Friday, April 18, 2014
Can we put this "appropriation" shit to bed please?
There's been some buzz lately about appropriation. It's almost always against white people. I realize that white people have dished out more than their fair share of abuse, so it's understandable in a way, but I am a bit annoyed that people only seem to care about appropriation when white people do it. No Latinos are complaining that Asians are dancing tango and no white people are complaining that black people are playing Mozart.
Yes, I realize there are right wing a-holes like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh trying to paint white, Americans (particularly the penis bearing variety) as total victims of the gay/brown/female/liberal agenda who suffer every bit as much, if not more, discrimination and mockery as other groups. I mean, Nick Cannon did whiteface and nobody cared (derp). I am no friend of these people and this is not that rant.
This rant is about people trying to force other people into molds that they don't want to be shoehorned into based solely on either on their skin color or national origin. Sorry if no one let you in on this, but racism is a rainbow. It comes in all colors. Perhaps the only thing that's kinda nice about racism is it's something we can ALL participate in....so it's a real community activity. In fact, it might be the one thing that all cultures on this planet have in common. Yes, white people do sometimes get discriminated against in certain situations. No, it's not always fair, but NO it is not as common as the other way around.
The reason "appropriation" is such a thorn in my ass is that I have always been interested in history, travel, and other cultures. I will be the first to admit that I am a culture leech. I DO want to know about every other culture. I DO want to participate in other cultures. I DO want to "take" what I like from each one. Maybe it's because my haplogroup is one of the most widely spread out. Maybe it's because I'm naturally curious. Maybe it's because I have a very wide definition of beauty. Either way, it's not really any of your business.
Speaking of "taking," I also get a little sick to my stomach when anyone even insinuates that cultures are somehow patented; that they "belong" to certain people and that other colors and nationalities of people aren't allowed to "take" them. People like to compare, say, bellydancing to blackface, but it's a false comparison. First of all, nowadays people either do black face to make fun of black people or because they're too stupid to know that blackface has a dark history (pun intended) and should be avoided. Nobody is doing bellydance to make fun of Arabs or to purposely keep Arabs out of show business.
Some of these appropriation Nazis will say that for me, it's okay because I've "learned about the cultures" and I've "supported the tribes." It's true. When I bought my kimono, technically a yukata, I had already lived in Japan for several months. I didn't buy it just because it was on sale and it matched my purse and I saw Gwen Stefani do it, so why not? I mostly wore it when it was "appropriate," like during "hanabi" which is the Japanese custom of summer fireworks displays, traditional Japanese clothing optional but encouraged. I was smiled at and called "kawaii" numerously by Japanese people of all ages. It seems I had their approval.
Well, aren't I special? I didn't get my cultural "artifacts" from some Made-in-China cheapo 99¢ store. I bought my Japanese kimono in Japan from Japanese people who were all too happy to sell it to me. There is a very similar story behind most of the cultural "artifacts" and clothing I possess. So, hurray, I passed the appropriation test.
Wait, I just remembered, who the hell are you to judge anyway? Who appointed you as appropriation police? Was there a meeting, a class, a coucil, an election, a conference? How come YOU get to speak for everyone else on this? Who do you even represent? How do you know how many people are offended? What if one 10 Japanese people say my kimono is ok and one doesn't? What if 10 Japanese people say my kimono is not okay and one does? Is it okay if someone is "respectful" or has a story like mine? If so, how do you even know when to get offended? I mean, when you see someone walking down the street in, say, a kimono, you're probably not going to have time to interview them about their fashion decisions. So, do you just assume anyone who wears it is racist and disrespectful? Or do you assume you don't really know and thus shouldn't get your panties in a wad about it? Somehow, I think I know the answer to that already.
Besides, even if my stories grant me "permission" to mimic other cultures, I can't say that everyone else has the same opportunities as I've had, so why should they be denied certain forms of expression? Provided, it has been more about hard work than luck on my part; I've busted my ass to earn enough money (or have put myself into and out of debt a few times) in order to travel because it's a high priority in my life. However, some luck was certainly required. Had I never gone to university, I may never have traveled. My education propelled my interest in other cultures and gave me my first opportunity to travel via study abroad. I was also lucky enough to have my education paid for because I was also lucky enough to inherit genes for both privilege and intelligence.
Other people may not be so lucky. Other people may really want to travel or learn about culture but simply don't have the time, money, or opportunity. Maybe they did buy that Made-in-China cheapo 99¢ store item, but maybe that's all that is available to them.
Maybe they really are just vapid twats and pricks who just buy stuff because somebody on MTV had one just like it and it was totally on sale, but since we can't know their story, we shouldn't assume we do.
Not to mention the racism of it all. As previously mentioned, it's ONLY a problem when white people do this, apparently. Well, riddle me this: How is it that when a white person mimics another culture, it's "racist" and "disrespectful" and "appropriation," but when non-white people mimic white cultures, somehow white people still end up being the assholes because, like, you know, those people are only doing that because of white cultural imperialism? I guess if you're white, you're doing it wrong....whatever "it" happens to be.
I know some of you who like to patrol other people's habits think that you're somehow preserving diversity or promoting cultural awareness, but you're not. Think about it. What are you REALLY saying? That people can't think for themselves? That people can only express themselves in a way YOU see fit? That we need to appoint some kind of cultural sensitivity council that gets to determine how everyone else behaves? I mean, we've had that in other cultures before and even still have that in some places now and it has NOT gone well!
Can we please just put all this shit to bed? Can we quit forcing people to identify themselves solely through either their skin color or national origin? Among ridiculous, other adjectives to describe this attitude include hurtful, insulting, limiting, and racist....to everyone involved. Cultures aren't copyrighted. Anyone can use them however they choose! It IMPROVES society when people blend each other's cultures because it promotes understanding and cohesion. So, I will take my salsa classes, wear my kimono, and bellydance my body. I do not require your permission or approval.
As for "my" culture, well, I am HAPPY to live in this big melting pot or salad bowl or Sizzler buffet, or whatever you want to call this extremely heterogeneous culture. I want everyone to share everything. Thus, I invite anyone to eat pierogi, dance the Waltz, wear blue jeans, and do an Irish jig. I hope you like it. I hope you make it a part of your life. I will be complimented, not insulted, that you appreciate part of "my"culture.
In short, appropriation police, here is all I really need to say to you: