I define cultural appropriation as the act of taking markers of a non-dominant culture by members of the group in power (whiteness) for their own entertainment, pleasure, expression, and/or financial gain. 


Tattooing was practiced in many parts of the globe since the neolithic times, as evidenced by mummified skin found in excavations all over the world. I don't consider tattooing in and of itself culturally appropriative. However, as it evolved from various cultures across the globe, the many styles of tattooing became popular in the West. Today we see styles that came from Samoan, Japanese, Chinese, Native American, African folklore (etc.). I do not think anyone has the right to take any image they want and place it on their skin. 


I believe it's best to stick to references and styles that come from your own roots. I believe those tattoos will carry more power in your  life. And please just... don't be that person. 


Below you will find a few articles that speak specifically to cultural appropriation within tattoo culture. If you hold white skin privilege, and are thinking of having a symbol/a language/an image tattooed that does not come from your specific roots, or is not universal, please read them. 


Great Article by Courtney Demone, a queer white transwoman:

A more general article on the basics of cultural appropriation: