Home Informed Yes, It’s Still Cultural Appropriation, Even When It Wasn’t Intended That Way

Yes, It’s Still Cultural Appropriation, Even When It Wasn’t Intended That Way

by Confluence
Reading Time: 4 minutes

By: Iyabo Onipede: Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know

Click here to read the background story

Sigh. Gather around folks.

I love ALL the nurses out there. They are putting their lives on the line so you and I can stay alive and they are heroes and amazing dedicated GOOD human beings – probably all of them.

And GOOD people, well-intentioned, hard-working, with superpowers can cause harm doing things out of ignorance and hurt other people and their cultures.

1. You do not use another person’s culture to express yourself unless you have studied that culture and participated in it to the point that it is part of your identity. i.e. you have lived in that country and participated in such rituals and been given permission by the holders of that culture, you have studied under their shamans and you have been initiated. You do not use their culture as a fun way to express yourself. It is racist.

2. This abuse and theft of another’s sacred rites is commodifying and cheapening of that culture. Commodifying does not mean just using it for money, but also to “elevate” you, ease your pain, give you fame and notoriety. It is a sacred rite. Respect it. Women do not do haka’s in this tradition. This is painful to them.

3. Not only did they perform the haka, they mocked the people who own the haka by using headbands and face paint, “also ‘reminiscent of culturally appropriated Māori dolls’ as well as a ‘cultural stereotype’ of what Māori people look like.” Y’all this is blackface. Wrong. You will never be Maori and you were not taught how to do those and blessed with permission by an elder that holds the culture to be able to paint your face like that.

4. That is not an apology. They said: ‘We want to offer a wholehearted apology to those we offended with a video we posted on Twitter at the weekend.We’ve really enjoyed seeing the video messages from nursing colleagues up and down the country and we are really sorry that our choice of delivery caused offence. Upsetting anyone was the last thing we wanted to do.’ ” That type of apology focuses on where you “think” you caused harm. it also focuses on “niceties” such as “upsetting other people. That tells me that they still don’t get it when they are called out on it. They are more concerned about how other people react than the harm of their own actions and how their action is not congruent with respecting people and their culture. An apology comes from your awareness of the harm you caused. A genuine apology says, “I am sorry. I was wrong. I did not know what I was doing. I caused seen and unseen harm. I stole and misused your culture. Please forgive me.” They do not actually apologize for stealing someone else’s culture which is what it is.

5. How many Black, Indigenous, or People of Color do you see in the video? This is the foolishness that happens when you keep your staff and organization monocultural or mostly just white. Did they run this past management? Now the hospital is exposed to issues around this. This is why diversity, inclusion, equity and justice matter in this work.

6. This is how the core value of “domination” in white culture globally shows up. It is cheap and entertaining for you to steal someone else’s culture.

Finally, we regress when we are under stress and lose our sharpness and that internal guidance that some people have glimmers of begins to wane. Our nurses, globally, are working super hard and this probably felt really good for them and was an act of solidarity and stress release for them and they need that type of solidarity and stress relief the most right now.

And we all must work hard to name what it is we need – stress release and solidarity – and find ways that are beautiful and express at our core who we really are. We do not get to do cheap imitations and steal sacredness that belongs to another.

Thank you for all your hard work nurses and thank you for being human and making egregious errors and allowing the world to learn something from this. I hope. Do better next time.

The performance was branded ‘blatant cultural abuse that is verging on being racist’.

More by Iyabo:

Elizabeth Warren: Herstory




Iyabo is a Leadership Development Coach whose work focuses on the soul of the leader. She moves leaders from thriving careers into discovering, crafting and living into their life work. By helping successful people integrate spirituality into their leadership roles, they become more engaged with their work, expand the connection of their work to social justice issues and experience more satisfaction in their life work. Using the power of narrative and reflection, she helps leaders fine-tune the sacred “work their souls must have” (Alice Walker).

Iyabo is located in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Goucher College (B.A.), Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.).

Iyabo’s home on the web is at http://www.coachiyabo.com


Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to get your Confluence Daily Digest delivered straight your inbox daily so you can be in the know without getting buried in the news