Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Assimilation


Appropriation? Assimilation? Appreciation? What is all this?

Why can they do it but we can’t? Isn’t the same thing? Isn’t this just double standards?

All these questions float around when the topic of cultural appropriation comes about usually in the comments. However are three main terms that many people often get confused with when discussing cultural appropriation. One may start commenting on cultural appropriation when actually what it really is is appreciation or assimilation. So here we are to help clear everything up and help you understand where your argument stands!

First off cultural appropriation what is it?
When elements of a minority culture are taken by members of a more dominant culture for their own use. This results in the original context to become distorted and it’s meaning reduced. Those taking elements of the culture do not experience the same cultural significance.

and what about cultural assimilation?
This is the process by which elements of a dominant culture are take by members of a minority culture this often occurs when a minority enters into a dominate culture and assimilates in order to survive.

The difference between the two terms answers the commonly repeated questions about cultural appropriation of ‘Well if they do it why can’t I?” or “Isn’t this double standards?”

Unfortunately in this society not all cultures are perceived as equal. That’s the truth. Minorities take on aspects of dominate cultures to survive or be accepted (or even to hopefully perceived as equals). Where as cultural appropriation sees dominate cultures taking on elements of a minority often for the sake of being ‘trendy’, ‘fashionable’ etc

And then recently we’ve been seeing cultural appreciation
What is this? Well from what we gathered it is when people take the time to learn, educated and understand a culture before taking an educated decision to express the culture in way that does not offend ands till respect it.

However to speak for a whole culture is incredibly hard and there will be inevitable be people who will be offended. So when attempting to do cultural appreciation tread lightly and be aware.

We hope this has helped you out in learning more about cultural appropriation!

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Definition by Young, J 2010, Cultural Appropriation and the Arts.
Definitions by Encyclopaedia Britannia (x)


10 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Assimilation

  1. You Are Your Posture October 21, 2015 / 4:11 am

    Wow! This post was definitely an eye-opener! I had no idea there were such varying terminology for these types of situations. I’ve always felt that cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation had always existed and that there exists an unspeakable hierarchy of cultures, notably, people with “White” appearance being one the most influential cultures. I think cultural appreciation will see a convergence and meeting point to balance out the effects of the two extreme ends of the spectrum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • stopthecult October 21, 2015 / 5:14 am

      Glad we could help to give you some information about cultural appropriation! And its true unfortunately there is a hierarchy of sort amongst cultures. We hope that by educating people about cultural appropriation that we go see a convergence amongst this hierarchy and even if its a little that minority cultures gain the respect that they deserve. Thanks!



  2. brekkieandthebeast October 23, 2015 / 4:19 am

    You have definitely cleared up some terminology for me! When i hear these terms,assimilation and appropriation, I assume they mean the same thing, how wrong i was! I’m glad the term cultural appreciation has been popping up, it proves we are learning from our mistakes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • stopthecult October 23, 2015 / 5:57 am

      Glad to have helped you out! Many people are just like you and don’t really know the difference. Got to admit it is quite confusing considering they all start with A’s!



  3. Elizabeth December 1, 2016 / 11:00 pm


    This is a great explanation of the differences. There’s a lot of grammatical errors that make it seem less than professional, though. I’d love to help y’all out as a volunteer copy editor. Please feel free to email me if you’d be interested!


  4. McClinton Hoover August 14, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    Ethically is there a difference between appropriation and assimilation?


    • Derek December 3, 2017 / 3:16 am

      Yes. Appropriation is usually done with the intent to be trendy, provocative, edgy, exotic, or to gain a perception of credibility with the culture being appropriated from. Especially problematic when accompanied by disdain or contempt of the people responsible for the culture. For example, you have no problem rocking a sombrero on cinco de mayo while supporting Mexicans being deported.

      Assimilation is usually done as a means of survival because white culture is considered the social normative standard. For example, minorities quite often have to code-switch or anglicize their names when applying for a job or housing -since discriminatory hiring practices is still prevalent.

      Like the article said: there is a hierarchy of cultures and that imbalance is directly responsible for the problematic nature of appropriation.


  5. Meaggen August 18, 2017 / 4:28 am

    This was a good read, but a bit of a difficult read on account of all the grammatical/spelling errors. If you’d like people to take your future articles seriously, maybe take a minute to peer review or spell check 🙂 Thank you for clarifying an important difference! ❤


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