My Thoughts On Some Aspects of Cultural Appropriation

I have never enjoyed discussing this topic because I feel that many people are taking a subject that is very broad and very complex and minimalizing it into a simple black and white, right or wrong argument for every varied case.

As I have said before I myself have a large affinity for multicultural things such as Latin and Asian cultures.

I have worn kimonos, yukatas, cheongsam and qipao.

In all my time of wearing them, only one person voiced their offense and it was a Black person.

She came at me like police and accused me of cultural appropriation.

I told her that to the contrary many of my Asian international friends were more than elated that I even knew let alone cared to wear something of their culture.

It made them feel appreciated, welcomed and embraced in a country that knew little to nothing of those things.

It really irks me, the cultural appropriation self appointed “police” because is my experience they are all too frequently people OUTSIDE said culture, coming to defend it gung ho.

Then the voices of the people who actually don’t have a problem with it or actually embrace the outside appreciation are silenced.

How’s that any different than when people silence the one’s offended? One is still speaking over someone, insisting that they know in a monolithic sense how everyone feels.

That’s another factor. Everyone’s voice matters. The offended, the indifferent and those who approve.

I understand that there are consequences to dressing in clothing from other cultures. I accept those consequences *of which I have barely endured.*

Why do I continue?

Because knowing that doing it made someone feel welcomed, happy and appreciated is far more important to me than to not do it. No it’s not solely done for that reason, but I myself feel much more comfortable when my culture is embraced.

Certainly there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation as well as someone POC embracing an aspect of Black culture vs. someone who is non POC.

Cultural clothing is somewhat of a different issue for African Americans because “American” clothes are jeans and a t-shirt or western suit and tie. Everyone where’s that, we’re “assimilated” if you will. We were forcibly assimilated, we don’t have an immigrant past (the majority of us) and as far as African clothing goes therein lies another issue.

There are Black people literally losing their shit defending other cultures being culturally appropriated while wearing hoodie daishikis with jersey numbers on them as a fashionable trend.

Is an African American going to argue that is ok to do? I personally don’t think so. I think that’s terribly offensive and minimalizing something special and sacred to some trend.

We’re talking about Africans who have grown up being teased and being called things like, “African booty scratcher” etc and now all of the sudden people wanna be “in, cool and hip” and wear daishikis.

I see them in stores everywhere.

I am not against wearing daishikis, nor do I require that the only people who wear them be Black or African only, but the trivializing of it I am against.

I would also argue from the African American side that if there are Africans who are terribly offended by African Americans wearing African clothing when they are not even from the continent in the first place, that for many years our African culture was denied. We weren’t allowed to practice it at all and it was highly demonized.

That being said, to have White people tell us we can’t be African and then to have Africans tell us we can’t be African is a special wound.

But going back, if I was African and terribly bullied by African Americans I would definitely feel salty about what I was teased about suddenly being the “hot new trend.”

And as far as White people wearing African clothes, here’s my point.

I know White people who wear African clothes. I have seen them. Why do they wear them? They are missionaries or community service people who work in UMCOR for the United Methodist Church. I see them at Annual Conference every year and they are wearing clothes that they were given as gifts or that they bought during their travels to Africa.

I understand that cultural appropriation is about invitation but no one can receive a mass monolithic invitation from every single individual for every single thing. No entire racial or ethnic group can give a stamp of approval to anything.

Chances are someone will have an issue, some will not and some won’t care.

It doesn’t mean just totally disregard people who are offended, but take it into consideration, understand where those feelings are coming from, decided whether wearing the outfit is worth possible criticism or attacks and question why you are doing it in the first place.

My reasoning is benevolent. I understand that there are going to be people who say it’s inherently wrong all the time for any reason, anywhere and that’s their stance, not mine.

Honestly I think it’s insane to fume over something as arbitrary as clothing. It’s not to say no clothing is sacred such as Native American headdresses of which I would never wear because that’s a ritualistic ceremonial spiritual garb but I don’t want anyone else’s actions ruining my happiness or controlling my life.

Life is way too short to be losing my shit over people’s dress, offensive or otherwise.

I have a major issue with gun ho SJW cultural appropriation police because they are so quick to judge with no consideration to possible background information.

