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ThatBookwormMom

Cultural Appropriation - help me cure my ignorance?

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Okay, I know I'm opening myself up to a lot of potential backlash here, but can we talk about cultural appropriation, please? I don't understand why wearing box braids or a sari as a white girl, for example, would be taken by others as proof of cultural insensitivity or even blatant racism. Maybe I'm just clueless, so please be kind, but I'm really interested in understanding this. What if I just really love the look? Am I really forbidden from adopting anything into my personal style that has a traditional association with people of color or other cultures? 

I'm not even really asking for myself, except that I don't like being ignorant of issues that matter. But also, my daughter has African cousins and loves how they wear their hair. Should I tell her no when she asks to wear hers the same way? And if so, why? I don't like that my understanding of this topic is so nebulous.

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I find this a hard topic, too.  I've come to a personal conclusion that cultural appropriation is done when it rejects the other aspects of the culture and gives its own meaning to something.  Like, hanging dreamcatchers because you think they're pretty, but disregarding any of the symbolism and importance that the Ojibwe culture attaches to it and creating your own.  Like how people talk about spirit animals.

I *don't* think it's adapting to a culture you are a part of or live within.  Or a culture you are respecting with your actions.  There was a story going around about a little girl having a Japanese tea party in her home. That helped me create a personal definition and boundaries to think about.

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11 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

I find this a hard topic, too.  I've come to a personal conclusion that cultural appropriation is done when it rejects the other aspects of the culture and gives its own meaning to something.  Like, hanging dreamcatchers because you think they're pretty, but disregarding any of the symbolism and importance that the Ojibwe culture attaches to it and creating your own.  Like how people talk about spirit animals.

I *don't* think it's adapting to a culture you are a part of or live within.  Or a culture you are respecting with your actions.  There was a story going around about a little girl having a Japanese tea party in her home. That helped me create a personal definition and boundaries to think about.

Thank you for the link. I think that about sums up what I'm trying to think through. I always thought it was inclusive and respectful to find out more about cultural elements that were personally appealing and include them in my life. It's an appreciation thing. But then there was a big YouTube controversy about a Korean beauty blogger wearing box braids, and there's been a lot of talk on here about white privilege, and I started wondering if I'm being insensitive or even (God forbid) racist without realizing it. I don't like living in ignorance or fear, so I wanted to discuss it, and I know no better place than here for honest opinions and education on this type of thing. I understand that there are folks who will label me racist simply because I'm white and kind of clueless sometimes, but I hope that my questions will be seen as the respectful wish to understand that they are. Would I be stepping over boundaries by wearing a sari, for example, because I think it's pretty? Even if I'm doing so with an understanding of and respect for the culture? (Just an example. I don't actually own a sari.) Or if my kid wanted her hair in a certain style because her cousins wear it that way, is she being insensitive? Am I, for letting her?

Edited by ThatBookwormMom
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Like the OP, I find the notion of cultural appropriation confusing.  I've been to many cultural festivals - Greek, Chinese, Polish, Japanese (the town I grew up in had a huge Obon festival every year and I attended many times, despite not being at all Japanese). People are encouraged to eat the food, learn how to cook the food - I've bought a few cookbooks at festivals such like this - buy the traditional clothing, enjoy the dancing and even partake of dancing lessons... people are not turned away because they are from a different culture. In my experience, people are more than happy to share their culture.

I loved this line from the linked article:  

A strong argument can be made, after all, that stigmatizing the sharing of cultural elements only creates more distance between us.

Of course there are ignorant people who will be disrespectful, but (again) in my experience, those people are in the minority. 

 

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Thank you for starting this topic.  I have also found it confusing and have so many questions....

My daughter used to love wearing Punjap style pants with the long shirts when she was in high school and college.  They were beautiful and very comfortable.  But that was more than 10yrs ago.  Was that offensive that she liked wearing another culture's clothing?  We found them at the thrift store, btw.   

I don't hear people crying cultural appropriation when people wear rosaries as necklaces. Or when famous people, with no religious affiliation, wear a big cross or Star of Davids as decorations.   How is that different than the dream-catcher example?

When does it go from being cultural appropriation to a new style?

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I'll have to come back later to expand on my thoughts, but I've been doing some googling this morning in my quest to understand, and I found this video to be very enlightening. 

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/corn-rows-appropriation/

For now, though, I have to actually educate my kids and maybe take a shower. 😁 I'll come back when I can. I hope more people weigh in. I'm really interested in this, especially because my own community can be insular and no one I know IRL is talking about this in an honest and helpful way.

