Cultural Appropriation

Let’s talk about cultural appropriation. When I was a teenager, I attended Rugby School, a posh public school (Americans – that’s a private school in your lingo) in the middle of the UK. When I was there I was treated like shit by students and teachers alike, because I didn’t come from the same rich privileged background as they did. I was never allowed to fit in, even if I tried to modify my behaviour to be more like them, I was always the outsider. Eventually I realised that I had no desire to fit in with that group of people and to this day I still despise the attitude of those people.

Skip forward to the modern day and there’s this concept called “cultural appropriation” which suggests that you’re not allowed to do anything if it’s something which is part of some culture which you were not born into (the one currently getting my goat is that supposedly I’m not allowed dreadlocks because I’m not black). this to me reeks of the same privilege and exclusion I experienced at school.

I am in favour of freedom of expression. Even in situations where that freedom causes people to become offended (It is impossible to produce anything which is universally inoffensive). The concept of cultural appropriation only serves to segregate people. Some of the best things in the field of human endeavour have come about through a blending of culture and the emergence of a new culture from that merger.

I mean, shit, if white people hadn’t used Black blues musical influences there would be no rock and roll. almost all of the music that people listen to in the west these days is of Black origin. I’d hazard a guess that the Balti would not be a thing if not for Pakistani and British cultures merging. And to quote my friend Patrick: “‘Without cultural appropriation, there would be precious little culture,’ said somebody sometime, and they were right… I for one am glad we nicked numerals from Arabs so we don’t have to work through that I, II, III shit.

So when people look down on others for appropriating their culture, my attitude is “go fuck yourself”. People are free to do whatever the fuck they like, in whichever way they see fit, and nobody owns any part of any culture.

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3 comments

  1. A.D. Warr

    Except it’s not “[x] is ours, you can’t have it!” It’s either “[x] is important to my culture and you’re abusing it” or “when I do [x], I get ridiculed, when you do [x], you get praised”.

    The former is what’s happening when dickheads at festivals wear war bonnets or use the phrase “spirit animal” to mean they like something.

    The latter is what happens when a white person with dreadlocks gets seen as “rebellious” or “free-spirited”, while a black person is seen as “dirty” or “ghetto”. Or when the contributions of people of colour get erased from history – like in your rock and roll example: too many histories would happily exclude black people or act like the music wasn’t worth paying attention to until white people took over. These days, people act like it’s weird if black people like rock because it’s a “white” genre.

    And hey, that’s good old fashioned racism. You might be respectful and not part of the problem, but you can surely see why some might be wary of allowing others in when so much has been stolen already.

    • 2Karl

      Oh I completely see that, but as you’ve pointed out, cultural appropriation is not necessarily the problem, it’s the racism which is the problem.

      I appreciate that as a white British guy I’m not remotely qualified to comment on Black culture in any way other than the elements I can see and experience as an outsider, but it’s my rejection of the idea that I belong to any one culture which leads me to do the things I do, to dress the way I do, to appreciate elements of a great many different cultures around the world. Perhaps it’s because I find my own cultural legacy so utterly abhorrent that I seek to remove myself from it, and maybe that’s why I don’t necessarily see what’s wrong; I mean, why the fuck would anyone want to start morris dancing, or subjugating entire continents of people?

      • A.D. Warr

        Yeh, British culture is in a very different position to others. The oldest stuff comes from us being invaded by others and the most recent stuff is from us invading other people. It all stems from such shit that I think anyone with a conscience would be happy for it to die off. And don’t get me started on Morris dancers doing blackface and saying it’s Ok because it’s not meant *that* way.

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