Cultural appropriation vs. appreciation: What’s the difference?

Jonathan Melancon, Reporter

Are you still confused about the difference between appreciating a culture and cultural appropriation?  Just a glance at Instagram or Twitter, and you’ll soon realize you’re not alone.  

UNF professor and Emmy award recipient Frank Goodin and Black Student Union President Nique McCloud told Spinnaker the biggest issue with appropriation involves not giving credit to the source before showing audiences. 

Professor Frank Goodin
Nique McCloud

Frank Goodin defines it this way.

“Appreciation is when someone takes the time to acknowledge and present some aspect of any culture in a way that is truthful, honest, respectful and thorough,” said Goodin. “For appropriation, there is usually some sort of ‘gain’ or exploitation that happens, be it for financial gain and not acknowledging the dignity of the people.”

Some look to famous people or popular brands as the gateway to another world that they may not have been previously exposed to. For example, in the late 80s, suburban kids may have never heard of hip hop if not for “MTV.” At the time, “MTV” gained popularity because musical artists became more accessible to their audience and to many others who had never listened to their music. With exposure to artists comes the influence. 


Cultural appropriation has levels of severity that may either make or break an act, depending on the legacy. According to Goodin, cultural appropriation in the media can go as far back as Elvis Presley. Goodin says Elvis Presley’s music was copied directly from legendary recording artist, Chuck Berry.

“When someone says something about the roots of ‘rock and roll,’ you trace that directly into [taking] an aspect of another culture that wasn’t yours and not given any respect,” said Goodin. “You would have to research it to know.”

Goodin says most artists may not know they are appropriating a culture. Artists may feel as if they are celebrating a certain look by demonstrating it themselves, thereby bringing awareness to their audience. The judging of appropriation versus appreciation comes from the audience’s view of  art. Some may see Katy Perry’s fashion choices as appropriation because she is portraying women of different cultures and deem it offensive because she is not derived from those cultures.

Katy Perry, photo courtesy of Capitol Records

I feel like it was cultural appropriation in the ‘attempt’ of trying to create a piece that was appreciative,” said Goodin. “[If it is appropriation or not] is a point-of-view thing in relation to who you are in relation to this thing that she has created.”

As popular as the Kardashians are, UNF Black Student Union’s Nique McCloud  believes they are culturally appropriating with their braided hairstyles. She goes on to say that it is not a big issue with them having it, but it has more to do with the lack of attribution for the culture responsible.

Kim Kardashian, photo courtesy of Getty Images

“They weren’t really saying anything about the blogs that posted they originated the style and calling them ‘boxer braids’,” she said. “You’re basically allowing it to be passed off as something you created.”


Goodin thinks that having something good to say about a culture can go a long way when deciding appropriation versus appreciation. Celebrating a culture with truth and positivity can resonate with an audience to generate much media success while promoting awareness. The latest example is Marvel’s Black Panther.

“Black Panther” (2019)

McCloud agrees, saying “A lot of the representation we have seen in the film world has been [African Americans] portrayed as thugs, slaves, maids, or any of these negative stereotypes that we are already seen as but we are so much more than that. So I think the fact that we have been deprived of good representation for so long has contributed to the success of Black Panther.”

McCloud  said that the fact that Black actors were portrayed as kings and queens gave a refreshing light to how Blacks are portrayed in the media. Black Panther grossed  $1.4 billion worldwide and became the highest grossing solo hero film of all time. Although the lead actor, Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020), is originally from South Carolina, he was well received from audiences worldwide including audiences from Africa.

According to Goodin, attribution is key to determining what is appropriating. There are people that have appreciated a certain culture and moved it forward outside of cinema. Frederick Jay “Rick” Rubin, along with Russell Simmons, is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, the first record label centered completely around rap music. Rick Rubin loved punk rock music but he fell in love with Hip Hop after he moved from Long Beach, New York to Manhattan. Rubin found acts like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and Public Enemy. Rubin demonstrates that you can be from one culture while celebrating progressing another.

Rick Rubin, photo courtesy of

Both Goodin and McCloud believe  appropriation is due to lack of attribution, absence of awareness and effortless research. McCloud says that if you are going to appropriate or bring awareness to a culture that you are not a part of then the way you present it needs to be delicate and considerate of people’s feelings. Media is the gateway to other cultures but the audiences make the determination of how art is deciphered. Whether art is appropriated or appreciated, the end result leads to conversations and awareness.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].