The Mother Organizations (MOs) hosted a discussion about the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation called “What is Cultural Appropriation?” on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The MOs hosted this event to address both the influx of cultural appropriation and the recent “Kanye Western” raid hosted by Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and Alpha Phi Sorority.
Cultural appropriation refers to a power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group, which often occurs during the Halloween season
The MOs are a coalition of nine cultural organizations that include Afrikan Student Union (ASU), Asian Pacific Coalition (APC), Samahang Pilipino (SP), Queer Alliance (QA), Vietnamese Student Union (VSU), American Indian Student Association (AISA), Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA), Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA). These organizations are united by their goal to improve representation for each of their respective communities through different forms of activism.
Erineo Garcia, chairperson of MEChA, gave a presentation about the history of racial intolerance on the UCLA campus and the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. In just the past five years, UCLA has had multiple incidents of bigotry including Alexandra Wallace’s “Asians in the Library” and stickers placed in Campbell Hall justifying the death of Freddie Grey.
In October, the “Kanye Western” themed raid took place where members of Greek Life dressed up as pop culture figure Kanye West, mimicking stereotypical aspects of black hip-hop culture such as gold chains and baggy clothes. One member of Alpha Phi Sorority took the costume a step further by stuffing a pair of boxers imitating a large penis.
In response to the raid, members of UCLA’s ASU staged a rally and protest calling for UCLA’s administration to take action against the fraternity and sorority. Reactions to “Kanye Western” have been mixed: multiple organizations, including the MOs, have condemned the rally while other students have called it an overreaction.
After the brief presentation, the audience broke into small groups to discuss the differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation and to share their personal experiences with cultural appropriation. Many talked about going to parties where their culture was the theme and consequently feeling uncomfortable.
“The space tonight allowed those who are not involved in mother organizations to see the collaborative work that does not only affect one specific community, but all communities of color,” third-year geography major Lauren Jones said. “The small group discussions in particular included personal experiences, but also offered a chance for students to express how change can be implemented on campus and within their own respective spaces. It was great to see steps being taken between each organization to bring solidarity and overall community building.”