Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation


Black people originate; White people imitate

What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?

Why do White people imitate a culture they despise, inhabited by people they fear?

White people feel rightly‑flattered when aspects of their culture are appropriated by others, since they correctly‑assess that such appropriation is a tacit compliment.

Minstrelsy in White‑Face

Yet Whites baulk at appropriating what is best (or better) in other cultures, without also employing mockery as a fundamental part of the process – to do otherwise would suggest that White people are not the master race they regularly‑claim to be.

Golliwog’s Cakewalk

This actual lack of genuine White superiority explains the White need to borrow from other cultures in a mocking fashion, in case anyone believes that Whites take others as seriously as they take themselves. White people approach other cultures as would a mooch, busy‑body or an interloper – who is then self‑righteously annoyed they are shown the door because of their freeloading.

Cultural appropriation by Black people is not the same as that practiced by Whites because the former does not also, in the process, entail Black appropriators are not showing mutual respect, nor that they are:

  1. Trying to press their own culture onto others (by demanding assimilation), then taking what they want, in return, on the assumption that what they take was always theirs for the taking;
  2. engaging with a culture without invitation:
    1. gate crashing;
    2. overstaying their non‑welcome;
    3. pretending to be part of the household;
    4. pretending to be honored‑guests whom the householders should be grateful to entertain & educate for hours on end;
    5. asking personal questions &/or making light of something that is clearly a sore spot; &,
    6. not being polite, attentive nor knowing social boundaries;
  3. trying to overcome their paranoiac fear of others by pretending they understand other peoples, their cultures & their forms;
  4. wearing other cultures to show that they think they can own other peoples (as they own clothes) and can, therefore, do with them what they wish; while condemning people from those other cultures for not being like the appropriator:
    1. Ethnic clothes and hairstyles are not stigmatized as unprofessional;
    2. cultural foods are not treated as exotic past times; &,
    3. native vernaculars of other cultures are not ridiculed and demeaned;
  5. benefiting from White privilege without the White oppression, marginalization & exploitation of Black identity:
    1. Thug Kitchen is a blog featuring exaggerated African‑American Vernacular English (AAVE). Their White fans laugh at Black folks, not with them, at the absurdity of speaking like a stereotypical thug about food that is normal for Whites, since whiteness is their norm – even in terms of nationality. Whites added a dialect they borrowed from another culture to help them gain attention & profit; thinking that Blacks talking like this can be negatively‑stereotyped by people like Gwyneth Paltrow, while still being required to keep their hair short and avoid any traditionally Black styles like cornrows or dreadlocks. And yet, even if they do so, Black people still run into people who judge them as lazy or incompetent just because of their skin color. When it benefits Whites, they can adopt AAVE – which was developed to help Black people resist and survive oppression. But when they need to, they can drop the act and access opportunities they only get thanks to White privilege. They can exploit Black culture for profit; while never having to face the oppression that comes with actually being Black. And they also get to maintain their culture as the norm; while treating elements of Black culture as trivia to play games with;
    2. Being Black in the West comes with a daily struggle for self‑affirmation:
      1. Natural hair is shamed because many jobs ban natural Black hairstyles;
      2. natural hair is nearly invisible in the White media; putting the spotlight on White women who take‑on Black women’s style;
      3. wearing hair in its natural state is taking a personal risk to fight for self‑appreciation, to avoid conforming to the racist Euro‑centric standard of beauty; making self‑admiration a revolutionary activity;
      4. Black folks struggle for affirmation, then spend a lifetime developing tools to resist anti‑Blackness, only to have White folks claim those tools as their own and, thereby, attempt to erase their cultural significance to Blacks; shrugging‑off Black struggles as if they do not matter;
    3. when you are living within the context of People Of Color (POC), it becomes personal when someone imitates what White popular culture associates with Blackness. What Whites want to see as harmless jokes (but not funny for everyone else) make a mockery of:
      1. Real people’s difficult living conditions;
      2. their neighborhoods;
      3. their sense of identity; &,
      4. their need to disrupt the dominant society’s oppressive social‑codes;
    4. culturally‑appropriated people are judged as nothing more than dangerous – as the White media usually shows the people they imitate – as thugs, as two‑dimensional characters, as threats to your family – but never as fully human, since Whites think it OK to mock poor Black people’s struggles because White people are convinced they are not worth caring about;
    5. people of all cultures wear business suits and collared shirts to survive but, when one is of the dominant culture, adopting the clothing, food or slang of other cultures has nothing to do with survival – it is using someone else’s cultural symbols to satisfy a deep personal need for self‑expression as an exercise in privilege; &,
    6. people forced & pressured to change the way they look, behave & speak just to earn enough respect to stay employed & safe, means modes of self‑expression deliberately‑limited by White supremacy;
  6. unable to handle the whole truth and meaning of the other culture, because of the:
    1. desire, for example, to neuter hip‑hop of any threat to White people by removing any connection with its meaning for Black people – even to the extent of ignoring how it originated as an outlet for urban Black youth to express themselves & release stress from the poverty & violence of inner‑city life:
