When I was in university twenty plus years ago, cultural relativism was very popular. The essence of cultural relativism is that ethical judgments (good and evil; right and wrong) can only be made from within cultural frameworks. The truth of various ethical judgments are constituted relative to the socially embedded practices in which they are made. Given that ethical judgments are relative, it is mistaken to judge one culture by the mores of another.
The irony is that cultural relativism seems to have gained much of its cachet as a result of a very non-relativistic reaction to western imperialism. Thus, the one transcultural maxim apparently became “First, do no harm.” In other words, do not impose your ethics, economics, music, art, or religion on other cultures.
But of course, the whole notion falls on its face for cultures which include imperialistic impulses. In that case, if there are no judgments external to culture that can be made, then each culture is free to maintain fidelity to its own mores, and if those include the suppression or eradication of other cultures then so be it.
In this way, the attempt to douse the the imperialistic flame ended up becoming an incendiary to speed its burning. If cultural relativism is true, then imperialism wins the day: there really is no higher court to which one can appeal.
Here’s the lesson: if you want to censure cultural imperialism then have at it: the litany of imperialistic crimes is great. But don’t think that denying the possibility of transcultural judgments is the way to do it. Indeed, cultural relativism is equivalent to performing amputation to treat a hangnail. And cutting off the branch you’re sitting on while you’re at it.