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Teen Accused Of Cultural Appropriation For Wearing Buddhist Prayer Bracelet In Memory Of Her Friend

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Cultural appropriation—which includes a component of exploitation—is wrong.

However, what’s the line between appreciation and appropriation?

Luckily, Illuminatives put together a handy guide to address that topic.


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For one young woman a gift worn from a lost friend caused conflict with another person at her school. This led her to ask the Reddit hive mind their thoughts on the issue.

The Original Poster (OP) scarletxcl asked the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit:

AITA for refusing to stop wearing a piece of jewelry because it was a religious item?”

The OP explained:

About two years ago (2019), my friend (15M) and I (14F) went to a summer camp in China. We were given some money and were at a residential summer camp.”

“At the end of the camp we were all to buy someone in the camp a small gift, and we bought things for each other.”

”I bought him fountain pens and ink cartridges, and he bought me a piece of jewelry that was a string of white pearls, and worn around your wrist three times as a bracelet.”

“I later found out these were Buddhist prayer beads.”

”After we got back from the trip, I didn’t wear them because I knew they were a religious item and I was afraid of possibly offending people because I don’t practice Buddhism.”

”However, a couple weeks ago, he got in a car accident and died. I took out the pearl bracelet from the box I kept it in and started wearing it with me ever since then.”

“To me it’s just a part of him that is still left and that I’m able to have with me.”

It just… makes me feel calm when I’m wearing it. However, at school today, some random girl that I didn’t know came up to me at lunch and asked if I was Buddhist.”

“I replied no, and she said ‘you shouldn’t be wearing those, they’re a religious item’.”

“I told her they meant something else to me and that I’m not going to stop wearing them. She told me it was cultural appropriation, which I did do some research on, but just wanted to ask for your opinions.”

“I guess I can stop wearing it to school but does she even have a say in this?”

“For your information, she doesn’t practice Buddhism. Not sure if that plays a role in this or not.”

Redditors were asked to pass one of four judgements: 

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

OP was found to be NTA and Redditors were sympathetic to her recent loss.

She’s not the culture police. She’s a schoolkid!”

“You don’t owe her any explanation – even if she were a buddhist. You’re wearing a gift a late friend gave you.”

“They’re just beads, they’re not magic, they just remind you of him. Keep wearing them.”

“Tell her to mind her own business. NTA.”~Reasonable_racoon 

NTA and as others have said, a true Buddhist would be honored for you to be comforted by the beads. I visited Greece years ago and saw a ton of (mostly men at the time) wearing and using what they told me were Greek prayer beads.”

“They were sold everywhere and of course we were encouraged to buy them.”

They knew we were probably not going to use them as religious articles but they were proud of their culture and wanted to share. If you can buy these things in a gift shop, they are meant to be shared in whatever way possible, so long as there is simple respect.”

“Sorry for your loss, btw.” ~Avocadosarecool2000

”I’m a Buddhist and I could care less that you’re wearing them (even if you were just wearing them because it’s pretty, but especially because you aren’t).”

“Wearing the mala brings you peace in the face of a tragedy, so keep wearing them for as long as they bring you peace. NTA.” ~XandraTheBrave

NTA. I’m not exactly religious anymore and I wear my nans old prayer beads. It’s symbolic.”

“You wouldn’t be the asshole given those reasons, and religious people probably wouldn’t have an issue with it. This person seems to want to be an activist of some kind?”

“Maybe stop in front of them, but it’s deffo your choice. Yes some people may feel offended but it’s not at all your intention, and you aren’t deliberately taking the piss out of it.”~GuilyPick

”NTA. I’m sorry for your loss, may he rest in peace.”

“A true Buddhist would not be offended by the use of these beads, especially used this way.”

“You’ve done nothing wrong by wearing them.”~Silent_nyix94

NTA it’s not like you’re going around saying ‘oh my gosh I’m like such a Buddhist now because I lost my best friend and I’m wearing the prayer beads he made me’ you are wearing a part of that person that he gave to you and you have every f’king right to do it”~msmysteryjones

NTA. I remember years and years ago for some reason I saw an interview with Bono and Bill O’Reilly.”

“Bono was wearing Rosary beads around his neck and Bill O’Reilly seemed to take offense that Bono was wearing them like a necklace when they were in fact Rosary beads.”

“Bono said that he gave Pope John Paul II his sunglasses and Pope John Paul II put the Rosary beads around his neck.”

”The Pope. My point: there are things people are going to be offended by, because either they don’t know the whole story or they like to take offense because complaining and being victimized are their thing.”

“Also, I’m guessing a true Buddhist would be happy they bring you some peace.” ~NoCleverUserNameIdea

“NTA. That girl doesn’t get to dictate what you do with your bracelet regardless of religious connotations.”

“It means something completely different to you. You wear them in honour of your friend.”

“That girl is just a busy body IMO.”~Winter-Mouse-93

We are sorry for your loss OP and hope your beads help you feel peace.

Written by Heidi Dockery

Heidi Dockery is a Maine artist & nature enthusiast with an affinity for libraries. She studies Criminal Justice with a special focus on psychology & sociology at the University of Maine. When not studying, painting, or re-reading the works of Terry Pratchett, she volunteers & enjoys various activities most would label nerdy.