Entrepreneurship when you’re working with practices from cultures that are not ancestral to you

Cultural appropriation. It’s a word that can raise really big emotions.

So if you’re reading this I want to start off with saying thank you! You’re brave.

To give you a bit of context, I’m Tada. I identify as a queer person of colour (Japanese/Asian). This doesn’t mean I have the power to speak for all people of colour and approve your business or idea. But it does give me a bit of a context to tell you how I like to understand things like cultural appropriation – because my culture gets appropriated all the time.

Instead of talking about what’s not OK, I want to discuss how can we move forward: cultural appropriateness.

I trust that you have come to entrepreneurship because you want to share practices, such as yoga and reiki, that have helped you heal and grow. I don’t believe you should hold yourself back for the fear of stealing from another culture. At the same time, I believe in reflecting on the practice you love in a way that takes into account your ancestral history and privilege.

This isn’t about avoiding doing something wrong. It’s about taking your practice deeper AND helping your work become more welcoming.

It’s good business. If you have unaddressed shame around working with these practices, it is very likely going to show up in your work, whether you are aware of it or not.

That said, I am not suggesting that we should be perfect. I simply ask my community to be always open to learning.

Here are some things you can consider in reflecting on your business or idea:

  • You will never be an expert on what is ‘authentic’ to a culture. For example, as a person with European ancestry no matter how much you feel connected to yoga you will never know what it is like to be a South Asian person. But that’s OK! What matters most is that you are authentic to your experience and honest about it.
  • Have you taken the time to think about how to make your marketing materials safe for others as possible? It’s wise to be especially careful about how you use culturally specific words, such as ohm, or symbols, such as the yin-yang circle. It is easy to get caught up in the anxiousness of marketing and begin using words and symbols from other cultures in ways that are unsafe, especially to people who have ancestral connections to those words and symbols.

If you would like further assistance in exploring these issues I would be happy to offer my services.

You can reach me at info@selfishactivist.com, or through selfishactivist.com