Is just quoting Beyoncé a form of cultural appropriation?

You know the answer to the question above. According to Black Lives Matter, it’s a strong “YES!”, although nobody would have batted an eyelash about this five years ago. What happened in March is that Niki Ashton, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament, emitted a tweet announcing that she was going to liberalize the NDP. Here it is (it’s since been deleted):


I’m not a huge fan of Beyoncé, but I do like the song from which this phrase came, “Irreplaceable“. Here it is to explain and to pep up your morning; it’s about a woman sending away her cheating man, noting that “I could have another you in a minute.”

The relevant lyrics:

To the left, to the left
Everything you own in the box to the left
In the closet that’s my stuff
Yes, if I bought it, please don’t touch
And keep talking that mess that’s fine
But could you walk and talk at the same time
And, it’s my name that’s on that jag
So come move your bags, let me call you a cab

Now a lot of people, including even me, recognize that song phrase. And I saw nothing wrong with using it as a campaign slogan. After all, lyrics are lifted all the time in various causes. Think of Dylan’s “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”, or Hillary Clinton’s use of Tammy Wynette’s song “Stand by your man”. I’m sure you can think of many more.

The problem for some is that Beyoncé is black, or rather, half black and half Creole. And a white politician can’t just go around quoting songs from a black woman: that’s “cultural appropriation”, tantamount to racism. Never mind that Beyoncé’s song is not specifically about the black experience, as it refers to anyone who dumps a cheating partner; the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter called Ashton out and demanded that she delete her tweet and stop saying “To the Left”. Canada’s National Post story about this tempest in a plate of poutine shows their tw**t:

Since when does the video above, showing a rich woman with a mansion and a Jaguar kicking out her man, represent “black culture”? But Ashton, a feminist concerned with social justice, capitulated and groveled.

The Post goes on to blacksplain why Ashton failed the ideological purity test:

Some experts in race, music and culture say Ashton’s post exemplifies a theme in politics: leaders use black songs and culture to make themselves seem cool while not actually doing much for the black community.

“Politicians don’t have the same kind of clout they once did … and they have to go to pop culture to be relevant,” said Mark Campbell, senior research associate at the Ryerson University Faculty of Communication and Design’s forum for cultural strategies. “The piece around appropriation is really about flexing a certain kind of white power and privilege and co-opting the social capital” of performers like Beyoncé, he said.

. . . “The difficulty for some black community members might (be that) … for some politicians, their only engagement (with black culture) is in music and food or entertainment,” said Dalton Higgins, a publicist and author of six books about race, culture and music. He called Ashton’s effort an “awkward” reference that didn’t really reflect the spirit of the song, which is about a break-up. It reminded Higgins of Toronto Coun. Norm Kelly’s Twitter feed, which is full of references to Drake and other rappers.

Well, you know, if someone used Beyoncé’s lyrics for financial gain, or regularly appropriated the lyrics of black musicians for their own gain without giving due credit, I would see that as a problem. But that’s not the case here. We have a phrase about a breakup—an event not unique to black people—used in a clever way for political purposes. And it was a one-off.  What happened was that Vancouver Black Lives Matter simply bullied Ashton, and she gave in. Perhaps she was conscious of getting black votes, or, more likely, the BLM movement played on her sense of racial justice in a way that made her ashamed.

But she shouldn’t have been. I doubt that I would have capitulated, since I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the phrase, nor do I see it as “cultural appropriation,” which is a pejorative term that is widely used but rarely comes from genuine bigotry. This is no more cultural appropriation than was Hillary Clinton’s “stand by your man” phrase (emphasizing that, as an independent woman, she wasn’t going to follow it) appropriation of the culture of poor whites in the American South.

This kind of accusation will keep being made, but we should keep calling it out rather than capitulating. In general, “cultural appropriation” is a good thing, and I can’t think of any culture that hasn’t borrowed from others. As they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And I admit that sometimes appropriation is not particularly savory. But it’s not unsavory just because you’re “borrowing up”, as BLM implies. They’d presumably have no problem with blacks or Hispanics borrowing from “white culture”, whatever that is. What makes the world more interesting, and better, is each group using what if finds appealing from other groups. Tomatoes and chili peppers both originated in the New World, yet one of my favorite dishes is something you find all over north India, butter chicken, or murgh makhani, made with both ingredients. Is that cultural appropriation? Even if it is, is it okay because the Indians “borrowed up”? (And don’t forget how Italians also culturally appropriated tomatoes from the indigenous peoples of Central America.)

