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How to Teach Kids about Cultural Appropriation: A Comprehensive Guide

Animated people from different cultures standing together
Culture Diversity

Being a parent, you always have to teach your kids about various concepts of this society. Either they directly or indirectly affect their lives to raise them mindfully and mentally strong. Cultural appropriation is one of the several concepts that affect your kid's life directly, and hence essential for you to teach your kids about it.

You have to teach them at an appropriate and suitable time so that they can get the original gist of what it is, how it affects their lives, and how it can be avoided. Here, we have compiled a way for you to make teaching easy and effective. So, let's start it without any further ado!

When to Teach Your Kid about Cultural Appropriation?

Racism is a deeply rooted problem everywhere around the world. Some people are unaware of its existence in their lives, while others make an effort to unlearn it. Often racism is caused because of a feeling of superiority. Stereotyping a group of people can also lead to racism. These stereotypes can be created by appropriating other cultures.

Kids are often innocent, and they don’t recognize certain behaviours or thoughts as harmful. When your child approaches you with an idea or thought linked to racism and cultural appropriation, use that as an opportunity to explain and research it with them to help them understand better.

What is Cultural Appropriation?

According to BCM, Cultural Appropriation is,

"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".

In simpler words, cultural appropriation is when you take things from a culture that isn’t yours, fail to understand it by claiming it as your own and disrespecting its origins. It requires you to change something about yourself. There are many ways of doing this.

Some notable examples are:

  • Darkening or lightening skin

  • Wearing traditional clothes as costumes

  • Make fun of or show disgust at traditional food

  • Wearing certain hairstyles that naturally aren’t yours

  • Acting and using certain expressions or accents

  • Mocking a language

  • Claiming artefacts, dances, holidays, dresses, and food as your own

  • Using other cultures for aesthetic

  • Stereotyping, or fetishizing people of other cultures

  • Asian fishing

Why Cultural Appropriation is Harmful?

Often the minorities whose culture is being appropriated face oppression because of these harmful acts. As someone on the outside, you can get rid of those practices when you feel it is an inconvenience, but the people of that culture can’t.

For instance, people from cultures who wear braids are often told that braids aren’t suitable for professional environments, such as offices. However, someone of a different culture or race who wears them will be praised for the look.

You can pick and choose, but the people of that culture cannot. People get attacked and bullied for their culture, and many struggle for years to accept their identity. Many immigrants have sacrificed their culture for a better life somewhere else, and their children struggle with their identity and feel that they have to choose between both cultures.

Because of this, some barely understand their language or culture and experience losses, and it takes years to accept and learn a forgotten part of them. Many had to fight for their history and many watched it get destroyed.

This is why it’s disrespectful for someone else to come and pick up culture so easily and not acknowledge the struggle or history behind it.

“Tell me how does it feel to take a foreign language for owe your history, nothing?”

Furthermore, cultural appropriation doesn’t give recognition to the original people. There have been many scenarios where celebrities or brands wear or sell a product that is originally from a different place but isn’t given credit for it.

This is harmful because companies then make profits off of culture, history, clothing, and ideas that aren’t theirs, and the original people don’t get the benefit or recognition for it.

For instance, the Palestinian keffiyeh is a symbol of resistance and solidarity for its people, and the brand Louis Vuitton monetized it as a $705 stole with the same symbols.

What is the Difference between Appropriation and Appreciation?

Coming into contact with another culture cannot be avoided due to diversity and globalization. Technology has allowed us to interact with different people and their lifestyles, which can make it confusing to differentiate between them.

Diversity is a good thing because it allows people to be open to and learn about other cultures and be more accepting of others. Liking another culture and wanting to try their clothing, their food, and so on is completely okay.

The intention is what matters.

Most of the time people of cultures won’t mind you doing certain things, as long as you are respectful and aware of the circumstances. For instance, If you go to a Middle Eastern country, and wear their traditional clothing, more often than not they will appreciate you dressing appropriately.

However, wearing traditional clothing for fun at parties changes the narrative completely. Appreciating a culture can only happen if it benefits the peopleor at least doesn’t harm them. Don’t take the culture as your own but appreciate it as someone else's.

Diverse Kids Standing In A Circle
Kids Standing In A Circle

How to Respond to Deeply Rooted Stereotypes?

Often kids are innocent and they understand how to be compassionate and open-minded better than adults do. However, your actions, and the actions of those around your child, can lead them to believe the wrong things.

When your child mentions certain beliefs that are wrong or appropriate to another culture, make sure that you discuss them with them. Explaining why something is wrong and the harm it can cause others can prevent it from becoming a mindset. This will be harder for your child to unlearn when they are older.

For instance, If your child hears racist comments online, ask them how they felt about it, and how they would feel if someone said something similar to them.

Or, If your child notices another person wearing different clothes from them, explain to them that everyone has different beliefs and traditions. Although it may seem weird to you and your child, it is special to another person.

If you think it's alright, it's even better to encourage your child to ask the individual themselves. Most people are often open to educating others about their culture. This can also teach your child the proper way of asking someone about their differences when they are curious.

One thing to keep an eye out for is the influence your child receives from the media. The media is notorious for misrepresenting cultures and other beliefs through the news, shows, or movies.

More importantly, reflect on your actions and words. If you pass ignorant comments around near your child, you can easily mislead them into believing the wrong things.

Make sure you break down the problem and explain it to them in a simple way so that they can understand better. Being honest about how serious this problem is can help your child learn how to interact with others better and ask proper questions when they are curious.

How to Approach Other Cultures?

Even while appreciating a culture, keep in mind that you might accidentally appropriate it. People can have different views on their shared culture. Some might say doing a certain thing is offensive while others say it’s alright.

As mentioned before, what matters most is your intention, and whether or not you are respecting it. If someone says you are disrespecting their culture, you don’t get to say you aren’t.

When you take an aspect of a culture you don’t own, you have to listen to the one who does. Understanding and learning about a culture and its history can teach you to respect it and ensure that you don’t appropriate it.

Approach every culture with an open mindset. You might find some things confusing, strange, or not to your liking at first, but exploring and learning more about them can help you appreciate them for what it is, and the people for who they are.

Girls With Mehndi On Their Hands
Girls With Mehndi On Their Hands

How are we Influenced?

When it comes to researching cultures, make sure you go to the right sources. The media and large companies often stereotype and paint bad images of cultures, which can lead others to hate and aggression.

This puts people in harm's and takes lives as well. These stereotypes are also rooted in families and mindsets. You may not even realize it. Reflect on what you say and think about other people, and question yourself. Learning from people themselves can prevent ignorance and the spread of misinformation.

You can do this by asking people respectfully or reading their stories. Having the right influence can help end cultural appropriation and encourage cultural appreciation.

Infographic: Teach Kids About Cultural Appropriation


1. Does social media promote cultural appropriation?

Social media shows us both sides, cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. It only depends on the person who is using it, either the right way or the wrong one.

2. Does using other's people cultural things also count as an appropriation?

If you're using other's cultural things and signs without knowing the real meaning then it can be taken as cultural appropriation.


Coming into contact with another culture cannot be avoided due to diversity and globalization. However, when you take an aspect of a culture you don’t own, you have to listen to the one who does.

By having the right influence, you can help end cultural appropriation and encourage cultural appreciation. Since cultural stereotypes are rooted in our society, they can lead to racist views. When you take the first step to unlearn these problems, you can become an example for your child.

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