Culture vultures: Appropriation, appreciation of Black culture


Collegian | Brian Peña

Sulaiman Akbar, Staff Reporter

Appropriating is different from appreciating culture. One of the Real Talk events at Colorado State University’s Black/African American Cultural Center discussed Black culture and the definition of “culture vultures” within Black society.

During the talk, it was brought up that producers working in the media and marketing industries are selling culture without appreciation. In other words, they are culture vultures, a term that refers to people who use other cultures’ fashion, styles, tastes, food and art to make money.


Students discussed the fashion and styles of the Black community. For example, sneakers were popularized by Black culture and are now marketed by sellers of other races at extremely high prices.

Hair is another example students discussed. Braids and dreadlocks are gaining influence too; however, they can still be judged negatively by the media, according to speakers at the Real Talk.

Braids and locks have been associated with Black culture for centuries. For attendees of the talk, it is connected back to their history and their ancestors due to the protection their hair types required. Despite this, many people wear certain hairstyles without understanding their cultural roots.

Students mention Michelle Obama as an example of someone who doesn’t wear certain hairstyles so as to not be attacked by the media. It’s assumed that they would be ungrateful for the work she’s doing and instead criticize her appearance.

“There’s history behind people having to cut their locks because it’s deemed as unprofessional or like, ‘Oh, it’s not kept,’ and things like that, so there’s a lot of history, and it’s who we are naturally,” said Bolu Folarin, a CSU senior.

Modern-day streetwear, hoop earrings and lively prints have also inspired and been popularized in today’s fashion market trends.

Students discussed “swag” and physical features of Black popular culture, which are frequently popularized on TikTok and made to look new and revolutionary.

In reality, many of these trends believed to be invented by social media have been around for decades. This has also happened before with music and film.

“It was a Black woman who popularized and created the history of rock,” Folarin said.


Black history is deeply ingrained in American culture. Elvis Presley took a lot of inspiration from R&B and rock, mimicking singers like Little Richard.

Andrew Brown, another CSU senior, said there was also the “blaxploitation” era of films where producers were exploiting Black people in movies and pulling audiences in.

This subgenre of movies emerged in the 1970s and focused more on Black people in America by letting Black actors take on leading and heroic roles. It introduced Black audiences to mainstream cinema, especially in major cultural movies like “Shaft” and “Super Fly.”

The producers took aspects of Black culture and commodified them.

“What was already booming in the Black market, they kind of expand it,” Brown said.

There is a clear difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.

One CSU student at the Real Talk defined appreciation as learning from people of different cultures, and they explained appropriation as having more to do with ignorance and a lack of cultural education and involvement.

Throughout this talk, appreciation and appropriation were freely discussed as an issue Black people are facing. It encouraged students to speak on the influences of Black culture and how those influences should be recognized.

Reach Sulaiman Akbar at or on Twitter @CSUcollegian.