Huffington Post clarifies Oppression Hierarchy by incisive analysis of cultural appropriation (dreadlocks versus Chinese tattoos)

HuffPo has done us all a service by deciding the ranking of oppressed groups, and they’ve done so in a clever way: by adjudicating which group should be most offended by cultural appropriation. The decision is in the piece below, co-written by Lilly Workneh, HuffPo’s Black Voices Senior Editor, and Jessica Prols, the Asian Voices Executive Editor.  Click on the screenshot. In this case, it’s a black versus Asian contest: which, would you guess, is the most oppressed (i.e., which group is most hurt by cultural oppression: tattoos vs. dreadlocks)?  

First, the contests: Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin (above right, plays for the Brooklyn Nets) sports dreadlocks. Former Net Kenyon Martin, above left, who is black, sports, among his copious ink, a Chinese tattoo on his arm. I can’t read it (maybe a reader can help), but here it is:

I thought the fracas about dreadlocks had died out, and I still think it’s okay for people who aren’t black to wear them. After all, the hairstyle is adopted not as an insult, or a gesture of “colonialism”, but out of admiration for the look. It’s not at all like blackface or wearing a “Mexican bandito” costume during Halloween. And, after all, cultural appropriation is pervasive for every culture. Asians now wear Western suits, as do blacks, who didn’t wear them until they got their freedom from slavery and mingled with culture derived from Europe. In fact, the black parts of Chicago are loaded with Chinese restaurants. Why is that not cultural appropriation, while Sporting Dreadlocks While Asian is?

At any rate, Lin wrote a thoughtful defense of his hairstyle at The Player’s Tribune, and did so because there was, as usual, a back-and-forth not only between these two players, but also on social media. Here’s part of his explanation:

I never thought I’d ever think so much about hair. Honestly, at first I was surprised anyone would care what I did with my hair. When I started growing it out a few years ago in Charlotte, it was just something I was doing with six of my family members and friends. It was meant to be fun, and to be an expression of freedom.

I didn’t really plan for it to be anything more than that.

Then I kept going with it and it started to become … a thing. Looking back, I can see why my hairstyles turned some heads. (What was I thinking here?) But I liked how the process of changing my look actually made me feel more like myself again. I realized that in the years since Linsanity, I had spent a lot of time in a box, worrying about other people’s opinions on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I wanted to stop basing my decisions so much on what strangers or critics might say about me. It was cool how something as simple as how I wore my hair could pull me out of my comfort zone and make me feel more free. Before I got older and had a family and kids and all of that, I wanted to be able to say to myself, Who cares what anyone else thinks? For me, the different hairstyles became a fun way to do that.

But then he goes on to worry about insensitivity, which is fine, but concludes that he’s keeping his dreads. The very fact that he felt he had to write this is a sign of how deeply Offense Culture has spread. And the essay didn’t satisfy Martin. As PuffHo reports:

The matchup between the two began last week when Lin wrote an essay about why he got dreads. In the The Player’s Tribune, he admitted he hadn’t considered the issue of cultural appropriation, that he had talked with a number of people about his decision and pointed out he was able to empathize.“I know how it feels when people don’t take the time to understand the people and history behind my culture,” he wrote. “It’s easy to brush some of these things off as ‘jokes,’ but eventually they add up. And the full effect of them can make you feel like you’re worth less than others, and that your voice matters less than others.”

Three days later, Martin weighed in and said Lin’s dreadlocks pointed to the fact he wanted to “be black.”

“Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?” Martin asked in a YouTube video. “Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘Alright bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin.”

And PuffHo won’t let it die. First, the black and Asian authors of the article agree to declare Martin the Most Appropriated, because blacks are more oppressed:

But borrowing a cultural marker like dreadlocks, which embody both joy and struggle unique to the black community, is not the same as having a Chinese tattoo, a symbol that doesn’t carry the same weight of oppression. Yes, appropriating Chinese culture through a tattoo is exoticizing and insensitive. But the the act of putting on and taking off dreadlocks ― which are related to the systematic economic and social oppression of a racial group ― demonstrates a greater level of disregard.

And they go into excruciating detail, to explain why (my emphasis):

To Lin’s point, the adoption of Chinese tattoos, tribal tattoos and other similar varieties is problematic. It doesn’t cross a using-someone-else’s-culture-for-personal-gain line in the same way, say, Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s Chinese takeout purse does. But the issue of appropriation boils down to the fact that most Asian people don’t like their culture reduced to an accessory. There’s also the issue of modern-day and historical discrimination against Chinese people, so turning Chinese customs into an accessory can come across as cherry-picking parts of a culture to accept ― rather than embracing an ethnic group as a whole. And ultimately, a practice like making Chinese tattoos a Western trend without an actual connection to the culture can feel exoticizing.

But Lin’s retort to Martin’s criticism was basically saying the tattoos and dreads are uniform in their demonstration of “respect,” and that’s just not accurate. Yes, cultural appropriation of Asian culture is oppressive in that exoticizing a culture can create a depiction of Asians as “others” or perpetual foreigners. But Asian-Americans are not held down by this characterization in the same way black people are for something as fixed as hair ― and the struggle it represents. 

Dreadlocks, which are essentially twisted locks of hair, are more than just a hairstyle. They have become symbolic of blackness and black culture and while some wear them for aesthetic reasons, others can have a deep cultural and spiritual connection to them. The style itself is widely worn by many Rastafarians, a religious movement bred in Jamaica, and, for some among them, it can represent a resistance to Western or Euro-centric hairstyles while honoring their roots.

Well maybe it’s not “respect” that’s demonstrated, but it’s certainly “admiration” for the hairstyle.  The key to PuffHo’s answer is in the bolded part above.  It’s surely true that blacks are more oppressed, and subject to more discrimination, than are Asians. But it’s not because of their hair.  What PuffHo is saying is that it’s not appropriation that’s the real issue, but “appropriating up“—emulating aspects of a culture that’s less oppressed than yours. Apparently all sorts of borrowing is bad (except borrowing from European culture), but it’s more bad to borrow from a culture seen as more marginalized than yours. I’d suggest that PuffHo and others fixated on cultural appropriation produce a Hierarchy Chart, so we can know when we have to worry (i.e. it’s not ok to appropriate from those lower on the list).

As for the “false equivalency”, that’s misleading. According to HuffPo, they are equivalent faux pas; it’s just that one is more faux than the other.

