One of 17 signs on campus put up to educate students on cultural appropriation. | File Photo by Freddy Brewster

Cultural appropriation is not culture appreciation

Student continues project to educate others on cultural appropriation
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Student continues project to educate others on cultural appropriation

Scattered throughout Humboldt State University are signs of student activist holding a simple message: My culture is not your costume.
There are 17 signs total, mostly staked throughout the library and quad areas. Each one features a number of student activists and leaders addressing costumes and other offensive representation of their cultures.

The project is the brainchild of Deema Hindawi, a junior majoring in Criminology and Justice studies. Hindawi adopted the idea from a project started at Ohio State University. Last year the Multicultural Center printed out the OSU flyers and spread them throughout HSU, but this year Hindawi and the MCC decided to use students from HSU.

“We were trying to get student leaders because these are people that you see a lot,” Hindawi said. “You see their faces a lot, you see them doing different actions.”

The flyers are staked with the permission of the university. Hindawi and the MCC felt that the message was important because of the unrealistic representations featured in caricaturized costumes.

“You are taking someone’s culture and you are just twisting it in any way you want,” Hindawi said. “You are not taking into account what it actually is. You’re just taking what you think is cool and twisting it. You are simplifying something that is actually a lived life.”

Last year over half of the signs were missing when Hindawi went to retrieve them at the end of the event. Some of the signs this year have turned up missing, as well as one that was vandalized.

“Facilities is supposed to send an email to clubs or us, saying that they took them down, but we haven’t heard anything,” Hindawi said. “We had one poster that within a day of being put up, it was vandalized. They took the poster off the stake and they wrote on it.”

The sign was by the rock art installation at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the art quad.

The message written on the sign was incoherent: “Which culture this? What is the point? Stay opened mind (sic).”

This vandalism and the missing signs have not dampened Hindawi’s spirits. She plans to host a discussion alongside MCC Coordinator Tania Cubas on Monday Oct. 29 from 11 a.m. -12 p.m. in the Goodwin Forum in Nelson Hall.

The discussion will focus on cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. Hindawi said the main difference between the two is understanding the context in which certain dress ware is used and to use it with respect of that culture’s values.

“Cultural appropriation is when you take a culture and you make it what you want. You dress the way you want, you act the way you want within that that culture. You don’t really know what is going on, you are just taking it.”

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