This post is in support of creators, originators, and makers. Allow cultural appropriation. Remember what our mother told us? “Let your brother copy you, it’s the highest form of respect!

Cultural appropriation is similar. Like behavior, very few things are original, but most things are created from the parts of other things. Creativity happens when an individual copies or references something and puts their own twist on it, by way of understanding or the desire to understand, or shares it with a new audience. It is admiration and interest leveraged towards active participation in a conversation someone wishes to join. Denial of participation (appropriation) is akin to cliquish high school behavior, rejecting the awkward kid who tried too hard. At worst, appropriation from a minority makes the uncool kid suddenly cool and gives them new opportunity, freedom, and choice.

Whatever happened to fake it till you make it?


The most popular genres are those which accept this fact. Hip-hop samples; anime fuses international genres and cultures; Hollywood serializes the best global novels. Even Rock ‘n’ roll combines traditional folk of Eastern European melodies with African and Middle Eastern harmonics and English rhythms.


In organizational psychology, the denial of participation is referred to as “ingroup-outgroup“ behavior. It is the means by which one group prevents the participation of another group. This causes the loss of information and ideas the outgroup can offer the ingroup, as well as resentment in the outgroup and Xenophobia in the ingroup. This is a key ingredient of abhorrent political systems, including plutocracy, fascism, and nationalism. It is bad. It is star belly Sneeches.


Be wary of individuals promoting agendas based on stamping out cultural appropriation. Such behavior is rooted in aggressive cultural dominance, closed-minded group hierarchies, and the hatred of art all buried beneath a veneer of politically-correct social justice. Culture is not a birthright or skin color. Applying social justice to prevent appropriation prevents minority groups from achieving equal, integrated, normative status. Worse, it harms creativity and promotes competition between groups while demonizing the in-goup. This can have unforeseen backlash in the mainstream.

Ethics & Recognition

There’s a caveat – exploitation of individuals (pointed out by my friend David Chang over at the podcast What Just Happened??) Failure to properly credit, cite, recognize, or honor sources ranges from arrogant and ungenerous to theft, and hurts both the development of art and the creativity of others. Followers also look to their artists as a way of finding other great artists; referencing sources broadens clout and increases follower loyalty.

Culture in its artistic manifestation is an active conversation between sovereign individuals. Tell strangers to mind their own business. Talk to those who wish to listen.  


~ Dave S Wallace, MS PSY

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