And as for tattoos, that’s risible. I’ve seen many people inked with phrases in Sanskrit, French, Hebrew, and many other languages. The phrases are not expressions of bigotry, but usually phrases expressing some sentiment or emotion in its original language. When I see a movie star with a Hebrew tattoo, getting angry would be the last thing I’d do. In fact, that wouldn’t even cross my mind.  Tablet shows eleven non-Jewish celebrities with Hebrew tattoos. Perhaps the “worst offender” is David Beckham, who has arm tattoos in both Hebrew and Sanskrit:

Both Beckhams are inked with ani l’dodi v’dodi li, ha’roeh bashoshanim, the Song of Songs wedding fave: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, who browses among the lilies.” Shockingly, hers is written and spelled correctly. His is ungrammatical (“my beloved,” dodi, is in the masculine form) but still sweet. FYI: His tattoo is above a Sanskrit rendition of his wife’s name, spelled wrong. (Becks also has a bonus, smaller Hebrew tattoo above his left elbow, from Proverbs 3:1; it means“My son, do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart.” I can’t find any non-blurry pictures of it, but one must assume it features the correct gender pronouns. Yay?)

Should I write an article for HuffPo? I could give ELEVEN cases of Jewish appropriation, and who has historically been more marginalized and oppressed than the Jews? It’s a thought. . .

I’ve discussed this issue several times before, and have argued that yes, there are times when cultural appropriation is, well, inappropriate. Most invidious is when you actually damage a person or group by appropriating their culture. I find this uncommon, but there was one potential instance that I used as a counterfactual: if Paul Simon had appropriated South African music, collaborating with the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the “Graceland” album, but then denied them credit or a decent amount of money, that would be offensive and execrable. That didn’t happen, of course, because Simon is a decent man, but if it had, it would be cultural appropriation that should be called out. Likewise, dressing in blackface, which is meant to mock African-Americans, is hurtful.

But things like food, dreadlocks, tattoos, wearing kimonos, and so on—these are expressions of admiration, not denigration, and they don’t hurt anybody except the Pecksniffs eternally looking to be offended as a way to affirm their uniqueness. I refuse to stop wearing my Indian clothes in India (and sometimes in the U.S.): they look good, and in India they’re simply more comfortable. Do I need to be mindful of the oppression of Indians by the British every time I put on a kurta? I don’t think so, nor do I need to explain it. I know what happened in India, and that’s enough for me. But even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel it necessary to apologize if an Indian person called me out for wearing the clothes of their culture.

It’s venues like HuffPo that continue to divide the Left and make us all look ridiculous. Culture is meant to be appropriated, for it’s that kind of fusion that improves life, and is damaging only rarely. Yet this rot is spreading into society at large. When two professional athletes need to argue about who’s been the most damaged by tattoos and dreadlocks, then you know something’s gone wrong with society.

163 Comments

  1. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I can’t read it (maybe a reader can help), but here it is:

    There’s an implicit “what does it mean” in there.
    I’ll get the inevitable “Pork Chop Suey, egg-fried rice, chips and poutine” line out of the way.
    But of course, as with the Beckhams, it’ll be misspelled (what’s the equivalent of a typo in an ideogramatic language?), and hopefully in an amusing, probably obscene, sense.

    • rummanji
      Posted October 17, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      The devanagari part is misspelled, and in a funny way. (it is devanegari, not sanskrit – sanskrit is a language, devanagari is a script).
      It says:”vhiktoriya”. On the other hand, hindi has “hviski (= whiskey), so what do I know?

      • rummanji
        Posted October 17, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        talking about misspelling – “devanagari”, of course 🙂

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 17, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        (it is devanegari, not sanskrit – sanskrit is a language, devanagari is a script)

        And there I was writing about the Rosetta Stone just a few minutes ago!

  2. Joseph McClain
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Paul Theroux, who in full disclosure is white and from Massachusetts, writes in “Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town.”

    “Ethiopians described the Rastas as impious and faintly ludicrous. The Muslims called them infidels, the Copts claimed they were misguided Christians. No one took them seriously, and many Ethiopians stared at them, sometimes giggling at the Rasta get-up and the ‘African’ affectations: beaded bracelets, horn necklaces, and woven shoulder bags. The dreadlocks were weird to Ethiopians, not African at all, and not the cultural statement Rastas regarded them, but just the epitome of a bad hair day.”

    • Liz
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      “‘… not the cultural statement Rastas regarded them, but just the epitome of a bad hair day.'” – True.

      • Liz
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        True specifically for my own hair is what I meant referring to the bad hair day. Or a week.

    • Jean
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      You should read Geoffrey Tassie thesis, Arcgeology reports on haistyle in Ancient Egypt in the first dynasrties where the multi layer dreadlock style was reminiscent of modern dreadlocks. They even called a predynastic mummy Marley for Godsake. The Social and Ritual Contextualisation of Ancient Egyptian Hair and Hairstyles from the Protodynastic to the End of the Old Kin – UCL …
      https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/18730/1/18730_Vol.1%252C_Chap_1-5.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjQtuOt_-3WAhXGxVQKHfcsAR8QFggmMAA&usg=AOvVaw1bptiO2aLENr5rzysyfCWr

      While I appreciate Lin’s comments on the tattoo, I agree with HuffPo on the false equivalency. As Black man, I have been discriminated againdt for my dreadlocks while non-Black with dreads get the pass…you won’tbe fired for a Chinese tattoo…

  3. kirbmarc
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Cultural appropriation is the stupidest meme ever created by the SocJus fans. Cultural mixing is good for tolerance and integration of people from different social groups.

    Before the rise of the SocJus only cultural supremacists were worried about dreadlocks worn by white or Asian people.

  4. Eric Grobler
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    ” It’s surely true that blacks are more oppressed, and subject to more discrimination, than are Asians. ”

    Is that positive or negative discrimination regarding university entrance?

    Do some colleges not require higher SAT scores from Asians for some subjects in the US?

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      True. But ask yourself this: if you were to be born a random Asian or a random black in the U.S., and had no choice about who you’d be (Rawls’s “veil of ignorance”), which would you choose? I’m guessing that on average, your path would be smoother if you were Asian.

      • biz
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Yes, statistically one’s life metrics would seem to be better if one was born Asian. But it is pretty hard to quantify how much of that is actually due to discrimination. For example if one is born black they have an 80% chance of being born to an unwed mother, which is correlated with a whole host of bad life starts and life outcomes, but is discrimination really responsible for that?

