What is cultural misappropriation and how can I avoid committing it?

What do people mean by ‘cultural misappropriation’?

I have heard of cultural misappropriation only recently and have tried to understand it. It seems to occur when someone uses objects or images with a cultural or religious significance, if the user is not from that ethnic or religious group. I expect a lot of people will say I have defined it badly. Iam still struggling to understand it.

Where did cultural misappropriation begin?

I think it began when people used objects with cultural significance as objects of art or fashion. The first people to object seem to have been native Americans, whose art and icons were appropriated by white Americans, especially football or other sports teams. In Britain, items of Asian dress have often been used or copied in fashion with no thought for cultural significance.

How have writers been guilty of cultural misappropriation?

Nowadays, some people object to white British writers setting their novels in other cultures, or including principal characters of other ethnic or religious backgrounds.

A preacher preaching. Can I write about other religions?
A preacher preaching. Can I write about other religions?

 

Why do I have a problem with this?

We now live in a multicultural society. We have done for a long time. It would be unrealistic and undesirable to write only about white Englishmen. I need to include black and Asian characters in my novels. Obviously, I need to avoid stereotypes. I also need to avoid making the minority characters the villains. I said always. Some criminals are black. Culture is not only about race and religion. I am basically middle-class. I need to be careful writing about working-class or upper-class people. Careful. I should not have to avoid them completely.

The Scottish Saltire. Can I write about Scotland and the Scots?
The Scottish Saltire. Can I write about Scotland and the Scots?
Does cultural misappropriation apply to historical novels?

You will see black people in Highwaypersons Book II, The King’s Justice. Anyway, what about Scottish and Irish people? Even the Welsh? I think my years in Wales gave me a good understanding of the people, but I am not Welsh.  I also want to write a western. How do I deal with native Americans? If I am out of order, I am in good company. I have just watched Hamlet. None of the cast was Danish. Nor was the writer. What do you think?

The Red Dragon of Wales. Am I Welsh enough to write about the Principality where I used to live?
The Red Dragon of Wales. Am I Welsh enough to write about the Principality where I used to live?

 

 

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