What's The Difference Between Inspiration & Insult?

Illustration for article titled What's The Difference Between Inspiration & Insult?

Recently, a reader sent an email asking, "Were you not as disturbed by American Apparel's new clothing line, Afrika, as I was?" Well, yeah. There are many irritating things about American Apparel and calling some zebra print leggings "Afrikan" (with the colonial K) is just one of them. But when it comes to cultural appropriation, there are fine lines between homage, inspiration and insult, points out Tami on Racialicious. If you're rubbed the wrong way by the AA leggings, should you also be offended by Madonna's bindis, Gwen Steafani's Harajuku Girls, or Amy Winehouse's hijacking the song stylings of black female soul and blues singers?American Apparel is clearly not the first — or the last — clothing company to be "inspired" by "African" prints. Oscar de la Renta showed some for Spring 2008. (And don't get us started on DeBeers.) But from fashion to music, there are different levels of "inspiration." There's Vanilla Ice, and there's Eminem. Meaning: You can steal from a culture, or you can be born of and truly appreciate that culture while recognizing you are not quite of it. But are there are so many instances of cultural appropriation in America — itself a "melting pot" of cultures — that we don't even know a truly offensive and insulting example when we see it? Are most people outraged over the Cleveland Indians? Do people care that (as Racialicious points out) Halloween is an "appropriation" of the West African religion of Voudou? Do shoppers think twice before buying from the "Afrika" collection at American Apparel? Cultural Appropriation: Homage or Insult? [Racialicious] Related: Zebras, "Tribal" Prints: It's Afrika! [What Tami Said] Earlier: The Jewels In September's Elle Come At An Extremely High Price



On the scale of offensive, I find this not offensive.

It's African print.

There are far, far more offensive things in the world to be offended at. Like, clothes made in sweatshops.