Sop this sucker up with a pile of fresh, warm chappatis.

Would you have withdrawn a tweet like Ashton’s if you were called out?

h/t: Charleen

147 Comments

  1. Grania Spingies
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Beyonce was okay with a bit of cultural appropriation of her own when she helped that group of British white guys out on their song Hymn for the weekend.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    My opinion is that this whole cultural appropriation ban is just silly nonsense. If someone appreciates something from another culture, then go for it. I also don’t care for that song much (or most rap songs).

    /end of get off my lawn!!!1!!

    • Bob Barber
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      Here is my thought on rap music.

  3. sensorrhea
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    We must have purity and the ritual humiliation of the privileged!

    The Party demands it!

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    So as a white woman, I guess it is wrong for me to listen to Beyoncé. Where does that leave black people wanting others to hear their music? How successful will this be? How does it look any different from genuine racism that would forbid white people from listening to black music?

    And I think Beyoncé is part of American culture, but what do I know, I’m just a white woman.

    As an aside, I have always been a little uncomfortable with that song anyway. “I can have another you in a minute” seems kind go arrogant and why would you want “another you” if the guy is a jerk anyway?

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      You can listen. Just don’t hum or (heaven forfend) sing along.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Or tap a foot. That would be appropriating rhythm too.

    • Sastra
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      How does it look any different from genuine racism that would forbid white people from listening to black music?

      Yes, if this complaint was regularly coming from conservatives (“You quoted a colored woman! Remove those words at once or you risk the co-mingling of the races and the adulteration of our pure white culture!”) then there might well be a black movement towards “appropriation” — which would no doubt be renamed something like “appreciation.” If we blackwash all art, food, expressions, and similar elements from the public square as public square, the message isn’t necessarily one of respect. It could be “Those People aren’t like us, we shouldn’t behave like Them.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

        “Cultural Appreciation” is definitely a meme that needs to be started!

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted June 27, 2017 at 3:49 am | Permalink

          +1

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I guess you’re allowed to “listen up” but not to “listen down” (as in “punch up” or “punch down”). In other words, you may only enjoy art/music created by a less oppressed group than your own.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I agree with all this, and I wouldn’t have capitulated to BLM either. I would have stood up to them.

      Cultural appropriation is almost always just appreciation, and usually culture hasn’t even entered into the mind of the so-called appropriater.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      “And I think Beyoncé is part of American culture, but what do I know, I’m just a white woman.”

      You Canucks are always appropriating American culture!

      (Would that it went the other way!)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Canada only appropriates the annoying parts of American culture. Besides we gave you basketball and superman – you’re welcome. 😀

  5. Craw
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    This disqualifies Ashton from consideration for any leadership post. Even the NDP should be able to do better. Where have you gone Mister Ed Broadbent, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Mrs. Robinson says Deadly Ed has left and gone away, hey, hey, hey.

      Now you’re appropriatin’ from a coupla Jewish boys from Flushing.

      • Craw
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        You betcha! YANKS no less!

  6. Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    “I’m not a huge fan of Beyoncé”

    I’ve heard more than once that that’s sure evidence of racism since there’s no other possible explanation.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      So then what are black people who don’t listen to or like Beyonce?

      • Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Internalized racism.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Right (I mean from the SJW POV). All this is insane shit and it’s falling hard and fast. I’d say that there is no modern culture that hasn’t been significantly influenced in every aspect by other cultures and incorporated and adapted all kinds of things into their culture. I’m not an anthropologist bud I’d venture to say that this even goes for remote indigenous people who’ve interacted with their neighbors.

          Must say that I’ve always detested that much quoted epigram, beloved by radical feminists and SJWs, from the black lesbian writer, Audre Lord: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Isn’t she trying to dismantle the master’s house by those very words? Why then is she writing and speaking in English, fer Chrissakes?

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            I mean Audre Lorde.

        • Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          You’ve got this down, Mike.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      I swear I’m not making this up. Although I know the name and recognize her photo, I have absolutely no idea what Beyonce’s music sounds like. Could not pick it out of a musical lineup if I tried.

      I must be REALLY racist. Like Grand Wizard of the KKK, Alt-right literally a Nazi racist.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Think nice voice rendered tedious and uninteresting through homogenization in ‘generic music-like product’ industry.

      • Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        “I must be REALLY racist. Like Grand Wizard of the KKK, Alt-right literally a Nazi racist.”

