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Cultural appropriation

Native American imagery and symbolism in sports is a clear example of cultural appropriation.

Context

The use of Native American warriors as mascots is a classic example of cultural appropriation. It is taking something that means something in one culture (a Native American warrior) and turning it into something else in another culture (a mascot). This is the definition of cultural appropriation.

The Argument

The definition of cultural appropriation appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as follows: ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’ [1] The use of Native American warriors or caricatures as mascots is a clear-cut example of cultural appropriation. It is unacknowledged because in very few cases have any Native American’s given the express authorization to use their imagery as a mascot. As non-Native majorities, the MLB and the NFL are engaging in the inappropriate adoption of Native American culture. This is even more visible in the use of feathers and headdresses in sports team designs and symbolism. In many Native American cultures, headdresses and feathers are sacred and have spiritual meaning. Employing this iconography in a sports team’s branding is wildly inappropriate. Americans do not own Native American culture. Just because Native Americans are part of the country’s history does not mean it is collectively owned and everyone is free to use Native American imagery in their sports teams, party themes and Halloween costumes. The fact that NFL teams and MLB teams see fit to take these aspects of Native American culture and use them wherever they see fit demonstrates an extreme arrogance and sense of entitlement.

Counter arguments

‘Inappropriate’ is subjective. The definition of cultural appropriation is not clear and leaves room for subjective interpretation. Who defines what is the inappropriate adoption of another culture? The tasteful way in which many sports teams pay homage to Native American cultures is not inappropriate in most cases. In many cases, adopting aspects of another culture’s dance, music or cuisine leads to the development of cultural blending and new and creative works of art. The blending of two cultures that leads the majority to adopt aspects of another culture is a net positive. Branding this adoption as cultural appropriation and attempting to prevent it is both damaging and counterproductive. A world where everyone only employed their own cultural imagery in their art and symbolism would be boring, unimaginative, and could fuel ethnic tensions. It would keep everyone in their cultural box and hinder integration. As a result, not only should cultural appropriation not be offensive, it should be encouraged in the interest of ethnic harmony and collaboration.

Premises

[P1] Cultural appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices or ideas of a people by members of another, more dominant people. [P2] Cultural appropriaton is offensive. [P3] MLB and NFL teams adopt customs, practices, and ideas of Native people and are not Native-owned. [P4] They largely do this without the consent of Native American people. [P5] Therefore, they are guilty of cultural appropriation. [P6] Therefore, the use of Native American names and mascots is offensive.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Using Native American names and imagery is not inappropriate. [Rejecting P2] There are also many benefits from cultural appropriation. [Rejecting P5] Teams are not guilty of cultural appropriation. [Rejecting P6] Therefore, the use of Native American names and imagery is not offensive.

References

  1. http://english.oxforddictionaries.com/cultural%20appropriation

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 28 Aug 2019 at 15:01 UTC