more cultural appropriation, more linkage12/07/2006
i compiled a list of info related to cultural appropriation that i personally find most useful and helpful:
– resources on “chief illiniwek”
– in depth on the issue of racist sports mascots
– “orientalist kitsch” by mimi nguyen
– “nigs r us or how blackfolk became fetish objects” by greg tate
– “i’m mad as hell and i’m not going to take it anymore,” “who i am and who we be,” etc. by reappropriate
– the entire discussion following “cultural appropriation and ‘reverse racism'” and follow-up posts and commentary: “cultural appropriation and zydeco, part i,” “hot links” and “craft project du jour” by liz at granny gets a vibrator; some of my favorite comments:
… People of color tell white people how they experience a problematic interaction. White people then invariably post numerous affronted (oh, excuse me: “objective, reasonable”) blather about how the reaction is “excessive” or “victim politics” or “PC warfare” or “impersonal” or whatever feels comfortable to silence the nonwhite voice. People of color are then effectively silenced and the white-on-white masturbationfest can continue unabated. I’m personally tired of this meme. Once I realized the dull regularity of its patterns, I knew it was bullshit.
Look, I suck at math. I would never argue the details of a complex equation with my mathematically inclined friends. Likewise, as a white girl who has never experienced the daily effects of racism (except on the receiving end), I do not pretend to be an authority in matters pertaining to race – matters which POC are uniquely and daily experienced in observing. Perhaps my white “brethren” would benefit by taking a similar attitude. You don’t have to be an authority in everything, and that superior attitude of defensive denial is really embarrassing. Far, far more embarrassing than admitting that you don’t have all the answers and may have been socialized not to see things that operate invisibly to help you profit as a white person. Just sayin’. …
Well said… The way I see it, it tends to go something like this:
POC: Ouch, you’re standing on my toe. It hurts!
WP: No it doesn’t. I’m barely touching your stupid toe. I mean, it’s not like I drove a truck over it or anything. Besides, your toe was sticking out right in my way. How was I supposed to even see it? I couldn’t help stepping on it! What else was I supposed to do, with you always taking up all the space around here? And why are you always so hostile and angry about everything I do, anyway? Sheesh, I just can’t ever win with you people.
“This is another feature of multiculturalism: bring us your money, your talent, and your best products and we’ll make them ours. But don’t ask for anything in exchange. Do not ask for any semblance of equality or dignity when it comes to substantive rights to opportunity, monetary compensation, or institutional inclusion.”
The sheer numbers of people “borrowing” without contributing in return to the culture which spawned and supports what was borrowed definitely affects people from within that culture.
When you take, what are you, personally, giving back?
For all of you who say that appropriation isn’t a big deal, stop and ask yourself what you’re contributing the next time you’re about to take something.
I like how white Americans can take a belly-dancing class or two and become experts. If they took a ballet class or two and then tried to identify themselves as ballerinas, they would be laughed down the street.
Why can they get away with one and not the other? Because other white people aren’t listening and aren’t forced to listen to real practicioners of bellydancing.
Not anyone can call themselves a Catholic priest and get away with it. The church is allowed to decide who gets ordained, and people respect the church’s judgment. But pretendian shamans? People listen to them.
If you plagarize an essay or infringe on someone’s patent, you can be held accountable, because someone has the institutional power to write laws protecting intellectual innovation and labor and to the power to enforce them. If you sample the Rolling Stones, you’ll have to pay, but if you’re Moby and want to sample a bunch of obscure blues artists who never made a dime from their recordings and not even credit them, you’re gold.
Even if you’re not just out and out taking (say, if you’re involved in an exchange of money for goods or services), consider who you’re paying.
Are you buying that dreamcatcher from a pretendian?
Are you buying from an appropriator even if you’re not appropriating?
Where is your support going?
Are you helping or hurting?
I don’t think anyone’s saying that intercultural exchange is a bad thing. It’s about being responsible for your actions and the power you wield (however great or small).
At its heart, the appropriation debate is about power. Cultural exchange between white Americans and “others” doesn’t happen on an equal playing field. For people who complain that describing cultural appropriation this way is too constraining (espeically for white Americans) and sets up an “unfair” or damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t scenario, I’d just like to point out that it is not the privileged people, but the non-privileged people, who are damned either way.
If you’re not asking, not interacting with, and not listening to the responses of the people you’re appropriating from, then you are ALREADY appropriating – denying people the power to determine the meaning and the future of their cultural practices, not compensating them for their labor and innovation – and ultimately, impoverishing their lives to satisfy idle curiosity, feel novel, or to enrich only yourself and your own life.
There is a difference between collaboration and appropriation.
There is a difference between the silence of those you take from and the noise they might make if they had more power to talk back (or what you might hear if you actually listened).
and one more selected by liz:
“one person’s “respectful use” is another’s “appropriation.” And the same act can result in two different labels …. Which label is right? Aren’t they both right? And that’s what makes this a less-than-useful term/idea for me. If we can’t agree on what it is, even broadly speaking, then is it really anything?”
When it comes to cultural appropriation, I don’t think that there *is* a guarantee of a ‘right’ label, because most of the time, there isn’t one singular opinion that’s representative of the originating group. Some people will be comfortable with a lot of cultural sharing, others won’t be, others will be in the middle. None of these positions are ‘right,’ but I do know that when I’m an outsider, I want to know a lot about what those positions are. That way, I have more information, and have a better shot at making choices that will feel respectful for the folks I’m interacting with.
The point of discussing cultural appropriation isn’t to have a bunch of ‘welcome’ and ‘no trespassing’ signs that reflect the unified opinion of the entire minority culture in question – it’s to make sure that outsiders get practice in assessing what’s appropriate given each situation. It’s about recognizing that, for those of us in priveleged positions, we’re not entitled to full access at all times. Nor are we entitled to a guided tour of the culture, nor a roadmap to ‘accepted’ elements.
speaking of “hot links”, remember “unpacking the invisible knapsack” – white privilege? here’s “unpacking the invisible knapsack ii” – straight privilege (via official shrub)
and lately in the news
“iraqi journalist details family accounts of iraq rape, killings”
“could bush be prosecuted for war crimes?” – A Nuremberg chief prosecutor says there is a case for trying Bush for the ‘supreme crime against humanity, an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.’
“bringing a living wage to the farm” – A few courageous individuals who want Americans to radically rethink the food on their plates are trying to boost farmworker wages.
“true tales of modern day slaves” – Despite the Civil War, slavery hasn’t gone away. Three writers consider what life is like for the more than 27 million people on Earth who don’t even own themselves.
“abortion is a basic human right” – A doctor who was tortured for giving medical aid to Guatemalan rebels says a woman’s right to end her pregnancy must be considered an international human right.
“climate change is a women’s issue” – Some women’s advocates are demanding that new climate policies address the different ways men and women will be affected by global warming.
“far right thugs go mainstream” – The recent ‘payback’ tactics of right-wing bloggers listing the names and addresses of ‘leftist’ enemies could mark the beginning of incivil politics.
“community organizing, the white supremacist way” – Aided by technology, online hate subcultures are increasing their reach through racist video games, music, dating websites, and chat groups.“
“katha pollitt issues a challenge to the christian right”
(also pollitt piece about “girls just want to have fun feminism” on salon)