Recent graduate with communications and history degree. California born and raised with a heart in Egypt. Passionate about US and international politics, culture, religion and people. I don't believe in borders.
If you are unable to understand why cultural appropriation is wrong, look up the history of Paisley.
It began in Persia, probably of Zoroastrian origin, thousands of years ago and became the design that we know today around the 1500’s. Through cultural exchange it spread throughout South East Asia and Persia including what is modern day Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and parts of China. The teardrop design was probably created in Kashmir. Depending on the region, the design is called Kolke, Carrey, Ambi and Mankolam.
It was only after the East India Trading company and the colonization of India that shawls with the print made their way to England where rich white people loved it. It was so popular that they began making it in Paisley, Scotland which is where the name came from. It was divorced from its cultural and religious roots in the East and became a status symbol and a design for Westerners. What you can not divorce it from, however is the colonization and devastation that colonialism and British Imperialism did to this area. India was colonized so that companies like the East India Trading company could make tremendous profit at the expense of the native people. They did the same thing with khaki and other aspect of Asian culture. They took the designs and the culture of the people they colonized it and began mass producing it for themselves. The originators of that culture were killed and dehumanized because they were seen as lesser people despite creating these wonderful things that the colonizers loved. The originators of that culture saw none of the benefit that came from selling the things that they created. Countries like England and currently the United States would not be as prosperous as they are now without their history of colonization.
Today paisley is often connected with the 60’s and the hippies because they used the design often. It’s found in popular culture and commonly on bandanas. What it’s not thought of as something that is Asian or Persian in origin. That part of its legacy was erased with colonialism.
India only gained its independence from British colonization in the past 70 years and is still dealing with the ramifications. When in 1953, Iran wanted to control their own resources, the United States and Britain staged a coup just so they could keep their profits coming out of a country. They United States currently has devastating sanctions which are leading to the deaths of civilians against Iran because they disagree with their government.
The taking of resources and cultural aspects from the Middle East, Western and South East Asia and other parts of the global south by Western powers while profiting off of them and simultaneously demonizing the originators of that culture is not new. It’s a part of colonialism and can not be disassociated from that history.
When white people and people in the West partake in cultural appropriation, they are partaking in the same exact tradition that their colonial ancestors did. The wearing of the bindi and sari as something fashionable by white women (and whomever else that does not belong to that culture) is a form of neo-colonialism by people in the west. You can not pretend that you are not doing something racist when you are doing the exact same thing that racists have done for hundreds of years to the exact same people that they subjugated.
In addition when bindis and sari’s are worn by white women and the image of white women wearing it is seen as something beautiful and promoted and not by the women with whom it originated, it adds to the problem of shadeism within these countries where women with lighter skinned are seen as more desirable and where darker skin women are told to use skin lightener to make themselves more beautiful.
It really does not matter what one’s intention is when wearing them (although it’s really clear that a lot of the women wearing them and promoting it are, in fact, racist). If you have white privilege or are not from the culture in which these traditions arose, you are participating in a problematic and systemic form of racism. By doing so you are clearly stating that you do not care about the people that created these wonderful traditions and only care about your ability to continue to take and profit from them. That’s racist and that’s wrong. Fashion has a history of partaking in colonialism and being racist. Don’t add to it.
(Note: I’m not Persian or Asian, I’m Arab. If I have written anything wrong (and you’re from those areas) please correct me. I got all of my info from the internet.)