Accusations of cultural appropriation gone wild: Canadian comedy club bars white comedian with dreadlocks

Canada has always been a rival to the U.S. for ludicrous behavior by the authoritarian Left, but now our northern neighbor has taken the prize. As the Montreal Gazette and The Toronto Star report (click on the Gazette screenshot below), well, the headline tells it all:

Zach Poitras, the comedian shown in the photo below, was barred from performing two shows, one at (I’m not making this up) the “Snowflake Club” and the other at the Coop les Recoltes. This is solely because Poitras sports dreadlocks, as you see below:

From the Monreal paper:

The Coop les Récoltes is a bar but also a solidarity co-operative created by the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Groupe de recherches d’intérêt public, a collective that deals with social and environmental issues.

The establishment confirmed its decision to exclude comedian Zach Poitras in a message posted on its Facebook page.

Poitras was barred from performing at the Snowflake Comedy Club and He refused to comment on the decision.

In its online explanation, the co-operative defended its mission to be “a safe space, free from any link to oppression,” and described cultural appropriation as a form of violence. [JAC: There goes “comedy” in that safe space!]

“We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces,” they wrote. The group argues that cultural appropriation is when “a person from a dominant culture appropriates the symbols, clothing or even the hairstyles of persons from a historically dominated culture.”

JAC: The Facebook page adds that only oppressed groups can experience this kind of cultural appropriation, which is also construed as actual violence. That’s palpably absurd hyperbole.

This part of the Facebook post sounds weird, but that’s because it’s apparently automatic translation from the French:

For a person from a historically dominated culture, see his culture being appropriate, that is to say, diverted or emptied of its meaning, capitalized, fetishized, etc., is violence. After decades of colonialism, slavery and cultural genocide where the people of black have been persecuted and forbidden to practise their culture, wear their clothes and their hairstyles (we are thinking here of the English settlers who prohibited yogis from practicing their spirituality, Black women forced to shave their hair or to indigenous people whose spiritual practices and rites have been banned by the Canadian state in an explicit objective of assimilation), it is a slap in the face to see that this is why a group has been persecuted , another group can take it without problems or consequences.

To those who speak of cultural exchange, we would like to recall that an exchange is made on an egalitarian basis between people from different cultures, that is, when there is no power report involving the domination of a culture.

These paragraphs are why I call this kind of ideology “authoritarian Leftism.” There is a simple assertion of what is right and wrong, with debate not allowed. Some questions are beyond discussion, and if you try to discuss them, you’re a racist or a bigot.

More from the Montreal Gazette:

The posting says the co-op understands that Poitras’s intention isn’t racist, but adds the hairstyle “conveys racism,” adding that “cultural appropriation is not a debate or an opinion,” but rather “a form of passive oppression, a deconstructive privilege and, above all, a manifestation of ordinary racism.”

Greg Robinson, a UQAM professor specializing in black history, compared the situation to a larger interpretation of the concept of “black face,” which saw white performers darken their faces to portray black people.

“White people would dress as black people to mock them,” he said. But Robinson added that even when the intention wasn’t to mock but rather embrace or immerse one’s self in a culture, it’s still necessary to be careful.

“It’s like the N-word — black people can use it in their community, but when someone from outside uses it, even if they want to be like black people, there still remains an aspect that is rooted in history.”

The Coop Les Récoltes did not reply to requests for an interview.

These people, as well as Dr. Robinson, are way, way off the mark. As Wikipedia notes in its entry on “dreadlocks”, this hairstyle has been worn for millennia:

The ancient Vedic scriptures of India which are thousands of years old have the earliest evidence of jaata/locks which are almost exclusively worn by holy men and women. It has been part of a religious practice for Shiva followers.

Some of the earliest depictions of dreadlocks date back as far as 3600 years to the Minoan Civilization, one of Europe’s earliest civilizations, centred in Crete (now part of Greece). Frescoes discovered on the Aegean island of Thera (modern Santorini, Greece) depict individuals with braided hair styled in long dreadlocks.

In ancient Egypt, examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with locked wigs have also been recovered from archaeological sites.

During the Bronze Age and Iron Age, many peoples in the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, East Mediterranean and North Africa such as the Sumerians, Elamites, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Amorites,
Mitanni, Hattians, Hurrians, Arameans, Eblaites, Israelites, Phrygians, Lydians,
Persians, Medes, Parthians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Georgians, Azeris, Cilicians
and Canaanites/Phoenicians/Carthaginians are depicted in art with braided or plaited hair and beards.