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          I do g think the stereotype of hard-working Asians is just down to prejudice either. Asians worked hard to get a reputation as hard workers. It’s not like they had an enthusiastic welcome.

      • Craw
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        That’s a non-sequitur. Just because you’d choose one in a Rawls lottery doesn’t imply that you believe the other is more subject to discrimination from other people. Imagine the choice is between being beautiful but dying at 22 or being dumpy and living to a healthful 99. I think there is a prejudice in favor of the beautiful, but I’ll take the dumpy.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          I assume implicit in our host’s hypothetical was “all other factors being equal” — or ceteris paribusas the Latinxes might say. 🙂

      • Curtis
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        I am a pretty good software engineer. If I were black, I am pretty sure I would have gotten a full ride scholarship and would have high tech companies drooling over me.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          But chances are you could also recount experiences where you encountered racism. And you would not at ease if a cop pulled you over.

          • Curtis
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            Yes, there would be advantages and disadvantages to being black vs. white vs. Asian. I think if you are smart, well-educated then being black is an overall advantage. If you are not, being black is a disadvantage. My opinion is based on my conversation with the black engineers I have work with.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        “I’m guessing that on average, your path would be smoother if you were Asian.”

        One can also ask would I not be more conscientious as an Asian.
        I read that recent black immigrants from the Caribbean and West Africa do better economically and academically than the US average. Having read a bit of Thomas Sowell I think the problem with African Americans is far more cultural/psychological than mere oppression.

        I think well meaning liberals that overemphasize the racism and discrimination narative make it more difficult from African Americans to reach their potential.

        That is why I believe African immigrants do so much better, their spirit have not been destroyed by this defeatist and victim narrative.

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

          “That is why I believe African immigrants do so much better, their spirit have not been destroyed by this defeatist and victim narrative.”

          Another interpretation is that the cohort who come here are enriched for those who come with motivation to succeed. It’s why they left in the first place.

          • Adam M.
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            Their descendants do well, too. From what I’ve read, this is attributed to their parents instilling in them a strong work ethic and a high valuation of education.

            I think Eric’s point is that recent black immigrants from Africa and their descendants face most of the same anti-black discrimination as the descendants of American slaves, but they are nonetheless one of the most successful immigrant groups in the country, so culture is likely a much bigger factor than discrimination.

            • Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

              He’s got a good point.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

              “I think Eric’s point is that recent black immigrants from Africa and their descendants face most of the same anti-black discrimination…”

              Exactly, you express it more clearly and elegantly than me

            • FB
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

              Recent immigrants from country X are not representative of that country because the immigration process is very selective. They probably represent the top 1% of country X. The comparison, IMO, is not valid.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

            By the way, Thomas Sowell (the black intellectual) did some fascinating analysis of different ethnic immigrants around the world like chinese in Malaysia, Irish in America, Jews around the world etc, and he convinced me that culture plays a huge role.

            After centuries the Irish for example managed to “outgrow” their negative culture and are now as educated and successull as the rest in the UK and US.

            Another point I believe the “irish travellers” in Ireland are not “dysfunctional” because of discrimination, but because of their own inner culture that traps them in a spiral of drinking, group violence, petty crime etc.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          I think it probably also has a lot to do with their histories and cultural inertia. There is a history of real discrimination and disadvantage that leads to things like defeatist and victim narratives. This is hardly limited to blacks. There are plenty of white folk in the same sort of circumstances with much the same issues. For blacks it’s considerably worse though. The history of racism they’ve been victims of is just one more big fucking issue they’ve had to, still have to, contend with. It hasn’t been very many generations since the civil rights movement. Most of the people here lived through it.

          Things are much better since then but there is still plenty of racism in the US and you can’t fix the affects of generations of being treated socially and legally as 2nd class citizens, or worse, in just a couple of generations. You can’t fix the generations of poverty with no realistic opportunities or chance to get out of it, the behaviors and attitudes that it instills, in just a generation or two after ending segregation and trying other measures to fix things.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

            “For blacks it’s considerably worse though.”
            As for the Jews.
            How do you account for the huge disparity between blacks and Jews?
            Jews were extremely successful in Europe during the 19th and 20th century while facing institutionalized discrimination and frequent pogroms.

            “you can’t fix the affects of generations of being treated socially and legally as 2nd class citizens, or worse, in just a couple of generations.”
            I do not agree, many ethnic groups managed to overcome historical disadvantage and trauma very quickly.

            • Gabrielle
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

              If by institutional discrimination and pogroms, you mean within the Russian Empire – I wouldn’t describe the Jewish community in that part of Eastern Europe as extremely successful. Most were what we’d nowadays call working class. My own great grandfather repaired shoes his entire life. My other great grandfather raised ducks and geese. In fact it was the discrimination and periodic pogroms that were the impetus for so many Eastern European Jews to decide to leave for America, as is true for mine.

              In contrast, at the same time the Jews in Germany and parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire suffered less discrimination and had access to higher education. I have a friend whose family was from Budapest; her great grandfather was a university trained civil engineer, as was her grandfather. They led comfortable middle class lives, and naturally had no reason to seek a new life in America. Sadly, all this came to an end in the 1940s. Her grandfather got out in time and emigrated to Brazil; most of the rest of his family was killed in Auschwitz. Their hard work and success in the end meant nothing.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted October 14, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

                Interesting and valid points, I have to agree with you that Russian Jews were generally poor and faced much more discrimination than their Polish or Hungarian counterparts.
                (In Hungary for example I read that while accounting for close to 20% of the population in the 30’s they were upwards of 80% of the graduates in many professions)

                However once the “peasant” Russian Jews immigrated to the US they were extremely successful within one or two generations.
                The narrative that black americans cannot succeed because of past hardship is obviously a factor but grossly overplayed for political and emotional reasons in my opinion.

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 15, 2017 at 3:50 am | Permalink

                “The narrative that black americans cannot succeed because of past hardship…”

                How about the narrative that they face blatant racism every day?

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted October 14, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

                Sorry I got confused with Poland, the Hungarian Jewish population was around 6 percent around 1940.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 14, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

            Well said, darrelle, I completely agree.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          “… would I not be more conscientious as an Asian.”

          Probably more inscrutable, too, like Charlie Chan.

