Become the student

September 05 2020

As systems and communities continue to evolve and change, the need to learn and listen is paramount.

Where is the line between advocacy and appropriation, and how can you appreciate groups you’re not a part of?

Appreciation is grounded in honor and respect, a genuine curiosity for a group and its people. This rides on the wings of earnestness; a desire to explore and understand.

Appropriation, however, has personal gain buried into action. Attention-seeking behavior has the power to hurt and harm both individuals and groups. More often than not, a negative stereotype is reinforced.

The divide between cultural appreciation and appropriation is a delicate perimeter outlined by intention.

Failing to identify intention can turn any well-meaning action into a divisive mechanism. If your intention isn’t clear, chances are high that you may unintentionally play into harmful stereotypes.

Revisit the reasons behind what you’re doing and why — and who your behavior might reach. The more you understand yourself and the factors that contribute to the way in which you see the world, the better you’ll be at developing empathy and authentic respect. Once you’ve assessed the role of your actions and your relationship to the culture or group of people you’re interested in, set out to learn.

Bring curiosity and kindness into your interactions. Let others guide conversations. It’s important to remember that having an experience does not equal true understanding. Questions open doors. 

Genuine curiosity and kindness are roots from which appreciation and reverence can blossom. From intention, humility and respect grow.