True, most whites who wear dreadlocks became aware of them because the hairstyle is popular among modern blacks, but that hairstyle has been appropriated time after time, with black dreadlocks being only the most recent instantiation of cultural borrowing that goes back to India.

More important, wearing dreadlocks is not at all like blackface and certainly unlike the word “nigger”— tropes and words historically used to mock and denigrate black people.

In contrast, dreadlocks, like nearly all instances of cultural appropriation I’ve seen and reported about, are worn by people because THEY LIKE THEM and admire that aspect of another group’s culture.  In what respect, exactly, is it racist to wear dreadlocks? Am I being racist when I go to a Chicago soul food restaurant, or buy ribs, in a place where all the other patrons are black? I don’t think so: I’m enjoying part of another group’s culture. Am I supposed to avoid such places, or pay some kind of verbal homage to the oppression of African-Americans? Isn’t it enough to enjoy another group’s food in their company?

The argument that it’s okay to culturally appropriate so long as the borrowing is from a “dominant” group not only makes no ethical sense, but runs into its own problems. How do you rank groups as being more or less oppressed than yours? Are Asians lower on the oppression scale than Europeans? I’m told that in some places in Asia, Europeans are regarded as inferior, so does the ethics of cultural appropriation depend on where you are?

What the comedy club in Montreal is doing is not only ridiculous, but is a prime example of virtue signaling: making a gesture to trumpet your own ideological purity, but a gesture that has no effect on society and no mitigation of injustice. 

In fact, as I’ve argued before, the more cultures borrow from each other (in respectful ways, which is the case nearly 100% of the time), the more they’ll come to understand and appreciate each other. Saying, “we’ll punish you for wearing dreadlocks” just enforces otherness and cultural segregation.

I wonder if there was this kind of outcry when Justin Trudeau visited Canada and wore Indian clothes (something I do when visiting as they’re more comfortable, and also a sign of respect for local culture). Yes, I know people made fun of Trudeau et famille, but did the Outrage Brigade come out? Was he prohibited from entering Indian restaurants?

This is the brand of social-justice warriorism that we must combat, for it has the opposite effect of what is intended. The fact that the “cultural appropriation” meme is spreading is due simply to people being afraid to criticize this kind of nonsense for fear of being called racists.

O Canada!

h/t: Stephen

66 Comments

  1. Mike Anderson
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    “Cultural appropriation” should be encouraged, supported, and enjoyed. The whole artistic world is a long story of cultural DNA transfer – jazz, blues, rock and roll, Fauvism, Primitivism, Impressionism, etc.

    The English language is a beautiful result of “cultural appropriation”.

    • Kevin Leslie
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Completely agree!

    • James
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I once looked into it, and English sounds really weird and stilted when you only utilize Anglo words.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Re: Trudeau – yep, there was even a petition about him dressing in cultural attire in general though it had less than 600 signatures.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Also people are pissed off about his tattoo.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Still, it’s nice to know he visits Canada, now and then.

    • Posted January 17, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      But there was a fork – some people bashed Trudeau for culturally appropriating, others for “acting silly and dressing up”.

  3. Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Dunno what the fuss is about.
    Long live cultural appropriation.

  4. Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I remember telling some SJWs about a predator in our social circles. They didn’t react much when I told them about his manipulation of vulnerable people (especially women) and some legit illegal things he was doing there. So then I told them, “Oh, and I think he culturally appropriates, too.” And suddenly the SJWs flipped out.

  5. Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m still infuriated over the La Têne’s appropriation of Hallstatt culture.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Damned European imperalists!

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Wait. Are they a co-op or a collective? Or an anarcho-syndicalist commune? “. . . free from any link to oppression. . . .” As defined and determined by themselves. To equate a hair-style with racism only serves to rob the word of meaning, and alienate moderates. Of course, they probably don’t believe in moderates, with their with us or against us world view.

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Liberals get the bullet too

  7. Curtis
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I think we should be consistent. Any food native to the Americas should not be used by anyone of Eurasian ancestry. No more marinara sauce, Szechuan chilies or corn tortillas.

    But it will be worth it to prevent the exploitation.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Or tomatoes, potatoes or kidney beans?

      Only if they stop appropriating our beef, lamb, beer, wine, gin and whisky!

    • James
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      It’s the dingo question: At what point does it become native? Who gets credit when a dish is invented in Europe, based off a Chinese method of cooking, by a woman of African ancestry, using ingredients from the Americas?

      • Posted January 17, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        And think of all the wonders my high school friend Sean Hughes could create. If I recall, he had great-grandparents from *7* different countries. That’s almost the maximum possible!