  5. BJ
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Who cares what his hairstyle means or why he has it? In my opinion, this is all focusing on the wrong things. Even if we disregard just how stupid the idea of cultural appropriation is in the first place — and, further, the stupidity of the idea that using another culture’s creation is somehow oppressive to the people of that culture — Lin’s hairstyle hurts nobody, has no significance (except what culture warriors make of it), and is nobody’s damn business.

    “I thought the fracas about dreadlocks had died out, and I still think it’s okay for people who aren’t black to wear them. After all, the hairstyle is adopted not as an insult, or a gesture of “colonialism”, but out of admiration for the look. ”

    Let’s not forget that dreadlocks *did not somehow originate with black people*. People of every single skin color on earth had them in multiple tribes, cultures, countries, and empires throughout history. The idea that, somehow, dreadlocks are the sole province of black culture is ridiculous, as is so often the case with claims that some idea or creation originated with a single culture.

    This public berating of others for “cultural appropriation” has reached a point where it’s being used to purposefully and publicly hurt and excoriate anyone a culture warriors deems part of the outgroup. It’s disgusting, and I feel really bad for people like Justin Lin, who have to suffer public denigration and humiliation for the satisfaction of a bunch of nasty regressives who spend their days tearing down others for the sake of their desperate needs for sanctimony and outrage.

    • Liz
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      “Let’s not forget that dreadlocks *did not somehow originate with black people*. People of every single skin color on earth had them in multiple tribes, cultures, countries, and empires throughout history. The idea that, somehow, dreadlocks are the sole province of black culture is ridiculous, as is so often the case with claims that some idea or creation originated with a single culture.” – Yes. Completely.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Well, yes, sure dreads did not originate in the black community but it is disingenuous to deny that today dreads are associated with a segment of the black community.

        • Smegma
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          So what if it is associated? Association doesn’t imply that black people have a monopoly on it. That’s like saying only black people are allowed to do hip hop. I wonder how this would play out if an indigenous person had dreds. Now that would be a doozy of a “who’s more oppressed” argument.

          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            We can settle this- who has the © or ®?

          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say they had a monopoly. I said it is disingenuous to claim that dreads aren’t associated with a segment of the black community. Ergo, making the argument that dreads are worn and originated by others is ignoring (and sometimes to intentionally derail) what the argument is about.

            • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

              Note in proof; That is NOT to say the argument has validity.

            • Craw
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

              How can that be? If they didn’t originate it, but adopted it, how can that not be relevant to discussing “you can’t adopt it unless you originate it”?

              • Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Essentially the argument is that blacks have no standing to make the complaint as they didn’t originate the hairstyle (ftr; I don’t agree that the complaint is valid). But that ignores the state of affairs today- that dreadlocks ARE associated with part of black society. It doesn’t matter what other people did (or do) – the hairstyle is firmly placed in our culture NOW.

                Shirley, you can see this.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                As Leslie Nielsen might say, don’t call him “Shirley.”

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      The focus is certainly on the wrong things here. The contest of words and ideas over dreadlocks fercryin’outloud is nothing compared to the bigger issues surrounding black people. I personally would look to Asians and white people in dreads as an ally. Their hair says what they like and accept.

  6. Paul Beard
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I always thought dreadlocks were a conscious appropriation from the Jews. Does anyone know if that is true?

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Don’t know about Lin’s dreads, but to the Rastafarians, dreads are an emulation of the Lion of Judah – who is on Haile Selassie’s Ethiopian flag.

  7. Teresa Carson
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    When I lived in Africa, I occasionally wore traditional clothing. My African friends actually gave me some of the clothing and taught me how to wrap a skirt so it wouldn’t fall off. Their attitude was that I was living with them and I was accepting their culture. We ate the same food and lived in the same houses. They wore Western clothing like I did, and I wore traditional tribal clothing like they did. We were sharing our cultures and no one was offended. I can understand that it would be odd if I wore that clothing now, and people who don’t know me might think I was a crazy white woman. there are numerous very real problems in this world. Be offended by world hunger or the death penalty, but don’t whine about someone’s hair.

    • BJ
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      The only people I’ve ever seen be angered by supposed cultural appropriation are westerners who believe they’re somehow defending people from other cultures. I’ve never seen or met a person from a foreign culture who was ever anything but happy to see outsiders adopt or enjoy aspects of their culture.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Yes. There is a distinct element of chauvinism in this idiocy. “Never fear, little ones! We will protect you from the harm cultural appropriation inflicts!”

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Too often the foreigner is identified by their unwillingness to conform to local customs of dress, and if they do then they are condemned by their peers for having “gone native”.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        “The only people I’ve ever seen be angered by supposed cultural appropriation are westerners who believe they’re somehow defending people from other cultures.”

        That somewhat ambiguous construction rings true in at least two different ways.

        1) The more obvious meaning that you intended, that persons of other cultures are being defended from people not of their culture.

        2) A satirical interpretation, that the westerners angry about CA are “protecting*” everyone else from foreign cultures.

        * As in preventing them from being able to interact with other cultures.

        • BJ
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          Haha, very good catch.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        When I lived in Tunisia I was treated as an honored guest when I spoke in Arabic, often getting invited to peoples homes for dinner (of course only with the men; the women hid behind open doors while serving us -not kidding). In honor of their honoring me, I often wore a jebba in their homes and that pleased them greatly.

        Wearing the clothes or otherwise emulating another culture can be honoring them. Or it can mean nothing more than we like how it looks on us. Only those who do it to mock should be called out.

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          Logic? You want to bring logic to a crazy fight?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

          “… I was treated as an honored guest when I spoke in Arabic”

          Most cultures appreciate foreigners’ efforts to speak the native tongue — well, except for the French. 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted October 14, 2017 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

            The French will find you contemptible for trying to speak French, and even more so if you don’t try. It’s really just a matter of degrees.

    • Merilee
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      My parents lived in Nigeria and Sierra Leone over a period of 6 years and I bought a lot of the gorgeous fabrics when I visited, and made myself more-or-less Western-style dresses. I have only ever gotten compliments from African, African-American, and white or Asian friends.

