Cultural appropriation. What exactly is it? And what are its limits? As students at a fairly liberal college, I am certain that most of us have at the very least heard the term before and have a rough understanding of what it means. As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” I do not hesitate to admit that this is an issue prevalent in today’s society. However, I ask once again, what are its limits?
Last semester, the Commons Dining Hall had its own run in with “cultural appropriation.” Yes, I am talking about the infamous Buddha bowls, which were renamed vegan bowls last semester and are now dubbed as mosaic bowls by the Commons. Although I can understand the claim that Buddha has nothing to do with a dinner dish made of vegetables and rice, to claim that Buddha was too “lofty” for this dish is a mistake. To begin with, Buddha was a person, not a state of being; the state of enlightenment, according to Buddhism, is known as Nirvana. These were not named Nirvana bowls, but rather BUDDHA bowls. Buddha as a person espoused a simple lifestyle. What could be simpler than a dinner comprised of vegetables and rice?
We should support and aim for an inclusive environment; however, typically, as was the case with the Buddha bowls, there are those who claim to speak for everyone when they see cultural appropriation at almost every turn, and then, in particular instances, they claim to speak on behalf of minorities without asking said minorities how they actually feel. If the minority itself feels disrespected, by all means, do cry “cultural appropriation!” But, if those supposedly affected don’t pay the appropriation any attention, there is no need to sound false alarms. This is yet another example of a “majority” overstepping their bounds and ignoring the minorities they claim to be protecting.
Following the logic that changed the name of the late Buddha bowls, are we not now appropriating “vegan culture”? The majority of people who eat them are not vegan. Have we heard the vegan community on campus voice concerns? Personally, I have not, and I have a vegan roommate.
What I am trying to say is that sometimes we should accept witty alliterations for what they are. No harm was meant in the naming of the Buddha bowls, just as no harm is meant in the naming of vegan bowls. All that it comes down to is that Buddha bowl continues to be used colloquially; the majority of the student body still refers to vegetable dishes as Buddha bowls. As twamps, we value consistency!
I urge the student body to embrace the Buddha bowl and encourage the Commons dining hall to change the name back. Let us honor Buddha, a great man, and enjoy his simple meal.
Email Zoe Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org.