What’s Wrong With Cultural Appropriation? Unpacking The Recent SFSU Incident – http://thoughtcatalog.com/garrett-l-grainger/2016/04/whats-wrong-with-cultural-appropriation-unpacking-the-recent-sfsu-incident/
So I’ll be honest: I’ve always had an issue with the universal nature with which the term “cultural appropriation” is (seemingly in my experience) applied and wielded without consideration for the potential of the “appropriator” (or perpetrator of appropriative behavior if you prefer) to have legitimate cause or justifiable explanation for their choice.
Much in the way that a man attempting to engage in a conversation about gender/sexuality issues might be told he ‘can’t have an opinion because [he] is male,’ this approach seems (to me) to alienate and isolate members of the privilege population (whose systemic conditioned behaviors are recognized as needing to change) instead of providing the opportunity for all parties involved to become part of an inclusive dialogue on the issue at hand. This second approach seems more likely on paper to achieve any result at all, let alone the desired result of changed systemic behavior patterns.
The way this article approaches the issue of appropriation is fantastic. It treats it as the undeniably important issue that it is, and explains incredibly well the importance of dialogue for social understanding and change. It allows for the possibility that whites do sometimes appropriate external influences out of respect for that culture or for similar, thought-out reasons, but (and to me this is vital) warns that anyone who does so should expect and prepare for scrutiny and some level of suspicion. If you don’t have a good reason to appropriate from another culture, you probably shouldn’t do it.
And while the argument of ‘freedom of expression/choice’ is one of my favorites, I can also recognize the elephant in the room:
200+ years of culture theft, misrepresentation, bigotry, and white-washing every goddamn thing that’s crossed our path as a society (pretty much every style of music since…oh let’s call it 1920 just to play it safe on either end) has earned us the distrust of pretty much any representative of any other culture. Period.
The only thing at which white people have ever truly excelled has been…well, we’ll call it taking everything that isn’t nailed the fuck down, by any means necessary.
There’s a word for that: Robbery. The taking of property by force or intimidation is called robbery. If we consider the intangible aspects of existence and culture as personal or cultural ‘property’ this becomes a horrifying rendition of our history, even if you blur out the really heinous parts. And when systemic social inequality can be recognized as ‘force’ or ‘intimidation’ it gets even worse.
So yes, like it or not, the fact remains. If you’re going to appropriate from another culture, you had better be ready to defend your reasons and do it well. Or you’re kind of a part of the problem.
We did it to ourselves through a history of exploitation. And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start taking steps together as a larger, unified society.