Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Desolation of Cultural Appropriation

As the internet grows ever sensitive to...well...everything, political correctness has taken an ugly turn into a mob of screaming whining children who seem to have nothing better to do than stir up shit storms on social media. Lately the discussion has turned to the copyright holders of various ethic groups and their cries of violations. From dreadlocks to head dresses, from song lines to clothing, the term cultural appropriation has certainly gotten worn out over the past few months. Laying claim to various elements of their own cultures, when an individual of a different culture adopts or uses one of these elements, the group as a whole denounces the use as crossing boundaries. But why do we create these boundaries to begin with and why are we so protective of the cultures we're so proud of?

We all have rich cultures with several wonderful layers and aspects that make our cultures what they are. Exquisite cuisines, hairstyles, clothing, accessories, music, dance, art, architecture, history are the colorful pieces that create the mosaic of our homelands and roots. I'm half Mexican; we have amazing things like tamales and enchiladas, ponchos and china poblanas, charros, mariachis, Frida Kahlo, and the Alamo. And tequila. Tequila es muy importante. I'm also half Irish. And we have beer...and beer...and corned beef and cabbage...and beer. No seriously, there's some Celtic stuff and River Dancing, and Bono, he's pretty important. Okay so my Irish family is probably 5th or 6th generation American and I'm not as incredibly aware of Irish culture like I am of my Hispanic culture from my more recently immigrated Mexican family members, but there's some great shite going on in Ireland.

Anyways I am proud of my cultures, I'm proud of these amazing factors and details that set us apart from other cultures and make us unique, and I want to share these things with people. I want to shout out "hey look how great we are! Listen to U2 and Selena, try our pan dulce (skip the boiled potatoes), check out our museums and kick ass Irish castles, buy this intricately handmade serape, drink tequila, stop at a pub, drink tequila in a pub!" I want the world to experience my history, my home countries, the things that make my life my life.

But it would seem lately some people have gotten a little stingy with their own cultures. Like five year olds who don't want anyone else to play with their toys, the whining babes of the internet are screaming "don't touch! That's MY culture! You can't have my culture! Go away poopy face!" Though the conversation of appropriation has been going on for years, it gained momentum more recently when some little twerp white singer decided to get dreadlocks in his Bieberiffic hair. Now don't get me wrong, I don't like the dude, I never did, and frankly I don't know any white people who have effectively pulled off the dreadlocks look, but I didn't see anything wrong with the move. However, hundreds of people immediately took to the internet to voice their discontent with the hijacking of a hairstyle that is often mis-attributed to the black culture (it originated in the Egyptian culture). Shortly after that in a similar situation of a young light lad and his knotted mane, a black woman became aggressive with him on a college campus because he had adopted the hairstyle as well, and stated he couldn't have the hairstyle "because it's [her] culture."

A few years ago, Pharrell appeared on the cover of Elle magazine in a beautiful Native American headdress, and the NAs were up in arms screaming appropriation and demanding an apology from the musician for his offensive depiction of their culture. There was no war paint, no stereotypical warrior on a horse. Just a beautiful headdress on a beautiful black man. When I Googled the image, I came across the Native American magazine Native Peoples, featuring a NA man wearing a headdress with a boasting comment below stating "our headdresses were featured in NP Magazine!" Even though there was no difference between the beautifully photographed models of either magazine aside from their ethnicity, one was crucified while the other placed on an artistic pedestal.

More recently Blake Lively found herself in hot water as well when she posted a photo of herself on the red carpet with a beautiful front side and a well endowed back side. The caption read "LA face with an Oakland booty" to quote Sir Mix-a-Lot's famous song Baby Got Back. Some claimed the fact that a white woman was quoting a black song indicated her caption was "racially charged"and inappropriate. One person stated she was using WOC's bodies as punchlines and another person wrote "you can never trust the whites." She was just proud of her large ass and quoted a large ass song. Did it matter that the singer of said large ass song was black? Sir Mix-a-Lot recently came to her defense noting women of all colors have curves and should be proud of them, but why did he have to defend her to begin with?

Not one person in all these examples was trying to make a mockery of any particular culture. No one was dancing around making black (Egyptian) jokes in dreadlocks, no one was riding off to war with cowboys in some offensive depiction of violent Indians, no one was claiming superiority or putting down black women's rear ends just because white women can have rear ends too (I don't have one, but some are more fortunate than I in the large ass department). These people only utilized the elements of these cultures because they admired them, because they enjoyed them, because they appreciated them as much as everyone else does. And that, my friends, is what strengthens our unity as a global community. Taking part in someone else's culture gives us the opportunity to learn more about that culture and appreciate the history of those people. It helps us understand that while we have our differences, they make us unique and beautiful and we can learn so much from one another. If we shut that down, if we demand that our cultures remain untainted by the hands of outsiders, we only build up barriers that create racial and cultural divides. Those divides create a lack of understanding, suspicion, and the increasingly detrimental Us versus Them mentality that has become so damaging to our society today.

And remember, each and every one of you that has claimed appropriation has probably eaten a burrito at some point, if you don't want to share your culture, we don't have to share ours. So kiss your chile verde adios bebes...