        Yeah you’re such an uber racist that you probably heard her sing, and she was so good that you had to repress the memory. That being said I might have heard a song by her, may have even liked it, but I can’t say that I have. Maybe that makes me color blind, which I think is considered racist as well.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          You too are so racist that you can’t see how racist you are. It’s because you’ve grown accustomed to your racism and all the white people like me, who also are accustomed to our racism just reinforce your racism in a big racist reverberating echo of racism.

          So if you think you’re not racist, you really are racist. And. It just regular racist, really racist. The most racist of all e racist racists.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Ditto for me. I know nothing about her music, to my knowledge I’ve never heard more than a few bars, but I do know that she just had twins and is now looking for a surrogate to carry future children. And there’s something about lemonade.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          Tritto for me. Though I may have seen her on a Super Bowl halftime show before my mind wandered…

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 27, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

            Beyoncé was pretty good as Etta James in Cadillac Records. I mean, how could anybody not like her in this closing scene?

            Looked fine in that short blond wig, too, you ask me. (But then Etta James and puberty arrived around the same time for me, which might go a ways toward explaining my feelings there. 🙂 )

      • gscott
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        I, too, am blissfully ignorant of what she sounds like. And I’m happy that way.

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 4:18 am | Permalink

        I’m with mikeyc here. I just went to YouTube to see/hear what she’s like singing Halo. I’m not very impressed, and will probably be shot down in flames for saying that she doesn’t even look very black to me 😮

        Fortunately there was a link next to the video which took me to the video of Stevie Nicks singing Wild Heart while having her make-up applied. Absolutely brilliant!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      We’re all white supremacists.

    • Vaal
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Oh…I have another explanation. I LOVE dance music, R&B, etc, but I find Beyonce’s singing over-reaches her own talent, her melodies utterly banal, and her performances overwrought and too self-serious. If her song “Halo” ever comes on the radio I can not turn the dial quickly enough – the pinnacle of a eye-rollingly maudlin song delivered with overwrought intensity.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Such seems to be the style these days. The ballads all sound alike.

        • Vaal
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          And, Diana, have you noticed also:

          It seems every female pop-star has signed a secret contract to get their record deal:

          Their songs must be about an embittered break-up.

          Apparently all the interesting subjects have been used up in decades past, and there are no more stories under the stars to be told in popular music.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

            There are some that aren’t so bad. Elle King has some good songs. But, yeah I also notice that everyone wants to belt out sounds. Can’t we just sing?

            Get off my lawn ya damn kids!

  7. Leigh Jackson
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    “Cultural appropriation, my ass” is only appropriate response to the accusation.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      (Spoken as a British person who can appreciate non-British vernacular.)

      • Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        You hit exactly the right pitch.

      • Gareth
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        My Arse sounds better anyways 🙂

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          We don’t want to hear your arse, thank you!

          • Gareth
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

            Heh, should have seen that one coming 🙂

            • Nobody Special
              Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

              What? Your farts are visible? I believe that is what is known as follow-through.

            • Nobody Special
              Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

              What? Your farts are visible? I believe that is what is known as follow-through.

              • Nobody Special
                Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

                No idea why that comment repeated itself. Kind of fitting, though 🙂

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

            I do! Go ahead, let us hear the arse.

          • Diane G.
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

            lol!

  8. Jonathan Dore
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The entirety of black commercial pop music (I use that term in its most generic sense to encompass all song-based popular/commercial music), including all of jazz, blues, R&B, funk, hip-hop and everything else, is fundamentally based on the cultural appropriation of the European invention, unique in the history of human music, of diatonic functional harmony. Nothing remotely like it is indigenous to any African, Asian, or New World culture.

    Is anyone complaining? Of course not. It’s Europe’s gift to the world.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Jonathan – wonderful! I am going to appropriate this observation for future use.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      “Nothing remotely like it is indigenous to any African, Asian, or New World culture”

      Is this true? Are there really no non-European musical styles that use “diatonic functional harmony”?

      I know next to nothing about music theory but it seems to me that what you’ve described as a European invention is really just Europeans explaining, in the lexicon of music, what we hear when we listen to (or create) certain types of music. IOW, is it possible that “diatonic functional harmony” is not a unique feature of European culture and instead is a way of describing and representing music?

      I will freely and openly admit I know nothing about this except what I read on its Wikipedia page. Which is what prompted my question.

      • Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know about Africa, but the music of many Asian nations includes intervals smaller than halftone, which makes it difficult to be appreciated by a Western ear.