  8. Liz
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Dreadlocks aren’t actually only African American. They form in your hair if you don’t comb it or maintain it for a little while. I always thought dreadlocks were really neat in other people’s hair and if I saw them, I would touch them to see. I considered maybe having them senior year of college but apparently they are actually disgusting to have. They collect bugs and are dirty. Apparently. Years later I was camping over a long weekend. I looked up from brushing my teeth and to my surprise, I saw a dreadlock in my hair. I ran back to the tent in excitement. Furthermore, Wikipedia shows that dreadlocks have been around in many cultures. “Some of the earliest depictions of dreadlocks date back as far as 3600 years to the Minoan Civilization, one of Europe’s earliest civilizations, centered in Crete (now part of Greece).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreadlocks One of my sisters and I used to shop at an African American hair product store because there were no products that worked. We both had a lot of curly hair. Since then I have had the Japanese straightener done twice and it grew in with a more relaxed curl. (The Japanese straightener is actually named that way because it straightens your hair in the same way perms make straight hair curly but it makes it look like you have Japanese hair. That’s if you’re going from curly/wavy to straight or straight to very straight.) That’s just what it’s called.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      And it wasn’t that long ago that sporting dreads actually helped establish one’s leftist credentials. At least among this hopelessly superficial crowd.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        And no Lefty student would leave the house without their Palestinian keffiyeh.

      • Liz
        Posted October 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Leftist credentials? Among which superficial crowd? @musical beef

        • Posted October 15, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          In my day, you had to a least be *teargassed* to be considered.

          • Liz
            Posted October 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            To be considered non-superficial or a leftist?

        • Posted October 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          Among the crowd that currently thinks if you wear dreads while not being African you’re doing something bad. Many of them were undoubtedly fine with dreads not too long ago, and even wore them themselves, in an attempt to signal that they were not a straight-laced, intolerant-of-diversity right-winger. You see? Superficial. Tethering physical appearance to political ideologies.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 15, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            Oops, somehow I didn’t see your reply before I posted the comment below. Must have had an old window open, I guess. Sorry to attempt to speak for you–you seem to not drop in as often as you used to so I wasn’t sure if you’d see Liz’s question or not.

          • Liz
            Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            Got it. Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 15, 2017 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          I think Musical Beef is referring to what we often call the Ctrl-Left. Or the pomo-left, SJW’s, etc. The anti-cultural-appropriation fanatics Jerry wrote about above.

  9. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    The fuss about “cultural appropriation” does seem to be largely a US thing. All sorts of people in the UK wear their hair in dreadlocks, and nobody seems to mind. My son has dreadlocks, which he piles up in a big ball on top of his head…and he lives in Brixton, which is one of the main West Indian enclaves in London. Nobody cares!

    As regards tattoos, there is a fashion among professional Rugby players (and other people, of course) to have their arms and torsos tattooed in New Zealand Maori-style. If this is anything, it is an example of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. But again, nobody cares!

    One of the leading English professional rugby union clubs is Exeter Chiefs, who won the domestic championship last season. Their logo can be seen at the top of their home page: https://www.exeterchiefs.co.uk/ Their fans wear imitation Native American headdresses, and indulge in the sort of war chant that reminds me of very bad 50s cowboy-and-Indian films. No doubt there are many in the US who would regard this as cultural appropriation at its worst. Just bear in mind, if you decide to go and tell them, that they include some very large gentlemen indeed.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I expect this sort of thing to be frowned upon as the SJWs make their inroads.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      NA feather headdresses are a *bit* different because they (in their original context) represent accomplishments: A feather is awarded for *doing* something (often, but not always military, too). So in some sense this is *credential* stealing, not merely “cultural appropriation”.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        This is correct. It would be like someone who never served in the military wearing the Medal of Honor.

        I have learned that it is considered very wrong in some Native American cultures for people who are not qualified to wear a headdress. We who are not Native Americans should recognize that and abide by their customs.

        Of course, most of us are completely unaware of the importance of the headdress and do so with no ill intent.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          Regarding your last, I think that is a key point. A reasonable response from a dedicated US service person to seeing a foreigner wearing a replica US military jacket with a replica CMH pinned to it because that is what their favorite sports team’s mascot wears would be, in my opinion, something like a tolerant smile. Or maybe an eyeroll. In this context I don’t think anyone has any good reason to be offended or expect that strangers respect their customs.

          A completely different context would be a person wearing a CMH and trying to pass themselves off as having earned it when they really hadn’t. That situation would warrant being called out. In this context I think it is fine to expect a certain level of respect for the relevant customs.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Back in the 90’s it was very common to see white people in Britain wearing dreadlocks. It was particularly associated with the grunge culture.

      Jeremy Cunningham of the Levellers still sports a fine set of dreadlocks.

      He’s the bass player.

      Not the keyboard player.

  10. Craw
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I don’t think blackface is cultural appropriation. Blacks don’t wear blackface.
    Blackface is odious not because it is some kind of appropriation, but because it is hostile and contemtuous mockery.

    We usually imagine it together with aping of presumed aspects of black culture, such as minstrel shows. But sometimes it isn’t.
    Sometimes we see it together with presumed aspects of white culture. I have seen an old film of a skit where
    men in blackface dress up as doctors and get everything wrong, peering into stethoscopes, listening to thermometers, and so on.
    The point being the implication that blacks are incapable of being doctors or nurses.

    But the men in blackface aren’t appropriating black culture when they do that; indeed they are denying that being a doctor is or
    could be something blacks can do, could ever be part of black culture.

    Blackface is odious but not because it’s “cultural appropriation.”

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Same with Mexican bandits. It’s not like actual Mexican bandits are being offended. It’s the comedy stereotyping that’s the issue. Having a skull tattoo on your face would be appropriation.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking about making the same point. Blackface isn’t CA at all. It’s race based ridicule invented by whites, not blacks.

  11. Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    In normal times I hate the hierarchy of problems but how much time is wasted on stupid cultural appropriation shit like this when Trump is president? And this stuff does not help real people in fact it hurts them because this is exactly how Trump won and allows him to stay in the news for reasons other than his policies and incompetence.

    How does thought policing an American of East Asian decent about his hairstyle help at all Americans of Slaved African decent? Trumps new tax policy will hurt most people of both groups along with people of all colors and creed. I want to compare it but I am not even sure what a win gets you here.

    • Historian
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      You are quite correct. The more these misguided fools yelp about cultural appropriation, the more it helps Trump. Nothing could make the far right happier than the Left tearing itself apart over what are essentially trivial issues. If it is not already being done so, the far right should be contributing money to help these people. Those white people sitting on the fence in terms of their political choices may turn to the right when they read about this nonsense. Purists are the greatest opponents of social progress. Both the Left and the Right have them. If the Left were smart, they would keep their mouths shut and let the Bannon/Trump supporters and traditional conservatives destroy each other. But, being smart is not what we can expect from the Leftist purists. Instead, their idiocy may result in the continuing hegemony of the far right. For them, who wears dreadlocks is really what is important.

