Last week, in front of the Hilton Center for Business, the LMU chapter of Young America’s for Freedom (YAF) set up a table to discuss cultural appropriation. The sign on their table said “All costumes are free speech. Change my mind.” I sat down with the Chairman of YAF’s LMU chapter, Adam Duarte, to discuss cultural appropriation and why YAF believes that it is an infringement on freedom of speech. The following is my response to some of Duarte's statements during the interview, this is not the conversation verbatim.
Adam Duarte (AD): “Free speech trumps cultural appropriation on a societal level, not just a legal level.”
Alex Myers (AM): You can wear what you want, but you’re never going to change a person's view on how they see other people appropriating their own culture. They're also using their freedom of speech to advocate for their beliefs and an understanding of free speech won’t change the inherent disrespect that is embedded in an act of cultural appropriation.
AD: “If you really want to be completely consistent, then no one can wear anything from another culture.”
AM: Cultural appropriation has a broad definition. It is not logically inconsistent to ask someone to refrain from treating a marginalized culture as basis for a Halloween costume. Everyone is a part of mainstream white culture because it can’t be ignored, therefore this argument just deflects what people from marginalized cultures are wanting the majority to do: to stop using their culture as a fashion trend.
AD: “Cultural appropriation is racism because it says you can only stay within your group due to the color of your skin.”
AM: It is not saying that you need to stay in your group because of your skin color, it’s saying you need to respect cultures that are not yours. According to Dictionary.com, racism is “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.” In this case, advocating against cultural appropriation does not equate to that.
AD: "If you value freedom over cultural appropriation, then you have to allow people to wear what they want regardless of how you think."
AM: Freedom of speech only applies to government and is the right to express any opinion without censorship, including speech that offends, according to Merriam Webster dictionary. Anyone who thinks cultural appropriation is bad isn’t saying that they don’t value freedom—it’s quite the opposite. Since they have freedom of speech, they choose to use it to advocate for the respect of other marginalized communities and cultures that are being sensationalized by a majority white European culture.
This is the opinion of Alex Myers, a senior French and philosophy major from Edmond, Oklahoma. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan email comments to email@example.com.