        • Jonathan Dore
          Posted June 27, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          mayamarkov — yes, Chinese, Japanese and Indian classical musics all employ intervals smaller than a semitone — sometimes *much* smaller; others (such as Javanese) superficially appear to do so but on closer inspection simply divide up the octave by a different (but larger) fraction than the twelfth employed in the West. In all musics that employ microtones, however, they are used as melodic inflections, not as the basis of a harmonic system using smaller intervals. Some Western composers, such as Charles Ives, have written pieces that attempt to use quarter-tones in a more systematic way, but the results have been hard to build on because the harmony very quickly becomes more complex than our brains seem to be capable of discerning progressions in.

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        mikeyc: you’ll hear plenty of diatonic functional harmony in music of those cultures made now (e.g. in African pop music) — it is *all* an introduction since European contact.

        Almost all cultures have “melody”, in the technical sense, i.e. use of monodic single lines. All cultures use rhythm and meter. What they didn’t have until European influence was a) a diatonic system of keys, i.e. tonal centres in an even-tempered tuning that gave unlimited transposability; and b) a hierarchy of chordal relationships within a given tonal centre that gives each chord a specific function in a progression — hence “functional harmony”. This is the sense of inevitability you have in a tonal cadence by which one chord leads on to another in sequence until they are resolved onto the tonic. A further outgrowth of functional harmony is the ability to create meaningful counterpoint. Even in the most sophisticated non-western musical system, that of India, counterpoint between two melodic instruments playing over a drone is an accidental byproduct of their individual melodic choices; sometimes they fleetingly appear to suggest deliberate harmonies, but since the musicians are improvising this is an illusion. The notion of two or more independent contrapuntal lines, such as you get in Bach or Strauss, each with its own melodic interest but dovetailing perfectly with the underlying harmonic progression, is completely outside the conceptual scope of any non-western indigenous music.

      • Craw
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        It is true.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I ain’t havin’ it. I’ma quote Bey any old time I feel.

  10. Kevin
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Why does cultural appropriation always feel like a mutual downing?

    The accuser wishes the culprit to be drowned and yet ends up drowning themselves.

    What about the person who made beer? I doubt anyone is that person’s culture anymore. We should all be drowned.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      ….in beer.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Same goes for wine, tea, coffee…lots of drownings.
        🍻🍜🍵

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          Damn, beveridges can be deadly.

          • Nobody Special
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

            Make mine a hot chocolate, please.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      You can thank ancient Mesopotamia for that, and may the wrath of Sargon, Nebuchadnezzar, and Gudea be upon you for the cultural appropriation.

  11. ladyatheist
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Ben Carson, the world’s nerdiest black man, could quote Beyoncé and it would be okay?

    • Rita
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      “nerdiest”? Ben Carson? I don’t think the term “nerd” means what you think it means.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, not as long as Urkel lives on in syndication.

        But Carson most def ain’t cool.

  12. Craw
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    You call it appropriation. I call it education.

  13. Robert Bray
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    ‘Beyoncé is black, or rather, half black and half Creole.’

    I don’t know how Prof. C.C.E. defines ‘Creole,’ but to me the word is as slippery as a muddy eel. And ‘half black’? Which half? Vertical or horizontal bi-symmetry?

    It baffles me that folks can’t see how utterly foolish this ‘cultural misappropriation’ business is. If there ever were a a pure time in history for such a concept, it was before Homo sapiens bred with Neanderthals.

    In Caribbean colonialism, ‘creole’ was used by colonists to distinguish someone of European blood born in the colony–no indigenous, no slave genetic connection. HEAVEN FORFEND! Today, the pride in being creole comes from HAVING that black or indigenous connection somewhere along the ancestral line.

    And ‘black’? President Obama really was (half) African-American–-rather than ‘black.’ What is Beyoncé? What cultures does she carry that may be fairly said to be misappropriatable? A lyric from a song about kicking a boyfriend out of the house while reminding him and us that the Jaguar is hers and hers alone? How is that clichéd theme specific to any culture other than the culture of bling?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      The perfect response by the politician would be to quote En Vogue’s entire song, Free Your Mind, thus making her point & angering those that would see this as further cultural appropriation:

      Lyrics
      I wear tight clothing and high heel shoes
      It doesn’t mean that I’m a prostitute
      I like rap music wear hip hop clothes
      That doesn’t mean that I’m sellin’ dope
      Oh please forgive me, for having straight hair
      It doesn’t mean there’s another blood in my heirs
      I might date another race or color
      Doesn’t mean I don’t like my strong black brothers

      Why oh why must it be this way
      Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow.
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow

      So I’m a sistah
      Buy things with cash
      That really doesn’t mean that all my credit’s bad, oooh
      So why dispute me and waste my time
      Because you really think the price is high for me
      I can’t look without being watched, no
      You rang my buy before I made up my mind, ow!
      Oh now attitude, why even bother
      I can’t change your mind, you can’t change my colour

      Why oh why must it be this way?
      Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind

      Why oh why must it be this way?
      Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind and the rest will follow
      Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow
      Free your mind

      • Doug
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        The term “color blind” is now considered racist.