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        +1e^9

        • Craw
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          Are you Swiss? Because if not you have appropriated Bernoulli’s culture.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2017 at 3:46 am | Permalink

        “Purists are the greatest opponents of social progress.”

        Great statement! T-shirt worthy. 😀

  12. Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    My favorite satirical commentary on cultural appropriation was the successful $1 billion dollar lawsuit awarded to Canadian Mennonite grandmothers for the cultural appropriation of the hair bun by hipster dudes.

  13. Kyle B.
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    It looks like the tattoo says 患得患失 to me. http://www.purplepanda.com.au/Idiom/患得患失.aspx claims it means “worry about personal gains and losses”. I had hoped it would be a common yojijukugo or chengyu, but it doesn’t show up in Wikitionary.

    • AD
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      My Chinese friend tells me that the meaning is something like if you gain one thing you lose another. Only applies to certain types of situation. An example might be you can have your wife or your girlfriend but not both! If I’m understanding it correctly then it might be similar to not having your cake and eating it.

  14. Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Hair’s a nuisance anyway. I keep mine as short as possible so I don’t have to even think about it. As soon as it starts to draw attention to itself I get it cut right down again.

    And beards can f**k right off too.

    Hairless apes my ass.

  15. Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Talk of cultural appropriation causes me to turn to Alestorm’s “Mexico” as an antidote.

    Can anyone see anything problematic in this video?

  16. Travis
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Is diversity and multiculturalism good or not? The PC police can’t keep a consistent thought in their brain. It’s one or the other, not both.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Diversity is good. But everyone must stay in their own section of the TV tray. The peas must not touch the mashed potatoes!

      • darrelle
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Reminds me of one of my favorite ZZ Top songs.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      The ‘cultural enrichment’ argument rather falls down when we are told cultures should stay ‘pure’.

      • Travis
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Exactly. It also reminds me of the double-think that “men and women aren’t different” (and therefore we should expect equal ratios in everything) but simultaneously told “we need to hear women’s voices in role X or Y” because they provide a “unique perspective”

      • BJ
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        reminds me of anti-miscegenation racists.

    • tony walters
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. They claim that we should respect everyone’s voice, but let someone challenge their orthodoxy and you’ll hear them scream.

      Our President is speaking out for what’s right at the Value Voters Summit today. One of the pamphlets distributed at the summit gives an important dissenting view of the serious harm caused by homosexual behavior. The pamphlet is not P.C., it doesn’t treat homosexual snowflakes as gently as they’d like.

      In response PuffHo throws around words like anti-gay, hate, sexual predator:
      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/values-voter-summit-anti-gay-pamphlets_us_59e0d0ffe4b03a7be5801895

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        “Our President is speaking out for what’s right at the Value Voters Summit today.”

        Wait. What?

        Trump is “…speaking out for what’s right…”?!?!

        *oh boy*

        Yeah, and pigs can fly.

      • Historian
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        We should actually read the pamphlet before judging whether it is simply an alternative view or anti-gay. Objectivity is not something we should expect from the Value Summit.

        By the way, you refer to Trump as “our president.” In one sense, this phrase is correct. I am a citizen of the United States and he is the president. But, in the sense of him representing my values and just about everything I believe in, I say “Hell No!”

        • BJ
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Personally, when I would see people claim that Obama was not their President, and when people did it during the Bush administration, I always considered it a sign that certain people reject and don’t accept the idea of democracy when they don’t get their way. I think it’s disrespectful to the freedom to choose our leaders through a democratic system when people say that a particularly loathsome President is somehow not their President. But I understand others might disagree with this assessment. Just my opinion.

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

          It’s an anti-gay event.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Research_Council

      • Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        What “right things” is he speaking out for?

        • tony walters
          Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Here’s a few of the values he called out. I’m sure the regressive left would find fault with all or most of these, but they sound good to me:

          We cherish the dignity of every human life. We honor the dignity of work. We defend our constitution. We support the rule of law. We salute every American who wears the uniform. We respect our great American flag. We stand united behind the customs, beliefs, and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people. We will call evil by its name.

          • Historian
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

            Aside from your list being vague, which can mean almost anything, if you think Trump believes in anything but his personal aggrandizement, you are extraordinarily naive.

            And just what might be “the customs, beliefs, and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people?” As a stand alone statement, it is totally meaningless.

            • Paul S
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

              Aren’t the customs, beliefs and traditions that define us as a people that we are a giant melting pot of diverse customs, beliefs and traditions?

              It’s possible that my German, Swedish, Cajun, African, Irish heritage is all the same, but somehow I doubt it.

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 14, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

                +1

          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            Garbage. Random phrase generator.

            • Craw
              Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

              “We defend our constitution. We support the rule of law.”

              I wish we had more such generators then.

              Didn’t a lot of people here oooh and ahh over the piece Coyne linked arguing that we don’t need guns we need the rule of law?

              • Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

                Well of course. Mr Walters spouted pointless pablum – it is meaningless because it says exactly nothing about -and completely elides- how Trump and his minions would accomplish goals that few would object to. Exactly the same kind of horseshit is said by everyone in politics and it remains horseshit until they act on it.

              • Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

                Except we *don’t.* We do it selectively.

          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

            um… um… but he says things you (apparently) like without even the slightest bit of sincerity *and* later may say quite the opposite. Not to mention, his actual actions speak louder than any words. Or tweets.

          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

            Some of those are great. I wish to the non-existent god they weren’t just dog-whistles. “Dignity of every human life” is code for “abortion is evil”. “Dignity of work” is code for “welfare programs only give people an incentive to be lazy”.

            And what are these customs, traditions, and beliefs that unite us? What if I don’t like the customs and traditions you like? Do I have to participate in them anyway? Who decides what these uniting customs and beliefs are going to be? Can I dictate to you what customs and beliefs you must espouse? One person gets to tell me what customs and beliefs I should have, and that person is me.

            It’s frankly appalling that Trump spoke at an event put on by the Family Research Council.

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:01 am | Permalink

              Hear, hear!

          • BJ
            Posted October 14, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

            “We cherish the dignity of every human life. We honor the dignity of work.”

