Cultural Appropriation is the idea, best put, that dominant cultures, because they are the strong, majority culture, are able to take aspects of minority, oppressed cultures, and use them for nefarious means, often without the consent of the minority culture, and also often without adequate compensation. In short, Cultural Appropriation is an offshoot of Colonialist bully tactics and is inherently evil and should be called out and condemned.
I found this explanation somewhere too... "taking something from a culture that you do not belong to, and use it outside of that cultural context – usually without understanding its cultural significance, and often times changing its original meaning”
|I wanted to give credit to the cartoonist. but no one seems to know|
Less obvious, however, would be the underhanded scheme of borrowing minority culture and turning it into a fad which then serializes and undermines the appropriated culture turning it into no more than a caricature. The entire crux of the Anti-Indian Sports Mascot movement is built on this premise. My second definition above is important in this context. A dismissal of original context in favor of brand recognition, or profiteering is totally an appropriation as opposed to appreciation.
Typically, however, the Left, even with the best intentions of supporting the struggles of the less fortunate, and the oppressed minority, took this idea of Cultural Appropriation and over policed it to the point of madness. At times, it seems, the goal for some people is to completely shut out everyone who is of a different culture and revert back to a cultural isolationism. This cultural possessiveness doesn't appear to be a very progressive goal.
|this is probably anti-Left propaganda.|
Music, I think, gets a particularly bad rep for Cultural Appropriation. Music, the USA's greatest export, is steeped in cultural mixing and matching. All the great pop genres are rhythms and cords borrowed from "minority" cultures in America. Gospel, Blue Grass, and the Blues helped form Country, Rock n Roll, Reggae, Funk, Soul, and Hip Hop. It is almost impossible, however, to look at the history of modern music and not realize that, in every genre, there is a disproportionate number of minority innovators who died penniless while Eurocentric musicians often found exorbitant amounts of wealth and fame by playing "minority" music. At this point, however, I think the power structure in the music industry has shifted enough that all creators and innovators receive their due regardless of cultural identity. I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure contemporary Black and Latino artists are no longer largely ignored in favor of White copycats. And, on top of that, at this point, I think we, as a society, are informed enough to look back and recognize the primary contributions and importance of minority musicians and artists. I know, personally, I'd rather hear Fats Domino and BB King, and Big Mama Thornton than Elvis.
Speaking of receiving their due... anti cultural appropriation groups don't seem to take into consideration the market for cultural appreciation, especially when lead by that particular culture. Basically, I'm pointing out the viability for minority cultures to sell themselves. Tourism is one of the biggest, sometimes the only, industry in developing nations. Caribbean nations are good examples. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are also good examples of American cultures outsourcing themselves to the rest of American culture.
Any ethnic specific cuisine is basically a business opportunity to sell a cultural experience. As a non-member of any of these cultures, am I supposed to not give my business? Should my mother return all those amazingly crafted ponchos and wraps? My point is this discussion could get off the rails real fast depending on how far down the hole you want to go.
Is it worth highlighting a fashion company's obvious appropriation of Native art to sell jewelry to college kids? Yes. Especially since their is a Federal law prohibiting the sale of falsely marketed Native American products. But is it worth shaming that 8 year old who went on a Caribbean trip with her family and got her hair braided and wrapped? Probably not, now you're just an asshole.
And I think that is where the line of Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation lies... are you being an asshole? Is there really any harm in college aged idiots drinking tequila and wearing hats on May 5? Is there harm in a Mexican restaurant chain selling tequila and hats every day of the year? I think this really comes down to personal judgement all around. With some common sense woven in. This whole thing comes down to judgement: People judging others' lifestyle choices, other people making judgements about what is and isn't respectful and responsible. Is there really harm being done? What is the goal here?
So... no Karen, that white chick with the dreads is not trying to trivialize the struggles of the Rasta. And no, Chad, it's not ok to wear that headdress to Coachella. And yes, Linda, I can make sticky rice in my house and eat with chopsticks whenever I want.
There is this myth in America that has been prevalent since my grandparents' day that cultural diversity should be celebrated. But instead of trying to live this myth, we use it as a way to further divide and spread hostility. Please, share the cultures, be open, be understanding, teach, learn, experience, be respectful, don't be an asshole.