        At this point, it might be easier to list all the things that aren’t considered racist.

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted June 27, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

          I can’t keep up with this. In my life I’ve had to replace “negro” with “black”, “black” with “coloured”. “coloured” with “black”, and everything with “person of colour”. Or is it the other way around? I give up, I’m a racist, so shoot me now.

    • Rita
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      I’ve never felt comfortable with the term “African-American” because it feels like a term made up by white people to avoid saying “black” only because they think any direct reference to skin color is insulting. That,in my opinion,is racist because it implies it is inherently bad to be black.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I believe it was made up by black people. They didn’t like being called “colored” or Negro.”

        • Kingasaurus
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          Then why am I still “white” rather than “Euro-American”?

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        I was (obliquely) indicating that Obama’s father was Kenyan and his mother American; hence he was born an ‘African-American’–in the U. S. state of Hawaii, should anyone still need to be reminded.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:06 am | Permalink

        Yeah, but it’s yet another example of euphemism creep. I think the only answer is to go with what the majority of the community prefers. (And I notice that a lot of blacks themselves find “black” less cumbersome to “African American.”)

        (IIANM, some polls have shown that a majority of USian aboriginals actually prefer the term Indian to Native American.)

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

          *to* should be *than*, end of first graf.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I thought creole refered to language.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Creole also has a meaning in linguistics, and is used to mean a specific family of examples of it. Interestingly, it seems that creolization is a perfect example of “cultural appropriation” in two directions at once!

  14. bric
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I am not familiar with Ms Beyoncé’s oeuvre, so I may have inadvertently quoted her if ‘To the left’ is an example. I regret nothing!
    It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. That I know is James Baldwin and you can sue me.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      “I regret nothing!”

      Ahem, I believe that’s an appropriation from the early-20th-century French Beyoncé, Edith Piaf.

      • bric
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Non, rien de rien, non

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      In a mall, someone asked me where a particular store was and I replied “To the Left,” not realizing it was a Beyonce song “quote.” So I share with you our collective white guilt- at least 92% worth, as I am 8% black. But mentioning that only makes it *worse*, because…

      Once you’ve gone down this rabbit hole, there is no coming out. Ever.

  15. Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    To answer JAC’s final question – absolutely not. And ditto to Bob Terrace’s response – silly nonsense. Cultural appropriation has supplanted diversity sensitivity training as tops on my get-off-my-lawn list.

  16. J.Baldwin
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I would have re-Tweeted along with the comment: “See what we’re up against? Clowns to the Left…Jokers to the Right…”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Gerry Rafferty appropriation. (You’ll no doubt be hearing from Scottish authorities about this.)

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 4:57 am | Permalink

        I have a little list, and J.Baldwin is on it…

    • Michiel van Haren
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 5:55 am | Permalink

      Indeed. It always amazes me how everyone seems to cave immediately to any suggestion that they are “culturally appropriating” or whatever else it is the CTRL-left doesn’t want you to do, instead of actually thinking about it and going “hang on a minute!”.

  17. Bruce Gorton
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I find it fairly amusing that quoting Beyonce is now cultural appropriation.

    Why? Because…

    http://www.pulse.ng/celebrities/beyonce-aka-accuses-singer-of-cultural-appropriation-over-african-themed-baby-shower-id6722925.html

  18. Tom
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Sad how people waste valuable moments of the brief lives thinking up such drivel. Cultural appropration has existed ever since one group of primates took note of and imitated what another group was doing.
    What is the object behind “cultural appropriation” tosh, do they want to patent culture?

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Yes, that is sometimes the goal. I’ve seen an email petition to the World Intellectual Property Organization demanding recognition of the rights of a particular tribe in the Amazon over sweetener products derived from the Stevia plant, because they traditionally used the plant for this purpose.

