A lot of people don’t realize that in their attempt to take part in a culture, they’re actually being incredibly racist. Of course, sometimes it’s not their fault! Some people really just aren’t aware that they’re being disrespectful.

So to avoid that problem, here’s a handy guide to figure out if what you’re doing is ignorant as hell:


“Wow, I really love the style of [blank] clothing!”

    1. Appropriation: Wearing a bindi, headdress, or kimono to Coachella or Hard Summer to complete your ‘bohemian/gypsy/earth goddess’ look. Not only do you look stupid, but you’re also being racist. Those aren’t even the same cultures. Stop it.

**For those wondering why it’s racist to wear something like a bindi or kimono, have your hair in dreads, etc., the answer is quite simple: people get ridiculed all the time for embracing their culture, and some are forced to completely alter their identity for school, work, etc. However, as soon as white people wear the same exact things, it suddenly becomes ‘fashion.’ You can’t simultaneously degrade someone for their culture and still want to wear it as a costume. That’s why it’s racist.

2.  Appreciation: Have your best friend’s traditional Indian wedding to go to? Great, ask if you can wear a sari, then go ham. Invited to an event at a religious space? Go ahead and don the respective attire in order to, you know, be respectful.

“[Blank] language is so beautiful!”

    1. Appropriation: Getting a tattoo in a language you don’t know because you enjoy the ~*~~*~aesthetic~*~~*~ of said language.

**This also goes for slang/aave. For example, if you’re not Black, don’t use the N-word. Don’t even argue with this.

2. Appreciation: Learn to read, write, and/or speak the language that you’re so obsessed with. Simple stuff.


“I really like the idea of [blank] religion!”

    1. Appropriation: Captioning ‘#namastebitches’ with the Om symbol on your weekly yoga Instagram post, keeping a Buddha statue in your room because it’s ‘just so cute!’, wearing a headscarf because it’s trendy, and/or wearing religious symbols as a part of your #ootd. You’re minimizing the significance of all these religious aspects, and frankly, you’re being rude.
    2. Appreciation: Learning about the religion and visiting various places of religious worship in order to get some hands-on experience with it.

“The art, music, literature, etc from [blank] is so cool!”

      1. Appropriation: Buying henna kits from your local Walmart, purchasing mass produced ‘ethnic’ art, or supporting white people writing about their completely life-changing and inspirational Eat, Pray, Love experiences in a random foreign country.
      2. Appreciation: Support artists from the culture you’re admiring. Buy their books and visual art pieces, go to their shows, signal boost their work, etc. If you really love their work, you’ll get it from the source.

“I love [blank] food!”

Tacos filled with meat, topped with herbs on a plate.
[Image description: Tacos filled with meat, topped with herbs on a plate.] Via Taiana Martinez on Unsplash
  1. There is literally no way to appropriate this. Just enjoy the damn food and credit it to its proper culture. Take it one step further and go to actual Mexican-owned Mexican restaurants instead of Taco Bell.

In a nutshell, things you as an outsider may find insignificant are things that we actually find to be really important aspects of our identity. All we ask is that you respect that, and put in the effort to research what you may be doing or wearing or saying; and if you have any questions, there are literally millions of us to ask. Literally millions.

Now take your new knowledge and go forth, dear friends. Don’t be dumb. I believe in you.

  • Mona Ghannoum is a college freshman majoring in psychology and the freshman 15. She enjoys bad jokes, good movies, great books, and eclectic music. You can often find her at a concert or exploring the city with her camera, usually ranting about sociopolitical issues along the way.