If someone saw my pictures of me in a kimono who felt that way they might go in on me and flip.

I was attending the JAPANESE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL!

People are ENCOURAGED and INVITED to participate in traditional Japanese activities, dress, eating, song and dance. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating that by Japanese people.

If someone sees my picture however, they may not know that, make a quick judgement, screenshot me and drag me via internet for being an offender with malicious intent.

That never happened to me, but it’s very possible the way some people have become these days and that to me is all KINDS of ridiculous!

I don’t even understand why people are investing so much time and vitriol into hunting these people down. To me there are worse things, like killing people of different cultures, rather than wearing their outfits. Genocide is a pretty big deal, clothes are not that big a deal to me in my personal opinion. Hurting feelings is less worse than murdering someone in my opinion. We have much bigger fish to fry.

My kimono comes from Japan from Japanese International students that my grandparents hosted.

I would think that woman, whom I never met, would want me to wear the outfit she gifted to my grandparents instead of it collecting cobwebs in the closet like it was when I discovered it.

It’s not like I wore it nonchalantly to the mall. I wore it to cultural events at my college. Someone may argue, wear your own cultural outfit. Well what is that supposed to be exactly? Jeans and a t-shirt because I’m a product of a colonized America? A dashiki because I’m a descendant of Africa? A combination of urban style and Africa, a dashiki dress hoodie with jersey numbers and a giant Ankh necklace to match?

All of those things. All of those questions. I mean really, being a minority is EXTREMELY confusing sometimes because it’s like who the hell am I? What the hell am I supposed to do, wear, think, act, listen to, eat?

I’ve written several poems about the identity crisis of being African American. It’s quite a complex, but I digress…

Another issue is this one: Black culture appropriation is everywhere done by almost every body. Do I care?

Honestly can I afford to? I’d be enraged constantly if I cared. I can’t really afford to care. I don’t care that much in the first place but even if I did what could I do about it?

Hip Hop and Rap culture are the hot thing these days and everyone wants a piece.

Because I’m not hood or from the streets even though that’s an ASPECT of Black culture it’s not one that I have experienced in a primary sense, it’s not one that I understand or even really approve of.

I’m also not of the belief that someone had to be raised in or has to live a specific lifestyle to sing a genre. There are rappers that are totally fronting, singing about the streets when they live in mansions currently and grew up middle class faking being a gansta. There could be a city slicker who sings country music or an atheist who sings great gospel and spiritual music. Them not living the lifestyle or knowing it in a primary sense, I feel, should not bar them from singing good music.

As long as it’s done in a respectful correct manner, I have no issue with it.

I’m one of those “Bad and Boujee” “Ashley Banks: Fresh Prince of Belair” kind of women. I’m not rich, but I grew up in a household that discouraged listening to gangsta rap or speaking ebonics or acting stereotypical.

But that was never even a desire of mine to begin with in the first place.

When I was introduced to K-Pop I noticed a lot of borrowed Black culture in the music videos.

Some of the things are quite cringey like the Koreans who wear afros, dreads and braids in the videos. I don’t care THAT much, it’s just more so a bit awkward because I’m not used to seeing that, I know it’s not their own, and it’s kind of creating a costume of it for a video. They will take it off after the video ends and go about their day in Korean society.

Some Black girl is being denied a job somewhere in America because of her braid and some Korean pop-star is break dancing and pop locking while rocking a hairstyle she would be fired for.

But is the general Korean person aware of that? No.

I actually like hip hop within k-pop and I like it because it’s much more creative. I am also a fan of old school hip hop that actually told a story. The New School however, most of it, not all of it, is not only absolute trash but is hurting the Black community in so many ways. I know that people say people make their own actions and that music doesn’t control people but it can.

Music doesn’t have to but most people are not discerning enough, especially young teens and kids who are listening and being raised on these negative messages to know the difference between reality and a stage show for profit.

The mysogynoir and colorism alone is enough reason not to listen, apart from the violence, rape references, drug selling and alcoholism, capitalist “I’m gettin’ mines” attitude in the songs.

When K-Pop does hip hop I can enjoy it *in general* without those ugly messages, it’s just a fun dance party period. No video hoes, no giant asses clapping on dude’s genitals, no standing around rapping with no dance choreography etc.