      1. Black hip‑hop artists and fans have been regarded by White culture as thugs, not as real artists or consumers worth paying attention‑to, yet they create studios and put the power of resistance into their rhymes and continue embracing hip‑hop culture – even when it costs them mainstream success; defying the common White idea that the way they dress & speak makes them less valuable;
      2. White record labels & audiences stopped ignoring hip‑hop and so tried to neutralize what they could not destroy by appropriating it, in exchange for billions of dollars for the music of White artists like Iggy Azalea & Macklemore – who dominate hip‑hop categories at music awards;
      3. but without appreciating what hip‑hop really means, Whites are just appropriating – while Black entertainers struggle for success (with a musical form they invented) and White studios package hip‑hop for White comfort by removing anything meaningfully‑Black about it, since Black culture is only popular with Whites when Black folks are removed from the equation;
    2. desire to pick only the preferred parts of the other culture – like a child spending more time removing unwanted raisins from a cake, than in actually eating and enjoying it;
    3. ability to discard anything culturally‑appropriated, at any time, on a whim – but never the intrinsic White need to culturally‑appropriate;
    4. White double standard that enables Whites to be more highly‑valued than Blacks, even if doing exactly what Black people do:
      1. A White person who listens to hip‑hop, uses AAVE or wears traditionally Black hairstyles still benefits from White privilege, since Blacks who do the same are described in such terms as less than classically beautiful;
      2. when White teenagers jumped on a trend to plump their lips with glass jars and bottles, they were not idolizing a Black woman like Leslie Jones’ naturally‑full lips, they were trying to look like cosmetic‑surgery altered White model Kylie Jenner. White people can adopt elements of Black looks and still be treated with dignity – as trend‑setters, even; making it obvious how White people feel entitled to take from Black people and exploit them when it benefits Whites – discarding the rest. White celebrities can gain fame, profit & credit with physical features copied from Black people – implying that such features are only attractive on White women;
    5. refusal to actively engage‑with and appreciate the other culture because it is seen as inferior; &,
    6. contemptuously‑denying that there is anything more to other cultures than the stereotypes enacted through White cultural appropriation;
  7. attempting to claim the culture being appropriated was invented by the appropriator while, simultaneously damning those whose culture is being appropriated;
  8. racially mocking other cultures as inferior in order to appear superior:
    1. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Whites refuse to believe that such implicitly‑servile compliments could ever apply to other cultures;
    2. those who angrily‑express fear for their lives – as a direct result of being racially‑stigmatized – are deemed by Whites as possessing no:
      1. Sense of perspective when marginalized groups are stigmatized for expressing their cultural traditions, but when a White person appropriates from these same groups, they are celebrated by other Whites;
      2. desire to integrate‑with or appease Whites by laughing along with their racist jokes (Whites never laugh at the jokes others make about them);
      3. ability to use their anger wisely;
      4. sense‑of‑humor; &, therefore,
      5. right‑to‑life.
  9. lacking a substantial culture of their own, Whites try to:
    1. Convince themselves that culture is merely a set of clothes that can be worn or discarded capriciously, rather than something inherently‑meaningful that is essential to one’s sense‑of‑identity;
    2. believe that they are not deeply‑jealous of the life‑enhancing richness of everyone else’s culture;
    3. conceal the fact that Whites hate Blacks because they can never be anything like them; ie, cool. (Tom Hanks’ son recently defended his right to say Nigger, saying no one can tell me what I can’t say. Whites believe they should not be forbidden from doing anything because of their skin color; arising from their belief in the fallacy of a post-racial world. Yet, the N‑word is still used today by White supremacists responsible for more than half of the US domestic‑terror murders used to terrorize Black folks. Whites claim that their non‑existent right‑to‑be‑racist is a matter of a kind of free speech that always trumps the lives of those they deem unfit‑for‑life in attempts to erase other cultures and to dehumanize their peoples. When White people emulate the way some Black people have reclaimed this word to stand‑up‑to the racial terror it represents, they dismiss the reality of violent White racism by openly supporting it);
    4. hide the fact that Whites lack originality and must resort to copying others – with better ideas;
    5. fill their identity‑denying cultural emptiness with that which they can never understand, because it does not come from White personal experience; &,
    6. provide a phony solution to Whites’ lazy inability to solve their resulting, culturally‑ingrained existential problems;
  10. attempting to justify the White:
    1. Theory of racial supremacy (guilt‑ridden scapegoating); &,
    2. practice of racial supremacy (ethnic genocide), in treating Black folks as disposable garments:
      1. Ignored and negatively‑stereotyped in the media;
      2. thrown in jail and murdered by White police officers disproportionately; &,
      3. refusal to even say Black Lives Matter or acknowledge that racism is a problem;
  11. trying to assuage political correctness (PC) by either conforming to PC (pretending not to be prejudiced) or mocking it (openly‑expressing prejudice);
  12. engaging in mere monkey‑like imitation:
    1. Blacks will try to improve what little they copy; &
    2. continue to re‑create for themselves what White culture lacks;
  13. trying to win the favor of their ethnic coevals (White bonding) by offering disdain for other cultures;
  14. upset and angered by the fact that the very existence of other cultures proves People Of Color (POC) do not need White culture as the basis for their identity; &,
  15. getting defensive about cultural appropriation (or saying others are just being oversensitive) sends a clear message about how little the cultural appropriator values the lives of others when racial micro‑aggressions like cultural appropriation continually take place.

