MAYBE it's because, after a month of living off ‘barenaked’ 22-calorie noodles, black coffee, steamed vegetables and salsa (without the corn chips obviously), and having shed a meagre 7 pounds of flab for my troubles, the sight of a radiant Adele sporting a Jamaican flag print bikini, Bantu hair knots and tiny waist this week made me smile with admiration. To mark the end of the first virtual Notting Hill Carnival, the singer had paid tribute to the event whilst at the same time showing us dieting no-hopers what a seven-stone weight loss looks like. And it looked good.

But for some (probably slim folk) the attention was drawn more to the fact that Adele, a white woman, appeared to be appropriating black culture and ‘blackfishing’ where white people try and use black culture to look black in a way that seems disrespectful.

The Bantu knots were borrowed straight from a century-old, traditional, African hairstyle that many black women still wear today, without any such acknowledgement from Adele. I can understand how some might have jumped to the cultural appropriation conclusion, but on this occasion, they got it wrong.

There are certain tests for cultural appropriation and on every one, Adele passed. She has long been someone who has respectfully embraced black culture and has educated herself about the issues faced by black British communities. She wasn’t belittling or being offensive about the culture and, crucially, she wasn’t trying to profit from it.

When the likes of model Naomi Campbell and politician David Lammy came rushing to her defence, it became clear to most that this social media post came from a place of celebration and affection.

This was unlike Kim Kardashian’s claim a couple of years ago that she was wearing "Bo Derek braids" thus crediting American Derek who sported them in 1970s film 10, and not talking about the actual origins of the Fulani braids in West Africa. So much welcome publicity did that Instagram post garner for Kardashian, that she posted the image again this year to a similar click-baity frenzy.

For Kardashian these are disposable photo opportunities sporting styles which she seems utterly tone deaf about. Some fashion brands too have regularly been accused of culturally appropriating styles, or clothes from other cultures for profit without any mention of the origin of the items. White, glassy-eyed models in dreadlocks or Sikh turbans marching down the Milan catwalk may have raised eyebrows but they also drew welcome attention to those particular brands.

Again, it's the disposability of these ‘looks’ that is so shallow. There’s something deeply troubling about the fact that many decades after colonialism, some European brands are still benefitting from the indigenous heritages of the people once colonised by their countrymen.

Of course, this wouldn’t be quite so galling if many of these customs, styles or clothes hadn’t been ridiculed or even discriminated against in the past, and some continue to be so.

Sikh bus drivers were forbidden from wearing their turbans in 1960s Britain and had to fight hard to be allowed to do so. In Wolverhampton some even threatened suicide. And, until very recently, some black children were sent home from school for wearing their hair in dreadlocks.

Asian women, myself included, often got name-called for wearing traditional Indian clothes – the shalwar kameez – a long shirt and baggy trousers with a long scarf, in the street. I remembered thinking change must be just round the corner when harem pants – baggy trousers – became all the rage in Top Shop in the 1980s, but that moment never quite happened.

Instead, the best option for me was to wear what everyone else wore, to integrate, to fit in with the dominant culture. Even now I wouldn’t think to wear shalwar kameez to a job interview, for example, because it is still seen as different and somehow, inferior.

It still takes my breath away to see, as I did last month, that H&M were selling long tunics and wide trousers for £25 a pop with no acknowledgement of where they were getting their inspiration. As soon as we start asking those questions about where things are from, we are genuinely opening ourselves up to other cultures and traditions.

Many are dismissive about the damage that cultural appropriation causes, but at the heart of it, it reflects the imbalance of power where European cultures are still seen as the dominant ones which can pick and chose which elements of other cultures they care to temporarily adopt, usually for profit, usually without any acknowledgement of the other culture and usually to the financial detriment of those from that culture.

But culture is a continuum and a melting pot and to correct that structural imbalance, appropriation has to become appreciation before we all move forward.

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