BETWEEN appropriate and appropriation

It seems like every time we open our social media another brand or celebrity is being called out for cultural appropriation. The line between appreciation and appropriation is thin and often blurred. Just recently there was a debate over Rihanna’s Harper’s Bazaar China cover. Even though she was styled by a team of Chinese individuals for the magazine, there were still those who felt Riri was was crossing the line.

While some of us are more woke than others, one would hope that most of us could agree when someone is dressed inappropriately. It seems this is not the case, hence the endless Twitter debates and click bait articles relating cultures to costumes. Few situations are as precarious as a themed party or event. A theme is sometimes misconstrued as an opportunity to express oneself in a way that is socially unacceptable, under the guise of adhereing to a subjective dress code. Just because you can wear a giant Afro wig to a disco party doesn’t mean that you should. Though, platforms should be a no-brainer.

Should you happen to be around this next week for Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, you’ll undoubtedly see a few things, some of which may give you pause. The Fiesta event was started back in the day as a means to stimulate the tourist economy in the summer. It is nowcommonly known as a confetti fest, littered with egg shells and the smell of tacos with notes of cerveza. The crowds are full of peasant blouses, with silk flowers blooming behind every ear. While some fiesta goers are just along for the ride, doing the bare minimum to blend in with the crowds, (smashing eggs on loved ones and innocent strangers), there are those who take the theme and run with it.

Personally, I live for an excuse to put on some festive attire and consume tequila with the general public. To be fair, it’s more of a lifestyle than a special week in August. In any event, it’s always best to keep in mind that there is a distinction to be made between celebrating a culture and exploiting it. This can be tricky, but I feel like a good rule of thumb is to not dress like its Halloween while butchering what little Spanish you held onto from the eighth grade. Opt for a Johnny Was blouse over a serape, and don’t forget to hydrate. Maybe even drink some water. Viva la Fiesta.

Sarah Seals