            AKA “stupid Puerto Rico. I’ll throw them some paper towels, admonish their mayor for being an idiot, and then imply that all the people there are lazy while I do almost nothing to help the devastated island.”

            “We honor the dignity of work.”

            Trump spends most of his time tweeting and playing golf. Isn’t he supposed to be President or something?

            “We defend our constitution.”

            Yep, good ol’ “I’m going to change libel laws so I can sue the press every time they say something I don’t like” Donny. He really loves the Constitution!

            “We support the rule of law.”

            Until it comes to filling out disclosure forms, signing unenforceable executive orders, using private emails for government business (OH THE IRONY!), and so on.

            “We respect our great American flag.”

            I can’t think of a greater disrespect to the country or the flag than the way Trump talks to the rest of the world.

            “We stand united behind the customs, beliefs, and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people.”

            Customs like insulting your political opponents and allies alike with third grade playground taunts, and the customs of how the leader of the greatest country in the world conducts himself. Beliefs like freedom of speech (here come those libel law threats again, not to mention saying he would try to get NBC’s broadcasting license revoked for airing “fake news”), sanctity of the highest office in the land. Traditions like working together with your fellow politicians to get things done for the country’s best interests instead of whining and throwing temper tantrums.

            I could go on.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2017 at 3:57 am | Permalink

        ” One of the pamphlets distributed at the summit gives an important dissenting view of the serious harm caused by homosexual behavior.”

        Huh? From your link:

        “…a book by the same title published by MassResistance in February that apparently includes topics like “why homosexuality is a public health issue” and “the ‘born gay’ myth.””

        That is not an important dissenting view. That is lying and bigotry.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 14, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          Sometimes it seems hopeless.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 15, 2017 at 4:19 am | Permalink

            Especially these times.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      They are concern trolls and cannot be pleased. There is no logic at work other than “always be aggrieved.”

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    … the black parts of Chicago are loaded with Chinese restaurants.

    Hell, if it weren’t for Chinese restaurants, some of my Jewish friends wouldn’t have a Christmas tradition. 🙂

    Don’t these editors from HuffPo have anything better to think about? (And I say that as someone who’s spent a fair amount of time tracking down the minutia on some pretty trivial topics — much of it in the respectful service of cultural appropriation. Bet I’m the only white boy on this website, fr’instance, knows all seven recognized skin tones from High Yella to Dark Brown.)

    • David McCrindle
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The saddest pert of the whole piece is the casual reference to ‘black parts of Chicago’ as if this were normal.

      Why are there ‘black parts of Chicago’ in this day and age?

    • Merilee
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Only 7? My quite dark Guyanese-Canadian friend was telling me that there are something like 32 ( or was it 64?) skin tones referenced back home. His son married a Lebanese Druze girl. Fortunately nobody seems to try to categorize their little 5 year old as anything but adorable.

  18. prinzler
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    What part of culture was *not* appropriated from some other culture at some other time?

    For some cultural practice to not have been appropriated would require that a culture be completely, hermetically sealed off from any contact whatsoever with any other culture.

    It’s part of the very definition of culture that the mixing of ideas, practices, memes, etc., occurs, isn’t it?

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I’ve seen photos of native Americans wearing tailored waistcoats (vests) almost straight out of a standard 3-piece business suit.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Yes, yes it is. Several of the historical golden ages throughout human history had something in common. They were inspired, or started, by a person or organization that purposely created a place, or places, where people from different cultures could come together and share ideas, knowledge and customs.

  19. Bob Murray
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Kenyon Martin nett worth:
    60 million dollars
    Jeremy Lin nett worth:
    16 million dollars
    I wish hairstyles were my most pressing concern.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      Fortunately spelling is way down the list.

      😀

    • BJ
      Posted October 14, 2017 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      There’s a reason the social justice types constantly ignore what have been proven, over and over, to be the number one factor in how well (or poorly) life will turn out for someone: economic status. Race, sex, religions, and everything else that crow about don’t compare to that one thing.

      But then all the people who do the crowing would have to admit just how privileged they are, far more privileged than a poor white man.

  20. Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Didn’t Paul Simon culturally appropriate El Condor Pasa?

    I’m glad he did.

  21. yazikus
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Sigh. HuffPo isn’t doing itself any favors here. I always think of cultural appropriation as the thing assholes do when they take something from another culture and then profit from it in a way that people from that culture cannot – especially without attribution. Neither Lin nor Martin seem to be acting like asshole’s about their respective style choices, nor profiting at the expense of another group.

    I did just move to an area where there are more white people with dreads than I’ve ever seen before. Everywhere. At first, it was a little odd seeming to me, but now, it is no more odd than seeing unshaven legs. We are hairy creatures, after all.

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      “I always think of cultural appropriation as the thing assholes do when they take something from another culture and then profit from it in a way that people from that culture cannot – especially without attribution.”

      An example?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        The locus classicus in this regard would be the 1950s record producers who failed to pay songwriting royalties to (and frequently stole songwriting credits from) the Rhythm & Blues musicians whose songs they had white artists cover.

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

          But of course that would have been a bad thing to do if it had been white musicians stealing from other white musicians, or black musicians stealing from other black musicians, too. Isn’t the issue there really one of copyright violation, and of just generally being a dick, rather than anything specific to “culture”?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

            It had everything to do with exploiting en masse music that was popular in a specific (black) subculture, but largely unknown to the broader (white) culture — and with the lack of political and legal power of black artists to enforce copyright protections.

            Those artists lacked political and legal power precisely because they were black. And it was because they were black (and thus subject to Jim Crow segregation laws) that those artists were largely confined to the so-called “chitlin circuit,” and, thus, remained unknown to white artists.

            So, no, it wasn’t simply a matter of musicians being dicks to each other, as white musicians are sometimes wont to do.

            • Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

              Sure. But you haven’t demonstrated that the problem is that “culture” was “appropriated”. If black musicians had taken music from white musicians, that would have been “appropriation” of “culture” too; but it would not satisfy your definition. So again, the problem is really not that “culture” has been “appropriated”, as such – there is nothing inherently wrong with that, as Jerry argues. The problem is that copyright has been violated, intellectual property has been stolen, credit has not been given, royalties have not been paid, etc., and has has been facilitated by racism (both individual and institutional). We have words for all those things; there is no need for a new term, “cultural appropriation”, particularly when that term is wildly misleading since “appropriation” of “culture” actually has nothing to do with why the actions in question were wrong.

