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But recognize what it means to the community that created it. Give its creators a signal boost and share videos of them showing off their skills. The problem is that these changes are usually based on the idea that the dominant white culture is superior to other cultures. Directly supporting Native designers by giving them visibility and compensation for their work is a much better way to appreciate their creations.

The intentions behind these challenges are good. Eradicating oppression includes getting rid of the bias that has society listening only to dominant voices. Again, this is a noble goal, but I encourage you to learn more about what solidarity really means before you go about trying to show it with cultural appropriation. The result was appallingly insensitive.

She was in blackface, which is horrendous enough on its own. But I can say that there are much more effective ways to offer help, without causing harm in the process. People from the villages she visited have already proven their ability to speak for themselves, so she could have just gone with their words and photos, without centering herself in blackface. They can tell you what solidarity really means to them. Maybe you think cultural appropriation is actually a good thing because it means that our cultures blend. If everyone can adopt elements from any other group, does that mean that all things are equal?

The appropriation of different elements of religion and spirituality is a touchy subject for this reason. For instance, many non-Native people feel that aspects of Native spiritualities resonate with them. Native people already face such high rates of discrimination, and Western society tends to look down on their cultural practices.

5 Ways To Love People of Other Cultures

The US even has a history of forcing Native people to convert to Christianity and give up their spiritual practices. So honoring these practices must include centering Native people and following their leadership. Have you noticed a theme through all of these examples? What are we trying to accomplish in our writing that needs that perspective?

Are we the best person to say it? Have we examined our privilege and our attitudes sufficiently to give us the necessary perspective to be authentic, sympathetic and true? Are we sure that we are not dabbling in exotica, in that fascination with the other that prevents us portraying a rounded, rich culture with all its nuances, diversity and reality? By writing our story are we taking the place of someone better placed to tell it?

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Our aim should be not only to write well but to do no harm along the way. Research is not as easy as it sounds. If we are researching a particular culture or language or religion we must remember that no one person can speak for a nation. There is no one person that can speak for the whole of Ireland. Nobody can give the definitive answer to how a culture behaves or what they believe or why.

There are as many diverse ways to be a Muslim, or an Indian or a Jamaican as there to be an Irish person, a Catholic or an American.


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So whilst research is important we have to make sure we listen carefully and respectfully, analysing and deconstructing what we are told or what we discover. Read widely, interrogate what we learn, talk to people, to elders, to the young generation, watch You Tube the font of knowledge , go places, open your ears and eyes and listen with your heart. The tribal feathers of Native American people are routinely worn for stag parties yet in some tribes, those feathers are worn only by the oldest, holy men and only on important holy days.

Some myths and stories, rituals and rites of other cultures have particular significance, are imbued with history and identity, and are not easily shared or understood. When a child enters the care system at five, say, you have with you a big bag of your stuff, a photograph of your mum and your sister, a letter, your favourite toys, a Lego model, a jumper that smells of your bedroom, a silver chain, a pair of shoes.

Our Culture Is Different from Every Other Culture in History - Wretched

The smell has completely gone. When your social worker or your new foster carer looks at your little pile of stuff it looks like rubbish. It looks like rubbish to everyone else too. But to you it is the whole world, it is your mother and father, your brother and your bedroom, your favourite food and your childhood and what they called you and how your sister smiled. When you have lost everything as a nation or a tribe or a culture, like the Native Americans who have lost their land and have been reduced to the role of savages in cowboy films, or you are treated like shit and addressed by the president of the US as thieves and rapists like it is for the Mexicans in the US, what remains — things like language or food or the sombrero or the headdress — becomes doubly important and maybe to some people disproportionately important.

But those things mean more than those things are. They mean a whole culture, they mean everything because they represent what was lost. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. Please subscribe to sign in to comment. Kit de Waal. More from The Irish Times Books.

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  • Applications for National Childcare Scheme entitlement to open November 20th. Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Even waiting in line is part of the event. People may scoff at the idea of waiting two hours in line to eat in a trendy restaurant, says Mo, but waiting in line for a restaurant with your friends is an extension of your experience eating with them.

    How and why you eat your food, is, of course, also very cultural.

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    In China, people eat food not necessarily for taste, but for texture. Singer, who was born in Philadelphia, has lived in France for more than 40 years. Some of the ideas of French food life may be a performance, adds Berg. The reality is most croissants are factory made, and most people are buying convenience food, except for the very elite.

    But part of our identity relies on believing that mythology. How a country savors a food is also telling. In Italy, as in France, takeout is still relatively rare. Our meals are relaxed, even during lunch break. Food in Italy is love, then nutrition, then history, then pleasure, he says. Status and wealth play less of a role in food than say, in China. In Arab cultures, community is key to the food culture. Families and institutions will host private iftars, of course, but mosques, schools, markets and other community organizations will also offer large iftar meals, and all are open to the public and shared.

    This family style of eating is not dissimilar to the dishes on a Chinese dinner table, where one does not eat a single portioned and plated dish, but is expected to eat from shared, communal platters. It is where culture and ecology intersect.