. But this isn’t the only thing that shows the lack of sensitivity of white people, no, there’s also the fashion aspect as well. Dreads have definitely been integrated as a topic of discussion in pop culture.

Miley Cyrus, Shakira, Lady Gaga, and many more celebrities have worn dreads to appear more hip and modern, but the only thing they’re doing is whitewashing the style and while they are, they don’t take the opportunity to raise questions or talk about the injustices that occur throughout the black community with their great platform. When they wear dreads, they’re automatically stamped as heroes for building awareness of black culture. But how come when a black person wears it, they’re bashed. Zendaya, an African American actress, wore dreads to the Oscars’ red carpet and as soon as the awards ended, E! News TV correspondent, Giuliana Rancic, said the locks “smell like patchouli oil. Or weed.” Zendaya’s response to this comment was, “My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough. To me locs are a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion’s mane.”

Although Zendaya emphasizes that her wearing the dreads was to enlighten the world of the roots of her culture, she’s deemed as a stereotypical black girl who does drugs. Dreadlocks are used by Rastafarians as a form to reject the norms of Eurocentric beauty and for religious purposes, but as they were introduced in pop culture by Bob Marley, they were immediately whitewashed. The problem isn’t that white people use the style, but the erasure of color, culture, and tradition behind these items are devalued, so the rest of the world just looks past it. Cultures and subcultures make up and show the diversity of the world we live in.

 The hyper appropriation of chola and black culture portrays the careless and selfish aspects of pop culture. It’s important to unite together as a front to overcome the obstacles that repress us as minorities. However, it’s essential to clear any prejudice that goes on within our own culture and the cultures of others. We need to get a better understanding of each other and to be really committed to this new upcoming civil rights movement.

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