    • BJ
      Posted October 14, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree about taking without attribution and how wrong that is, but that doesn’t necessarily come from appropriation from the culture of oppressed people. People have been stealing the works of others for all of human history in an effort to gain fame, fortune, and/or other benefits, and all types of people have experienced such stealing.

      There’s also the problem of what was appropriated, and from whom. Take music, for example. When we talk about appropriation of music, we run into yet another problem: all genres have significant pieces that originated elsewhere. For example, the blues are considered “black,” but grew largely from white Appalachian music (as far as I’m aware. If anyone knows better, feel free to correct me). Jazz has roots in many places, including Jewish Klezmer.

  22. DrBrydon
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I was undecided before now, but I’ve made up my mind: It’s Pancho Villa for Halloween this year.

    • Paul S
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I’m going as Charlton Heston as Ramon Miguel Vargas

      • BJ
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        Appropriating both the culture of Heston gun worship AND Mexican film characters. A beautiful double whammy!

      • DrBrydon
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        LOL.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Dang, you guys are tough on Orson Welles’s casting decisions.

  23. Hempenstein
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    The country’s going down in flames, and the environment’s going up in flames, yet this is what some people chose to worry about.

  24. Jose
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I am from Spain. I asked this already some months ago, but didn’t get a reply (not in the time I checked the post for it). An I imagine that maybe the question itself could seem offensive but, sincerely, it’s only that I don’t understan.

    Why is a black face offensive?

    • Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Google “golliwog” or “picaninny” to get an idea of why it is offensive.

      • Jose
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        I get it in the case of the picaninny. I still don’t get it in the case of wearing black face. I suppuse I lack some background. Would be happy if someone provided it.

        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Read the wiki article on Blackface: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface

          • Jose
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            So it was used to express racism, and as a consequence, from then on anybody who being not black wants to look like black, and consequently paints his face or whatever, is a racist?

            Well, I imagined as much, that “blackface” was used to negatively represent black people. But I am sorry, I still don’t get it, and I want to.

            • Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

              The fact that the movie industry would rather give white people jobs *pretending* to be black, rather than to, say, actual black people does not offend you? What am I missing?

              • Jose
                Posted October 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

                Ok, I won’t insist, cause I am starting to looo like a douche here, and maybe I am, I’m not saying thar ironically.

    • Adam M.
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      It’s not “a black face”, but “blackface”, which a style of makeup that somebody look like a caricature of black people.

      • Jose
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.

    • BJ
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Honestly, it’s not offensive in other countries and regions around the world, but it’s definitely offensive in the US and a few other places because blackface was done in popular entertainment up until several decades ago as a way of mocking and denigrating black people.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:12 am | Permalink

        And because of our horrible history of slavery. (Yes, I know, other countries did/do do it, too, but we think we should have known better, founding values and all…)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Here, Jose, let Spike Lee show you with this montage from Bamboozled:

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:17 am | Permalink

        Wow. That’s heartbreaking. What’s worse is that I think I can remember seeing similar cartoons to some of those back when I was a child.

  25. Ned
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Well, one hopeful note is that the comments at HuffPo (at least as far I read) are 100% negative toward the article.

  26. Posted October 13, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    An interesting question, with respect to cultural appropriation, is how far its proponents want to go with it. For example. Most modern music, from rock to jazz to pop, can be traced backwards to roots in music that was invented and performed by black people – slaves and the descendants of slaves, in fact – such as the blues and ragtime. This is common knowledge among musicians, and has been discussed in detail in places such as the Ken Burns series on jazz. So all that modern music is all based on cultural appropriation. Do the anti-appropriation crowd not listen to any of that music, then, given its clearly tainted origins? Another example. Quite a bit of modern food has its roots in Native American cuisine. The tomatoes in Italian pasta sauces, the chile peppers in spicy Thai and Indian food, the chocolate in a chocolate bar, are all New World crops. Corn, potatoes, vanilla, squash – all New World. They were all “culturally appropriated” by Christopher Columbus and other such colonialists. Do the anti-appropriation crowd not eat any of that food, then, since it was all stolen from the Native Americans? Many other such examples could be adduced, in areas from dance to art to clothing to makeup to mathematics to philosophy to religion. It’s *all* appropriated. Theirs is a position that simply makes no sense whatsoever when examined closely. In the end, it’s just a power game – they just want the power to shame and ostracize people for perceived violations, in order to create a culture of fear and uncertainty and enforced conformity, with themselves, the arbiters of what is and is not cultural appropriation, at the top of the power structure.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      I think your conclusion is correct, but a humorous anecdote re. food. It’s a long story why, but I once asked a black woman if liked okra. “NO!” was the immediate reply, “I’m black!”

    • BJ
      Posted October 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      When we talk about appropriation of music, we run into yet another problem: all genres have significant pieces that originated elsewhere. For example, the blues are considered “black,” but grew largely from white Appalachian music (as far as I’m aware. If anyone knows better, feel free to correct me). Jazz has roots in many places, including Jewish Klezmer.

  27. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I have what could be called a serious case of Japanophilia (I need my annual trip to Japan!). Because of this I play taiko (Japanese drums), practice origami and struggle with learning the language.
    I don’t think that ‘cultural appropriation’ is a thing here in the land of OZ, but wonder if it would be so in the USA?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      We Yanks won’t hold it against you, Barbara, long as you promise to steer clear of Pearl Harbor. 🙂

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:18 am | Permalink

        LOL!

  28. Xavier Kidston
    Posted October 14, 2017 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    This seems like what Camille Paglia was complaining about. Modern Western feminism is corrupt, and incorrect. It focuses on solely women’s issues, and when it wants to deviate from said issues it must make up something seemingly ridiculous. Cultural appropriation is that new ridiculousness. I wonder when the ‘equality’ movement will begin protesting over the 40% illiteracy rate of young boys in my country, or that women are now the majority at University (I thought feminism wanted equal representation), or the 0 men’s shelters for battered husband’s despite men making up 48% of domestic abuse victims in heterosexual relationships and women having 2500 in my country. That’s a magnitude approaching infinity of difference.

  29. Sandeep
    Posted October 14, 2017 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    As an Indian person, please continue to wear Indian clothes whenever you want.

    There was a time when Indians were always thrilled when foreigners tried to participate in their culture. To the best of my knowledge, this is still true, though PC culture is creeping in.

    The sorest point is probably the putative cultural appropriation of yoga, which I don’t believe in at all.


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