Oh goodness where did this question come from? Ahh…talking about these sorts of things are so complicated. Let’s get some things right first:
- Henna is one of the oldest forms of body-painting/makeup known.
- It is used in many different cultures, not just in India. It is used in North Africa, the Middle East, South-East asia…
- It is mostly used to commemorate weddings or special events revolving religion.
- Henna is also used as hair dye, and was used by European women as well as the aforementioned cultures.
- Henna competitions take place in this modern age, perhaps somewhat de-valuing the cultural aspect of henna.
That being said, personally, I feel that white people should only wear henna if the occasion calls for it. My schooling in religious studies has taught me that despite its current popularity, henna is still largely a religious celebration form. It might be okay,for example, if the person was at a wedding that offered henna as a celebratory aspect of the couple, the person should participate in good faith and celebration of the couple to be wed. This would be in good faith, and encouraged by the community. This is still difficult though, because all of the above mentioned cultures use henna, and of course use it differently, and so there are different rules to it. Some may be more casual about its use. Some may be more rigid, only using it ceremoniously.
That all being said, I do think that henna is something that may one day transcend cultural barriers as an art form, simply because of its history of being multi-cultural in use, and might be encouraged in use to spread an ideal of beauty and love. Wouldn’t that be nice? :)
But overall, I would say that white people should not use henna unless the occasion calls for it and they are invited to do so. You may respect a culture and not be an asshole about it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it okay. I generally try to live by this rule when it comes to topics of cultural appropriation: Do, when invited to. Do not, when uncertain.