K-pop videos are incredibly creative, artistic and visually stimulating with a very Alice in Wonderland kind of scene and I appreciate that very much as an artist.

I also appreciate K-Pop because it highlights Asian men in a light that we rarely almost never see here in the States. Asian men are placed as sexy, strong, bold, cool protagonists. Asian women are also portrayed in that way as well. We almost never see that in American media.

Even though people find the appropriation of Black culture problematic within K-pop I appreciate it for different reasons and I would never want it to be shut down.

And for that reason, it’s hard to really feel any kind of shame about wearing Asian clothes because quite frankly I don’t see many Asians fretting over offending Blacks for appropriating our culture.

I’m not saying that justifies it or two wrongs make a right but I’m sorry, I see G-Dragon and Big Bang up on stage throwing up gang signs and doing urban dances, so why should they care if I wear something of theirs? If anything it’s an exchange *and yes I know kimonos and yukatas are Japanese not Korean.

My last point is when a theme is chosen and it’s cultural such as the year that DSU chose the theme Asian Enchantment, purposely made to create an event for Homecoming that included our new International Chinese and Korean students, my Black friend was offended that they did that.

I thought to myself if it was ethical, that the intentions were good but was it wrong to do? I thought well if a PWI wanted to have the theme of “Coming to America” how would I feel.

To be honest I’d definitely be a bit uncomfortable, but that’s considering the history of mocking between Whites to Blacks. I don’t have an issue with an “African/Black” theme, it’s how it’s carried out that would determine how I felt about it.

If they did it respectfully cool, but if they were being over the top and turning it into a comedy, I would be uncomfortable.

I wouldn’t lose my shit though, I just wouldn’t attend and I think for most things in life, there are only a handful of things I will allow myself to lose my shit over, murder being one of them.

Cultural appropriation is something I have mixed feelings about.

I grew up with a mother who is Black who wears African, Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian clothing from a store called Shingar that selling international clothes.

I grew up in a household thinking nothing bad about any of that, and she looks beautiful and I see nothing wrong with what she is doing.

And yet, I’m sure, even with her being Black that there are Africans who are offended by her wearing African clothes and not being from the continent.

None of us are on this Earth to please everyone and everyone cannot be pleased.

My mother grew up in a household with parents who hosted international students from several countries. She grew up living with different people.

My upbringing has not been like everyone else’s. My upbringing has been multicultural and I don’t believe in completely separate cultural boxes, especially living in an ever increasing globalized world and a melting pot/stew/salad bowl of a country.

Different cultures melt, overlap, copy, change, conquer, assimilate, appropriate, appreciate, spread, invite, deny, oppress, restrict, approve, disapprove etc.

That’s our reality, right or wrong.

In a globalized world, unless someone is living in an isolated tribe on an isolated island it would be very hard not to be influenced and infected by someone else’s culture whether through colonization, invitation, exchange or appropriation.

And lastly, everyone who appropriates doesn’t do it conscientiously or maliciously.

People buy things that they like in stores and everyone is not young or on the internet to even be educated about what belongs to what culture or has become part of American culture which is very mixed.

My sister loves to wear moccasins. I don’t know if she wears them anymore but she used to. Is that wrong? Maybe so, but did it make her a bad person? Was she aware that Native Americans might take offense to that?

She bought them because they were shoes she liked available at an American Eagle store. Plain and simple. It wasn’t some nefarious plot to steal the culture of Native American people.

If anything you can blame the store or company for making things available like dream catchers to the public who are in the wrong. People are just buying cool stuff because they like it. Some truly don’t know any better. Heck, I like dream catchers. I see them in Five Below.

Me not buying one won’t stop them from selling it. If the store didn’t have it available I wouldn’t have bought one.

I have gone to Chinatown to buy my cheongsam and qipao. Should the Chinese owner deny my purchase because I am not Chinese? I am helping her to make profit, if people only in a culture are the only ones allowed to purchase rather than a bigger market, then financially she won’t do as well as she could if outsiders are purchasing too.

There are SO many ways this argument can go. Cultural Appropriation is a very broad term with many factors and varied circumstances that I think ought to be taken into consideration before a quick judgment is made. There will be several other blogs to follow on this topic but these were just some of my thoughts on it.

Take it or Leave it.

 

 

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