      In cases such as this, however, it’s largely an exercise in power. Someone purporting to represent a dispossessed group (no qualification is required beyond self-selction) demands abasement from some luckless ingenue who has inadvertently strayed into the group’s cultural “territory”. When, as here, that ritualized grovelling has been extracted, the shaken and humiliated object of the extortion is sent on their way, chastened and determined not to stray again, and thanking their lucky stars they got away without being called the “R” word — an accusation that requires no evidence but is simply and unarguably true simply by being uttered. The dispossessed’s gatekeeper, on the other hand, becomes more powerful with every abasement they manage to extract. It’s not unlike what happens at the borderlands between the territories of rival gangs.

    • Posted June 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      This. “Cultural appropriation” is redundant. That’s what culture IS – appropriation.

      Know what else is redundant? “Identity politics.” Nobody* votes, for example, out of self-interest; the math just doesn’t work. Only identity can provide a strong enough motivation. *OK, nobody capable of simple math. But I digress.

  19. Doug
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I would have said “Helen Frye handles all our complaints. If you have any complaints, go to Helen Frye.”

  20. Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I like to think that if I were accused of cultural appropriation (for my breakfast burrito, maybe?), I’d give the accuser my complete, unadulterated opinion of that “accusation.” Or perhaps better, a “Yeah; so?”

    However, if I were trying to get elected or influence elections, I’d realize that I was in a lose-lose situation and apologize to get it over with fast.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I think I’d try to do your second one but the cognitive dissonance would make my brain explode and I’d verbalize that explosion in a ooziing mass of angry retorts punctuated by several expletives. I wouldn’t last as a politician.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:12 am | Permalink

      “However, if I were trying to get elected or influence elections, I’d realize that I was in a lose-lose situation and apologize to get it over with fast.”

      Exactly.

      BTW, if the USA never appropriated any other culture would there even be a USA?

  21. Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I’d just tweet (or whatever the kids are doing these days) a snippent of “Hit the road, Jack” and sign off with a hearty Sayonara, Ciao, and Adios. Maybe with a pic of me wearing a grass skirt and eating a bagel.

    Sigh, I think we are losing the grip on common sense.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      So to object, you’d appropriate Ray Charles? Genius!

  22. Vaal
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    It is of course ridiculous.

    Note that Beyonce uses a phalanx of songwriters, many of them white. The song in question – Irreplaceable – was co-written by a white Norwegian song writing team.

    So how does this appropriation matrix work, exactly? Is Beyonce co-opting the sentiments of the white song writers in mouthing their words?

    Or…once a black person sings the words written by a white person, those words become the “black people’s words” and from then on white people are appropriating those words?
    So if a black person recites Shakespeare publicly or on a record, it becomes the property of black culture?

    I mean…just how insane does it get?

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Also, according to Wikipedia, this song was originally written as a country song.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Hmmmm I hope there weren’t any planned Hawaiian guitars because I hate those things.

        • Doug
          Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          “Midnight Train to Georgia” was originally a Country song called “Midnight Plane to Houston” written by a white guy. Gladys Knight appropriated it.

          Are we supposed to put different types of music into separate ghettos and never let them out? “You’re a Black song! Stay in your own backyard!”

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I’m imagining songs put in jars that can only be opened by the appropriate race.

    • Pali
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure black people would have to fight the Klingons over Shakespeare… which would itself be very ironic.

  23. C. Morano
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    The only moral, rational response should have been “FUCK YOU & THE C#$& YOU DROPPED OUT OF.”

  24. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Maybe instead of calling BLM “Black Lives Matter” it should stand for “Bullies Like Me”.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      As an erstwhile Pacific Northwesterner I can’t see BLM without thinking Bureau of Land Management first.

      (Sadly, the ethnic BLM was founded over a very real USian problem, and I hate to see the good cause usurped by the idiocy.)

  25. Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    The Black Lives Matter are supremacist bullies. Their movement emerged after the “suicide by cop” of a young man who robbed a supermarket in broad daylight. Then, they harassed pizza eaters and other innocent folks, forced a Gay Pride to reject police, and inspired attacks on police officers. If you are still in doubt, read their manifesto:

    https://policy.m4bl.org/

    Among other jewels, it contains anti-Israel paragraphs.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      No; go back and watch the videos of blacks being shot to death while running away from cops, or suffocated for selling loose cigarettes on the street, or brain-damaged from being denied timely medical care while being thrown around in the back of a police van driving erratically, or shot when–correctly–telling the police that you legally carry a gun, then reaching for your ID when asked to produce it, or….

      There’s a real there there.

