Distinguishing cultural appropriation from cultural appreciation

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On Tuesday, there was an event called Turban Day where students were introduced to the cultural customs of turban wear and were educated on a part of Wilfrid Laurier University’s multicultural diversity.

On the day of, any curious students were invited to have a turban tied around their heads by the Laurier Sikh Student Association, who also provided information about the religious significance to their custom.

The event was great for informing students about Sikh culture and building a level of appreciation and understanding for Laurier’s diversity. Events like these are essential for students to gain a wider understanding of the different backgrounds both in our university and throughout the world.

The day also brings up an important discussion regarding the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation. By definition, cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements pertaining to a different culture by members who are not a part of the culture of exploration — and who may not fully understand the implications behind the customs or practices they are engaging with. This lack of understanding is the fuel that has vilified the word and turned it into a means for societal benefits such as fashion, financial advancements, food chains or any sort of cultural exploitation initiated by people from a different cultural background.

Many conversations have happened on campus, led by the Diversity and Equity Office and Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group, but are often forgotten when the campaigns come to a close.

Turban Day is an example of an initiative aimed at encouraging cultural exploration, but in ways that also encourage educational implementation by broadening the understanding of students who participate.

Enhancing paradigms of diversity is the best way to create a distinction between what we know as appropriation and appreciation.

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