Cultural appropriation can be defined as the act of taking or borrowing markers of a non-dominant culture by members of the group in power (white people) for their own entertainment, pleasure, or expression.
Tattooing was practiced in many parts of the globe since the neolithic times, as evidenced by mummified skin found in excavations. I don't consider tattooing in and of itself culturally appropriative. However, as it evolved from various places across the globe, the many styles of tattoos became popular in the West. Today we see many examples of tattoos that came from Samoan, Japanese, Chinese, Native American, African folklore. Most of them I see on white folks. I do believe it's best to stick to references and styles that come from your own roots. It's more powerful that way. And you won't have to feel ashamed when inevitably you get called out.
Below you will find a few articles that speak specifically to cultural appropriation within tattoo culture. If you are thinking of having a symbol/a language/an image tattooed that does not come from your specific roots, or is not entirely universal, please read them.
When I first started getting tattoos, I enthusiastically jumped to answer this question. I loved to talk about my chest tattoo in particular. It looked like an ecstatic yin yang, swirling inward and exploding outward simultaneously. I would explain to others how it was an “ancient”Maya symbol that stood for their highest god, Hunab Ku, who was associated with the supermassive blackhole at the center of our galaxy. I loved how it looked and how others praised me for my “cultured” aesthetic. -Courtney Demone
"You are free to present your body in whichever way you choose, and your tattoos are your own choice. However, others also have the right to be offended and express this. If you decide to get a tattoo representing a minority culture, you should be prepared for this possibility. Although your intention is not to be racist, others may see it as such." -Ally Richards