      (But the movement itself may have been overtaken by bullies…)

      • Posted June 27, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        I wrote specifically about Michael Brown. I know there are cases in which black people died at the hands of police wrongfully. However, my feeling is that BLM from Day 1 wanted to exploit the problem rather than solve it. They did not aim to improve police work and hold officers responsible. They wanted just to scare police into running away from black people. So they challenged the police monopoly on force, wishing to use force with impunity themselves.

  26. Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Nowadays, if you go Left, you’re likely to walk into a meat grinder. A lot of cannibalism going on.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Well at least you’ll finally know how the sausage gets made.

  27. Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The fruit of Critical Theory and Postmodernism: The ability to find offense in the most benign statements has become a celebrated skill. I think I’ll put it on my resume…

  28. Harrison
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Don’t apologize. Always remember you are dealing with bullies and concern trolls. You will not be forgiven no matter how you grovel.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink

      Yes, let Trump be your model!

      (Seriously, it seems the more a politician tries to appease the Ctrl left the worse trouble they find themselves in…)

  29. W.Benson
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Is buying music by non-white performers “Cultural Appropriation”? I thought not.

  30. Johan Richter
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Did Beyoncé complain? If not, it is rather racist for BLM to presume they have any say on how Beyoncé’s music should be used just because she is black.

  31. Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I think we’re moving into the realm of nano-, pico-, femto-, and yocto-aggressions. Perhaps there’s good material here for Boghossian and Lindsay to write another paper for a social science journal.

  32. Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Ugh.

    Time to write to the NDP. (I am a supporter, usually.)

  33. Leigh
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    You asked if I would have apologized. Yes, not for cultural appropriation (a concept beyond my comprehension), but for stupidity. I think this criticism is warranted … … “The difficulty for some black community members might (be that) … for some politicians, their only engagement (with black culture) is in music and food or entertainment …” I also agree that the reference to the song was “awkward.” The song has nothing to do with her program or policies, so why the gratuitous nod to pop culture. It was just plain stupid!

    I know nothing about this politician but it would have made more sense for her to talk about the hows, whats, and whys of her program.
    It is also another example of why politicians should get their a**es off twitter and start busting them solving problems.

    By all means let’s continue to play “let’s you and him fight” while we loose elections.

  34. Sara
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    No way! I never would have deleted the tweet if I was in Ashton’s shoes. It is obvious that BLM has no clue what cultural appropriation really is. They are just a bunch of bullies masquerading as advocates for social justice.

  35. Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    A common criticism of Donald Trump is that he’s too easily manipulated. He’s not the only politician this is true of.

  36. Nilou Ataie
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I imagine that the cultural appropriation folks do not have children. When a child tattle-tails on their sibling or friend for copying them in good faith, the correct response is to tell that child that it is a complement to inspire others. Otherwise you feed a spoiled bully.

  37. Filippo
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded that the smash hit, “Up on the Roof,” was sung by The Drifters and written by Carol King and Gerry Coffin.

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      …Gerry Coffin

      I know he’s dead, but there’s no need to rub it in.

  38. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    This is such horseshit.
    If us evil white people never reference black people or mention them for fear of offence then that will be offensive and oppressive too.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      The Civil Rights bills would not have passed without white support. Obama would never have been elected without white voters. Etc.

      • Posted June 27, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        I think this is strong enough to be a historical law: progressive social changes only reach tipping point when outsiders (those not directly in the affected category) join in sufficient numbers.

  39. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Beyoncé is a great dancer – and can sing too – with a good standard on her products. I would appropriate her expressions, for sure.

    “Appropriating Black culture is not intersectional feminism.”

    Isn’t that exactly intersectionality, mixing cultures: basically “the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.” [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality ]? The opposite would be isolationism.

  40. Nobody Special
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    A serious, if slightly pedantic question; is cultural appropriation really a bad thing? I would have thought that cultural mis-appropriation would be a thing worth complaining about.

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      Interesting point.

      • Posted June 27, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        I think so. My friend Raven used to say: you want a feather? Earn one. Not a problem if you’re white, black, green, blue, whatever.

  41. eric
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Now a lot of people, including even me, recognize that song phrase. And I saw nothing wrong with using it as a campaign slogan.

    I have no problem with any politician using any modern song, so long as they get the permission of the songwriter. But when they don’t, and the musician uses that opportunity to publicly come out against them, they deserve it.

    Race has little to do with it. And honestly, if a songwriter gives permission for their song to be used and someone has a problem with the “appropriation” of it, then their real problem is with the writer who gave permission.