  8. Andrew Hughes
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh good grief…

  9. nwalsh
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    one really has to be cognisant of the fact that this isn’t really Canada, it’s weird Quebec – Only partially serious.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted January 17, 2019 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      Anglo arrogance or just a joke?

  10. Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Claim: “[We are]free from any link to oppression” and it’s allowable to freely appropriate from dominant cultures, just not oppressed cultures.

    Question: If dominant cultures are, by definition, oppressive, how can items appropriated from that culture not be linked to oppression?

    • Deodand
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      In answer to the question, no idea. But then I’ve also seen the claim that the ‘dominant culture’ has no culture to appropriate, only that which they have stolen from those they oppress.

  11. mikeyc
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t about addressing cultural appropriation, it is simply hatred of white people. The only reason – the sole reason- he was denied a spot at their club is because he is white, not because of his hair style.

    This should be called what it is; racism.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Damn, if they’d’ve banned the so-called “Jewfro” on similar grounds back in the Seventies, it would’ve gutted stand-up comedy — Gabe Kaplan, Albert Brooks, Al Franken, so many others, all fini.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      I seriously doubt any comedy goes on at that club. Those Jewfros would be out of place in more ways than one.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        AS the old saying goes, dying a haircut is easy; comedy is hard.

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      And a few porno actors too

  13. phoffman56
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, now there’s a second reason for avoiding poutine.

    Being a native of Noranda, Quebec, even leaving at age 14 I was already well aware that the Quebecois were definitely somewhat oppressed by the dominant Anglais, though the French Quebec version of Roman Catholicism was part of it also.

    Actually, much later visiting Quebec City once, I was very amused to overhear tourists (USians?), with no French skills, down by the river, gushing over a tiny waif who was grinning at them and saying: “Mange la merde, Anglais”. A tiny bit of unnoticed revenge?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Keep in mind this was a university that did this not Quebec the province, which tends to be somewhat populist of late.

      • phoffman56
        Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Quite right.

        But, being facetious again, surely we Anglais Canucks must not culturally appropriate any Quebecois ‘culture’, such as listening to Celine croon in French (does she ever? I’ve never listened in any language.); or having an NHL team with the best goalie (but he’s Anglais isn’t he? Anyway, Jacques Plante was Quebecois. Harold Ballard killed my interest about 99 years ago.)

      • Posted January 17, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Also the most radical for good (pointing out things like administrative overhead costs increasing at universities) and for bad (more Quebec nationalists there) of the Montreal-area universities.

  14. Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    You guys are building a wall on the wrong border.

    • JezGrove
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Definitely! See from about 1:10.

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      At least South Park started a war with the right country

  15. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if this has ‘taken the prize’ for crazy behavior. The U.S. has people who completely melt down and can’t scream obscenities loud enough about Halloween costumes, or who actively block library patrons from putting on a Kimono that was donated from Japan and meant to be worn and appreciated.
    But just in case, c’mon U.S. Ctrl Lefties! You might fall behind!

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      It is, in fact, crazy but is it pure racial hatred as well.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        It sure does look like it. Oddly, though, these dictates against white oppressors come from white people.

  16. Richard Jones
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    You have Trudeau visiting Canada rather than India. It was a disastrous trip politically.

  17. JezGrove
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Now Sting will have to be held to account for his pseudo-Jamaican accent on the Police albums. (Handy cultural appropriation tip #1 (my apologies in advance): If you want to pronounce “bacon” like a Jamaican just say “beer can”.

  18. XCellKen
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    An Asian guy, a White guy, and a Jew walk into a bar…

    That joke is ok, since Asians and Jews are apparently honorary White Males these days !!!

    • Posted January 16, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Hannah Gadsby, Jaime Kilstein, and a funny comedian walk into a bar …

  19. XCellKen
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    And when they go outta bizness, they’ll prolly blame the Evil White Capitalistic Patriarchy ™ LOL

    • Posted January 17, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      At UQAM traditionally one blames “les maudites Anglais”.

      (I have been subject to *that* form of bigotry myself.)

  20. CAS
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    As a bald guy, I’m really, really offended by people with a full head of hair. I feel oppressed and belittled! They should be forced to shave their heads to stop threatening the follically challenged.

  21. Alan Clark
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Do they exclude black women with straight hair?

    • Posted January 16, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      No, and they explained why on their FB page: that’s okay cuz it’s appropriating up.

  22. Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I remember film clips if Al Joelson in blackface singing Mammy. Never understood why he wanted to do that. But he drew big crowds.

    Strange world. And getting more strange.

  23. drew
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    The ancient Vedic scriptures of India which are thousands of years old have the earliest evidence of jaata/locks which are almost exclusively worn by holy men and women.

