Introduction: Racism in Arts and Stories

 Hello everyone! 

  I do not have an official question yet, so far my idea is, "What is considered racism in the arts and literature?" I might modify this question later to make it more specific, as it's a pretty broad topic. 

  I am interested in this topic because I am really interested in writing and the arts, and there is a lot of controversy about portraying different cultures through art and stories, so I wanted to look into that. 

  What do I already know? Well, before I started researching the topic in depth, I had heard a lot about the subject of cultural appropriation. We had talked a lot about it last year in writing class. Cultural appropriation in this context is basically when an artist/author/producer uses a culture that isn't their own and makes a claim to it. This is typically considered offensive, and is hurtful to a culture when the producer of the work resorts to stereotypes and such. Often, however, the author/producer believes they should have the right to portray other cultures and use a variety of voices. I'm intrigued by these arguments and want to look carefully at both sides. 

  I started researching and I've gained some new knowledge based on examples of artists appropriating other cultures. 

  One side of the argument "doesn't believe in cultural appropriation" (1) but rather, believes that people from all cultures should be imagining what it would be like to be another culture. (1) This side suggests that there are too many "boundaries" on what people are "allowed" to create art about, and artists should be able to cross these boundaries by portraying other races. It's believed that art, fiction, etc. wouldn't even be possible if we weren't able to put ourselves in the position of someone of another culture. (3) (4) They believe that the concept of cultural appropriation stops art from being produced, and that this idea makes it so that there is such limits on diversity in the arts. (1) As well, this side suggest that the only way to avoid offending someone is to portray what you immediately know - so, write about your exact life, background, and situation. (3) 

 On the contrary side of this argument, many people are offended and hurt by the way artists portray their cultures. (1) They say that cultural appropriation is something that's been going on too long and isn't going to change anything. (2) There is a firm belief that artists cannot make assumptions about another culture, and should not rely on stereotypes to create characters. (3) There is also a lot of debate about how artists can make a profit from turning other culture's struggles into work. (2) 

 I can see valid points with both sides. I think artists should go beyond what they immediately know, but ultimately, I stand more with the second side of this argument. Using stereotypes to create art is offensive and hurtful, and it makes sense that no one should make assumptions about another race when creating a work because they couldn't accurately convey information and important things to that culture. (3) There is also a lot of discussion about a middle ground, where artists can portray other races as long as they take them seriously, do research first (3) and portray another race in a "normal" way, or not use another culture's story as their own. (3) 

  I'm definitely excited to get into more research with this. This is a topic that I think will really help me in the future if I get into a career involving writing and the arts. Cultural appropriation has a lot of different subjects within itself, but I think I'm going to focus mainly on racism. As well, I'll be talking mostly about how racism is reflected with writing, but I'd like to look into how it affects theatre, visual arts, movies, etc.

 I'd love to hear other's perspectives! 

Original Post

Hey Sophie, 

Very interesting topic you have come up with! Our whole lives we look at art, watch movies and listen to music, but we never realized how a character in movie, the words in a song could affect someone. As you mentioned above, both sides have valid arguments because overall where do you draw the line between embracing cultures to stereotyping them. Perhaps picking a movie that could potentially be considered racist and dissecting the characters in different scenes could help you take a closer look into the problem.

Here is a link about some of Hollywood's famous movies that weren't so popular for specific scenes. Once again, great question and I'm looking forward to reading your project plan. 

Hi Sophie,

I really like the topic you chose, it seems very interesting and I look forward to seeing your research. However, you said at the beginning of your post that you thought your question is to broad of a topic, but I disagree. What is considered as racism in arts and literature mainly depends on who's perspective it's look at from. Maybe you could direct your question more towards something like: Should we stop the use of cultural appropriation in art and literature? Then you would have more things to talk about, such as what counts as cultural appropriation, why do people use it, and how does it impact others? 

This article is an opinion piece but there were some interesting things that you might find useful.


Another thing that you could look into would be does cultural appropriation count as using artistic license? I'm not sure if you've ever seen the show Gossip Girl, but in the show a writer is accused of distorting the personalities of his family and friends in his novel, but he states that he used artistic license. I don't know, I just made me think of that, and I thought it might help you.


Other than that, I like what you've done so far and I am really excited to learn more about this!


Hi Sophie!

I like how neat and organized your post was, and how you gave information about all the different perspectives on cultural appropriation, as well as giving your own thoughts. It's important that we always take an unbiased approach to things first, then you can form an opinion once you have all the information with all the different perspectives in mind. Great job! I also learned a bit about cultural appropriation in English class last year, and I actually found it rather confusing, which is why I think your research will be really interesting to read. I agree that using someone else's culture for your own benefit or using stereotypes of cultures can be rather offensive sometimes, but at the same time, how can people make interesting stories that have diversity if you can't include other cultures in your story? Also, I don't remember where I heard this, but I remember hearing that using stereotypes for minor characters is effective and efficient, so you don't have to explain every character too in depth. Honestly, I think that the line between culture appropriation and what is not considered culture appropriation is very blurred, and it can be interpreted in many different ways. What I think is most important is that writers do research on any cultures they might be including in their story and that they be mindful of the impact of what they write might have on that culture and how they're viewed. It would also be better if they were to ask someone who is from that culture to read what they write before publishing anything, that way they can know if what they are writing is an accurate portrayal of that culture, and that they aren't writing anything offensive.

Here are some websites you can use for your research:

Good luck!


Your topic of research is interesting! Arts is one of the most important aspects in our society. Its the vehicle through which cohesion among st people of the same culture is transported as well as the platform through which integration of diverse cultures occurs. The controversial part of arts comes in when the story of a certain community is told, written or via other means conveyed in a way that is not true as far as the community of study is concerned. From wrong comprehensions of certain entities regarding a certain people, its very possible to create negative impressions of a people who do not deserve the latter. However this does not always happen as arts can as well be used to express real happenings in a certain people, personal experiences of an individual in a certain society (which may not be authentic as far as culture is concerned.)

Arts can positively be used to bind people together, to bring them together as opposed to tearing the uniting fabric of communities.

Am looking forward to seeing you through this.


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