  42. Posted June 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m still fuming over the La Tène appropriation of Halstatt culture.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Yeah, and don’t get me started on that guy in southern Gaul who made a killing on samianware. Did a single denarius of that money find its way back to Samos? I think not.

  43. Larry Smith
    Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Does this mean that I can no longer dress “to the left”?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      Lol. And IAMNM, that would disconcert ~ 75% of men…

      • Nobody Special
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Can The Rocky Horror Show no longer take ‘…a jump to the left’?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 27, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

          I guess that’s who the NDP should’ve quoted.

  44. Sandy
    Posted June 27, 2017 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    So does buying a Beyonce album amount to cultural appropriation too? I wonder how many white fans helped pay for that mansion.

  45. Paul
    Posted June 27, 2017 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    From what I can see “cultural appropriation” seems to mean that the colour of your skin and the accidental circumstances of your birth shall determine that you shall think, act and speak in a certain way and that you shall not think, act and speak in certain other ways.

    Which is pretty much the definition of racism, isn’t it?

  46. Alpha Neil
    Posted June 27, 2017 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Sorry if someone already pointed this out, but according to Wikipedia Beyonce is only one of six writers credited for the song. Most of the writers are Norwegian and the song was originally written as a country ballad. In my opinion, the song was created with the single purpose of appealing to as many people as possible and therefore doesn’t represent the experience of any one racial or ethnic group. Like any pop song, it’s about making money.

  47. Vaal
    Posted June 27, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    An experience driving my teenage son and his friends yesterday reminded me of this topic of cultural appropriation – and the recent kerfuffle regarding Bill Maher’s use of the “N” word.

    I don’t use the N word, have no desire or reason to ever want to, and I simply can not remember the last time I heard any white person (or other color) I know used it.

    With one exception:

    My son.

    Make that more exceptions:

    And his friends.

    Why? Like many white teenagers, they are huge fans of many black pop and rap artists, from Drake to Future to…all sorts of rappers whose names I can’t remember. They were playing their favorite songs in the car yesterday and these artists use the N word liberally in their songs. So OF COURSE kids who love the music sing along – or rap along – with the lyrics. So now I have my kid using the N-word when that is the last thing I would ever encourage him to say!

    Will it be cultural appropriation for white (or Chinese or Indian etc) kids to sing along with or recite black song or rap lyrics with the N-word? What’s the protocol? “You white kids can pay me for my music, love it as much as any black person, but only black people can sing along if they feel like it, whites must listen in silence.”

    That seems racist in itself. Imagine a country singer performing at the Grammys who reminds the black audience that only the white people are allowed to sing along!

    Any artist knows that an audience who loves his music is going to imbibe the lyrics and repeat them, and so he bears some responsibility for the choice of lyrics. If a word like the N-word is that toxic – and you especially do not want to encourage it’s use among white people – then promulgating it’s casual use in your songs to a general audience does not exactly seem like
    a wise route to take.

    No parent I know is keeping the N-word in circulation. It would die a death of non-use if I and any parent I know had our way. Perversely enough it’s some of the very black artists who rail against it’s toxicity who are keeping it’s currency in popular culture!

    And the weirdest thing is that in the twisted new thinking, a white person pointing out he doesn’t like using racist words, and thinks it’s counterproductive to the cause of anti-racism to have those words casually promulgated to his kids, will be the one called “racist.”

    Though I noted in much of the commentary on the Maher episode, that some black people did indeed suggest Ice Cube’s dressing down of Maher was tinged with hypocrisy, suggesting Ice Cube made millions selling music laced with that word to millions of white teenagers and therefore had done far more to promulgate that word among a white audience than Maher’s quip would have. Some black commentators said essentially “Don’t speak for all of us Ice Cube – a lot of us don’t actually think we should keep calling each other the N-word or continue promoting it’s use in popular music!”

    Thoughts?

    • Posted June 28, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I’m not a parent, so take this with a grain of salt.

      But I think the “teachable moment” is about how the word is used in different ways, and in some cases it is horribly offensive, etc., and how that *differs* from its use in such lyrics, etc. Also to not assume that everyone takes offense from the same things, etc., etc.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      I once saw Oprah (yes, I know. But sometimes she says interesting things) say that “white people feel very uncomfortable with that word” and she didn’t want black people using it either. I’m sure that would be seen as “making white people comfortable” but it’s really to say “you’re giving mixed messages and now white people, who are trying to do the right thing, are confused”.


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