Our View: Oversensitivity Causes Accusations of Cultural Appropriation

Editorial Board refutes idea that Hawaiian Day is discriminatory.


Artwork by Ciara Greene '17

Tension erupts over Hawaii-themed spirit day.

In an overwhelmingly liberal-minded school, we have become accustomed to social uproars in pursuit of being more progressive. From social justice to being politically correct, Jones has been at the forefront of our generation’s social movement.

The heightened social awareness has sparked controversy due to claims that certain spirit themes at Jones marginalize, culturally appropriate, or otherwise discriminate against another group of people. While the majority of the school community appears to be in support of the social campaign, the Editorial Board believes that the student body is contributing to these issues through our generation’s tendency to over-sensitize social and cultural situations.

The latest contentious issue originated from an anonymous Facebook page created by a “Jane Deaux,” believed to be a Jones student. It was initially created for students to share and address shortcomings of Jones and to provide insight on how to improve those aspects. The discussion spun out of control when students’ opinions clashed on the offensiveness of Hawaiian Day.

While we completely understand and strongly support the idea that no one should be undermined or discriminated against, the Editorial Board disagrees with the notion that Hawaiian Day is an offensive theme. Many students accuse the day of culturally appropriating Hawaiians because it is believed the shirts are a part of the island’s indigenous culture. While those of Polynesian descent have woven their culture into Hawaiian shirts, they were first made by Asian immigrants to Hawaii and were worn by surfers, tourists, and other commoners.

Due to the fact that Hawaiian shirts do not directly stem from Polynesian descent, it makes the shirt design a part of the culture of the State of Hawaii, a part of the United States of America. Therefore, there is no difference between having a Californian Day or a Texan Day and having a Hawaiian Day. Each individual state has their own groups of people that make up and have their own unique characteristics and cultures. The misperception of Hawaiian shirts originating from tribal or indigenous cultures within Hawaii formulates many of the cries of cultural appropriation that are, in change, false. This reinforces the stance that Hawaiian Day does not bare any inappropriate cultural exploitation.

And regardless of whether the Hawaiian-themed spirit day continues to be labelled as cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation, there is no need for a social war-zone. The issue of Hawaiian Day is a minor event that students are taking too seriously and over-dramatizing.

The specially-themed day was created to illicit a feeling of commodore and generate spirit among the Jones student body by unifying everyone’s outfits. With obvious and detrimental school-pride concerns, the unnecessary controversy from Hawaiian Day successfully divided our school even more. Although students back the disapproval of the theme, there are students that concur with the idea that wearing a Hawaiian shirt is not of major cultural significance.

For the most part, Jones does not need to be concerned with its community being socially and politically correct. What we need to acknowledge and discuss, among both staff and students, is how we push the progressive correctness to its absolute limits. By labeling the efforts of Hawaiian Day as cultural appropriation and marginalization of the Hawaiian culture, we must truly reflect upon everything else that would be classified as such. If we all take a moment to recognize the various cultures that we appreciate, and yet are not a part of, would you label yourself as culturally appropriating?

It is imperative moving on from this situation to understand a few key elements. Cultural appropriation is not simply immersing oneself within aspects of another culture in which they are not a part of. Cultural appropriation is founded on the concepts of oppression, exploitation, and malicious intent. The Editorial Board has the utmost confidence that Jones’ Student Government Association or Administration did not mean to oppress people from Hawaii by exploiting their culture for our school’s gain.

And most importantly, it is critical to remember that if we over-identify or falsely identify situations as cultural appropriation, then we are sacrificing the weight and significance of the argument when something truly is discriminatory and culturally appropriating a group of people.