The WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion held the most recent event in its Real Talk Diversity Series at the Adrian Trempe building Monday evening. Aptly titled “Appropriation Vs. Appreciation,” this event sought to heighten the WMU community’s awareness of cultural appropriation.
The event was set up in a manner similar to that of a classroom discussion. Attendees were told of the defining differences between appropriation and appreciation of culture and asked to share their thoughts on various examples presented via powerpoint.
Instances such as Kim Kardashian-West attempting to trademark the Japanese word “kimono” for her line of formwear and Nick Jonas dressing in traditional Indian attire for his traditional Indian wedding were clear examples of appropriation and appreciation respectively. Meanwhile, a lengthy talk on whether or not caucasian children dressing up as Marvel’s Black Panther character for Halloween could be considered appropriation or appreciation fostered much more thought on the subject, highlighting just how difficult a topic such as this can be to discuss.
“Everyone was very open about discussing something like this,” said Dominic Reaume, one of the organizers of the Real Talk. “We ended up hearing some conversations that were actually deeper than we had intended.”
This particular Real Talk was strategically scheduled the week before Halloween, as there is a tendency for instances of cultural appropriation to spike around this time of year, whether the offenders realize they’re appropriating or not. The organizers were pleasantly surprised to see the room fill up with people who were ready to engage in the conversation of appropriation and not just a handful of individuals expecting a lecture.
“I always try and estimate how many people we’ll have show up to a Real Talk,” said Lindsey Palar, the director of diversity education at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “But, we had way more people than I thought we would… and I really appreciated that everyone was really passionate about the topic.”
While the event was an overwhelming success in the eyes of the organizers, the topic of appropriation against appreciation is far from done being discussed by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“We need to continue the conversation,” Palar said. “We know that we’ll all see instances of folks who are, for lack of a better term, offending in the future… After tonight, hopefully the conversation will continue around the community.”