A video of an altercation between students at San Francisco State University has gone viral. In what can only be described as a radical confrontation with the antagonist, a black girl sporting kinky curls, assaults, vilifies and behaves in a threatening manner towards another student, a white guy with dreadlocks. In the wake of the video, the cultural appropriation campaign has gained strength. I’m here to call bullshit on the idea of cultural appropriation and show you why you need to calm the f**k down with all that nonsense.
What is cultural appropriation?
The adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. It’s worth noting that the only cultures who ever cry about cultural appropriation are minority cultures. By its very definition, cultural appropriation supports, encourages and is driven by separation, segregation and derision. It creates an invisible barrier where anything, products, clothes, attitude, hairstyle, the way you do your makeup is suddenly off limits if the person or persons who founded the thing are of a different culture than you.
Why is cultural appropriation bullshit?
1. Minorities have fought since the dawn of time to be represented and recognised. Cultural appropriation is a form of representation and recognition!
2. There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing.
3. There is no clear, logical boundary for where cultural appropriation ends and common sense begins.
Think about it; there are a lot of things we all take for granted that could be labeled as being an element of a differing culture. Such as:
- Plumbing – the loo, toilet, bathroom or whatever you call it was first invented in ancient times by early civilizations like the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian and Chinese – therefore if you’re not Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian or Chinese, going to the toilet is cultural appropriation. You should stop doing this.
- Pasta, Sushi, Curry and other Ethnic foods – obviously these foods were developed by the cultures they come from. If you are not Italian, eating pasta is cultural appropriation. Put the pizza down, too. If you’re not Japanese, don’t even think about popping that sushi in your mouth. And don’t think eating California Hand Rolls is any better, that’s cultural appropriation taken to the extreme. And step away from the vindaloo if you’re not Indian; that curry isn’t a part of your culture.
- Makeup – present in history for the last 6,000 years, technically speaking, unless you’re a descendant of one of the earlier cultures known for inventing makeup (Greek & Egyptian), you should be going without that foundation and lipstick. If you’re not, that’s cultural appropriation.
Do you see my point yet? Most everything comes from another culture. To not use things or wear things or listen to things or eat things because it is outside your culture is just plain stupid. The Information Age and our dumb obsession with celebrities has zapped us of originality. We are all monkeys, mimicking each other. Ideas are shared so quickly; we emulate one another. We put celebrities on pedestals, give them multi million dollar contracts to endorse products, ideas and people. Yet when people start buying those products, sharing those ideas and supporting those people we shout cultural appropriation!
When is appropriation accepted?
Let’s get controversial and honest: appropriation is mostly complained about by minorities. But it carries with it one of the biggest double standards in society. Take the N word, for example. That shit-stirring racial slur that causes nothing but trouble. According to social scientists, the word nigger is a vulgar nickname, an explicit group devaluation and an irrelevant ethnic nickname used as a mild disparagement.
In short, it was more than likely first coined as a phrase of hatred by a member/members of an opposing culture sometime around the 1800s. Fast forward to the late 90s and early 00s and the word has been wrongly embraced by members of the very culture it was meant to vilify. Black culture, by definition of the word cultural appropriation, culturally appropriated the word nigger. Yet somehow that’s okay; but a caucasian student with dreads is offensive.
Why should we embrace appropriation?
In the art world, there is a term, an appropriationist. These people are respected. They are artists whose work contains reworkings of well known images by other artists. It is celebrated. And it happens in the entertainment industry far more than any other. That remixed song or the song that’s been covered by another artist. The book-turned-movie. Appropriation is already all around us and is already embraced. In this context, “appropriation hinges on the ability of the viewer to recognise the original source of the image and all of its connotations,” according to ArtSpace.com.
When I was growing up, I was told that mimicking is the highest form of flattery. We should be proud when we manage to create something that others want to share in. We should feel grateful, not threatened.
Who is to blame for cultural appropriation?
We are. Growing up in the south in America, just decades after Jim Crowe laws and in the midst of the unrest surrounding Rodney King, black identity was important. TV shows like Hanging with Mr Cooper and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Martin and Living Single all strove to represent black culture accurately and to give members of my culture something to identify with on television, and rightfully so. But as soon as you make a culture mainstream, you open it up to everyone.
It is the American way to disperse its culture. Cultural appropriation is a by-product of cultural hegemony. Cultural hegemony is the domination of a culture or society so that the ruling class’s worldview becomes the norm. In a nutshell, America exports everything. There’s not a developed country in the world you can go to that doesn’t have a McDonalds, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Levi’s jeans etc. From clothes to food to children’s TV shows, American culture has been hegemonised to the rest of the world, often at the protest of the rest of world. And included in that culture are bits of America’s ethnic subcultures.You cannot demand the world embrace your culture and simultaneously condemn them for doing so. That makes about as much sense as a breastfeeding mother complaining that her baby is depriving her of nutrients.
Cultural appropriation isn’t a real thing, it’s just another excuse for minority groups to feel insecure, another form of control, another type of segregation and everyone needs to clam the f**k down with all that.
What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation? Leave me a comment with your opinions and ideas.