    I believe the Venus of Brassempouy is considered to depict braided/locked hair and dates about 20,000 years older that the vedic scriptures (It’s dated to around 25,000 BCE). It was found in France. Some say that the Venus of Willendorf also depicts a dread lock/braid hair style. It is dated to around 30,000 BCE and was found in Germany.

  24. Posted January 16, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m ready to be “woke.” Please send me the manual on hair. (I perm mine, and I want to know who this is offending.)

    I’m also pretty sure indigenous peoples should be allowed to use bright colors. Why has this issue been ignored?

  25. Brad
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Just proves idiocy & ignorance knows no boundaries. The fellow in the photograph does not have “dreadlocks” but ugly stringy unkempt hair (if they are not extentions) that resemble more of what the rednecks in the southern USA wear.

    • James
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Gotta admit, I’ve lived in the South for 5 years and the only folks I see that have hair like that are black folk and hippies. The rednecks tend to be short-cropped hair–military style.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 16, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      “The fellow in the photograph does not have “dreadlocks” but ugly stringy unkempt hair…”

      My thoughts, exactly. But maybe a month or 2 or 3 ago they were dreads…

  26. BJ
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    “True, most whites who wear dreadlocks became aware of them because the hairstyle is popular among modern blacks…”

    Every white person I ever knew who had dreadlocks became aware of them and got them because they were “hippies” and other “hippies” had them. Just FYI.

  27. BJ
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey. anyone remember the white guy who was technically assaulted for having dreadlocks on a college campus?

    As far as I know, the woman in the video was never punished by the school, but I imagine that, had the roles been reversed, the offender would have faced serious penalties (as well as enormous animosity from many on campus).

    • Posted January 17, 2019 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      Watching with the sound off. Are you sure that wasn’t about the disastrous leg wear?

      • BJ
        Posted January 17, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        LOL!

        But you really do need to see it with the sound on. Makes it significantly worse.

  28. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    We ancient Akkadians are outraged, OUTRAGED
    that a white Canadian dared to appropriate one of our ancient hairstyles. This sort of behaviour threatens our very existence. Oh, I forgot, we don’t exist at all anymore.

    • Posted January 17, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Yeah, everyone knows that the *modern* folks of that name are from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI. Given that there’s no appropriation, right? 😉

  29. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    a prime example of virtue signaling: making a gesture to trumpet your own ideological purity, but a gesture that has no effect on society and no mitigation of injustice.

    This superb definition is very helpful, and will be used much in the future!

  30. A C Harper
    Posted January 17, 2019 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it enough to enjoy another group’s food in their company?

    No… Unless you demonstrate enough solidarity for the nominally ‘oppressed’ how is any other person from *your* social group going to make a career out of deconstructing the tyranny of oppressed and documenting the way in which this relates to postmodern critical thinkers?

  31. Posted January 17, 2019 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Typo I think:

    I wonder if there was this kind of outcry when Justin Trudeau visited Canada and wore Indian clothes

    I think he was visiting India.

  32. Posted January 17, 2019 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    The French ‘settlers’ criticising the English ‘settlers’?! Whatever next! 🙂

  33. Posted January 17, 2019 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    I think I prefered the religious authoritarians. At least you could keep pace with their stupid attitudes. The current crop of authoritarians are a moving target

  34. Vaal
    Posted January 17, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Jerry: “Saying, “we’ll punish you for wearing dreadlocks” just enforces otherness and cultural segregation.”

    Yes, yes, yes!

    It’s unbelievable that they don’t see how retrogressive these ideas are. It’s so sad to see this attempt to wind back MLK’s vision and ramp up the “othering” of everyone who may look different than us.

    Also, about this part:

    “We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces,”

    The lack of irony and self-awareness there takes the breath away.

    Finally:

    “The group contends that white people can wear dreadlocks because of their privilege, while a black person “would see themselves refused access to job opportunities or to spaces (housing, schools contests, sporting events, etc.).”

    I would like to see actual strong evidence for that claim.

    It assumes situations wherein a black person would be hired, or have access to those things, but would not if they wore dreadlocks. So clearly, whoever is doing this discriminating would have an issue with the appearance created by *dreadlocks.*

    I’d like to see examples of jobs, or schools etc where they were so concerned about dreadlocks that they’d refuse a black person, but would happily greet a white person with dreadlocks. Where are these examples?

    And certainly plenty of the black people I’ve seen on the “SJW” side in college and university videos have worn dreadlocks; it didn’t seem to stop them from getting in to school.


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