It is a tricky question because it touches on one's ability to express themselves.
Often, it comes from a good place, where someone truly appreciates the culture and sincerely feels keen interest to incorporate parts of it in their live. For example, when someone wears a cultural dress to an event.
Other times it comes from ignorance where they don't realize the history and symbolism behind things. Like wearing your hair in cornrows, because you saw it in a magazine.
And rarely, it comes from a bad place where they want to show superiority over another culture – if someone dresses as a Native American for Halloween, implying they are savage and scary.
WHAT IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?
Cultural appropriation happens when a representative of a dominant culture adopts elements from a minority culture, usually without showing appreciation or understanding.
Is eating pasta cultural appropriation of the Italian culture? Well, the best answer would be ‘Ask the Italians.' But no, it does not have the classic elements of cultural appropriation.
So what are the classic elements of cultural appropriation?
- The power dynamic. The severity of cultural appropriation lies on a spectrum. Whenever the minority culture has the history (or present) of being oppressed by the majority culture, the more the cultural appropriation is unacceptable.
- Symbolism. Pasta does not have any particular symbolism behind it, it is a dish, an everyday part of life. Wearing bindi, for example, (the colored decoration Hindu women wear on their foreheads), stripped off its meaning, just because ‘it looks edgy' is wrong.
- Gains. It often sparks the greatest conflict when it is done for profit (in music or fashion) or to purposely further support stereotypes (mostly in movies).
- Claims. It usually sparks public outrage. People from the minority culture feel they are being exploited and violated, while the defenders say their freedom of expression is being infringed. ...read more
Source:: Why Cultural Appropriation Is Wrong