Unearned empathy

No‑one else cares about White guilt nor about hurt Caucasian feelings. Pointing‑out cultural appropriation is not personal – although cultural appropriation is. It is a matter of telling people that they do not behave in a cultural vacuum and that there are many social and historical implications to treating marginalized cultures like costumes.

When someone’s behavior is labeled culturally appropriative, it is not about that specific person being horrible. It is about a centuries’‑old pattern of taking, stealing, exploiting and deliberately‑misunderstanding the history and the cultural symbols that are meaningful to people of marginalized cultures.

Not educating themselves, listening‑to nor being open to re‑examining the symbols White people use without wanting to think or wanting to understand the historical and social climate people need to see if they wish to live their lives more fully, means Whites not wanting to be aware‑of cultural appropriation as a real political issue, despite it perfectly‑demonstrating the imbalance‑of‑power that exists between cultures that have been colonized and those that are colonizers.

Caucasian emptiness

Because Whites have little in their culture of which to be proud, they assume that minstrelsy will promote their unearned sense of superiority and self‑regarding contempt for others. In reality, it does nothing more than reflect their ingrained and cultureless contempt for themselves; coming from the socially‑inbred desire to evade the White supremacist political context within which they are all born, that makes them guilt‑ridden from the cradle‑to‑the‑grave.

Pretending to find Black culture attractive (while making it clear that Black people remain to be discriminated against) does not include any actual sense of cultural appreciation of that culture nor any genuine cultural exchange with that culture. Whites behaving like Blacks garners praise and attention from other Whites; while Blacks‑acting‑like‑Blacks does not – despite the fact that the original is always better than the copy. The original is clearly‑focused as to purpose, while the copy is always like a blurred photocopy: Never as good as the original (while presupposing the possibility that the original was tampered‑with before being copied). Thus, cultural appropriation creates a double standard that perpetuates the White cause of further oppressing already oppressed groups.

The White cultural pretense of cultural appropriation is in sharp contradistinction to when Blacks appropriate other cultures; eg, Valentine’s Day. Such cultures are not disrespected, they are actually appreciated and a genuine cultural exchange takes place. Moreover, this White pretense reflects the way in which Whites have, over the past 500 years, parasited‑off and vampirised others to fill the sensational, emotional and ethical void inside themselves and their culture – all the while pretending (in the interests of the White superstition of White supremacy) that this fundamental White need does not, in fact, exist.

Because White culture lacks an ethical core, White people need other cultures to be able to form any kind of a basis for theirs, in comparison; proving Black culture could never be either dependent upon, nor inferior to, a White culture that is, itself, dependent and inferior. White people lack the work ethic and the imagination to create their own substantive culture, so liberally borrow from others without ever offering credit to the source of their cultural appropriations – those peoples whom they actually loathe, fear, envy & resent because of their cultural fullness, which Whites are compelled to follow else have nothing to celebrate.

Cowardly lions

Cultural appropriation practiced by White people is racist because it reflects the White jealousy that they can never be as fully‑human as Black people. Along with the great White hope that mere mimicry will give them the Black kudos Whites lack – as if dressing‑up as a lion could actually make anyone as fearsome as one. It simultaneously tacitly‑acknowledges (via ridicule) that to actually be Black is to be nothing, politically, in the eyes of Whites.

There is no cultural exchange, appreciation nor respect in all of this White cultural appreciation, there is only culturally‑acontextual taking‑without‑understanding (knowing without learning) because the taker knows they are not, and never will be, invited to the cultural party of their social betters. (This lack of gratitude to Black people is related to the fact that White people deny complicity in current‑day White supremacy; while never thanking Blacks for making Whites wealthy through racial slavery & racism.) Cultural appropriation would be less offensive if the White people doing it also wore Black Lives Matter T‑shirts – as the real Black people they mimic do. But Whites will never do this because they fear it would deprive them of all their benefits under White supremacy.

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Frank TALKER - Truth-Teller