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I was just on a google trail on a similar issue. Some American men with English-German heritage in my family wore Afros in the 70s. I’m still unclear if that is the proper name for my family members’ hairstyle. Research shows Jewish-fro as a term, which isn’t the religion of my family. What is the proper term? Is the hairstyle itself cultural appropriation? I’m somewhat expecting it to come back around and my children have the hair texture to support it.

I do think I’m finding a trend of assumptions that people with white skin have straight hair. So clearly not the case here, it’s damn humid lately. I’m a firm believer in natural hair and skin. I also don’t have the sensory capacity for heat from a hair dryer or the weight of makeup, so it’s great that I’m confident as I am. I wish everyone could be.

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7 minutes ago, Acorn said:

I was just on a google trail on a similar issue. Some American men with English-German heritage in my family wore Afros in the 70s. I’m still unclear if that is the proper name for my family members’ hairstyle. Research shows Jewish-fro as a term, which isn’t the religion of my family. What is the proper term? Is the hairstyle itself cultural appropriation? I’m somewhat expecting it to come back around and my children have the hair texture to support it.

I do think I’m finding a trend of assumptions that people with white skin have straight hair. So clearly not the case here, it’s damn humid lately. I’m a firm believer in natural hair and skin. I also don’t have the sensory capacity for heat from a hair dryer or the weight of makeup, so it’s great that I’m confident as I am. I wish everyone could be.

 

Bad perms were very popular in the 70s. Bob Ross didn’t naturally have that kind of hair, but I have never heard anyone accuse him of cultural appropriation. 😉

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I think what the issue boils down to is the privilege to take what one likes without the negatives that the people in the original group have to deal with. Black women, for example, have had social, educational and professional consequences for their natural hair; I feel like it would be disrespectful for me, with slippery white-girl hair, to try that on as a style, when I don't have to deal with any down sides to it.

OTOH, I do wear a kameez from India, which DH's co-worker's wife brought back for me as a souvenir: she's from there, and there doesn't seem to be any backlash against Indian women for wearing that style here. And I've sometimes used henna, applied by an Indian woman who makes her living that way. I occasionally use Indian recipes (but it would be weird and I think inappropriate if I tried to open an Indian restaurant, especially in an area where there are so many immigrants from there, even if I was good at it). But I'm not putting on bindi, which has a cultural significance that's not mine.

Debbi, people do speak up against decorative uses of religious items, and the trends seldom get far. As they shouldn't--yuck.

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1 hour ago, marbel said:

Like the OP, I find the notion of cultural appropriation confusing.  I've been to many cultural festivals - Greek, Chinese, Polish, Japanese (the town I grew up in had a huge Obon festival every year and I attended many times, despite not being at all Japanese). People are encouraged to eat the food, learn how to cook the food - I've bought a few cookbooks at festivals such like this - buy the traditional clothing, enjoy the dancing and even partake of dancing lessons... people are not turned away because they are from a different culture. In my experience, people are more than happy to share their culture.

I loved this line from the linked article:  

A strong argument can be made, after all, that stigmatizing the sharing of cultural elements only creates more distance between us.

Of course there are ignorant people who will be disrespectful, but (again) in my experience, those people are in the minority. 

 

 

It’s such a difficult topic because what one person views in a positive way as someone sharing their culture may also be viewed in a negative way by another person and viewed as cultural appropriation. 

I have to admit to thinking that some people are always looking for a reason to be offended, instead of trying to find out the intentions of the person in question before they start judging them so harshly. Is the person wearing a particular outfit or hairstyle because they love it, or is it because they are trying to be mocking and insulting toward another culture? I think the intentions matter. I also think the timing matters. I recently saw a story about a white woman who was being accused of cultural appropriation because somebody dug up an old photo of her when she wore her hair in cornrows. Well... at that time, the movie “10” was popular, and a lot of women wanted to look like Bo Derek, so they adopted that hairstyle. They weren’t thinking about anything beyond the fact that they wanted Bo’s hairstyle, any more than a lot of women wanted Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” hairstyle many years later.

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A few issues irt cultural appropriation:

"Why can't I wear box braids?" Because as a white person, the style has gone in and out of style and it is only considered acceptable when it's popular with white people. For black people, they have been sent home from school and fired from jobs for a hair style that is specific towards protecting their natural hair.

Time and place. If an Indian friend gift you a sari, then it is appropriate to wear it to an appropriate function (say you are invited to a wedding in that family and they are going to be in traditional dress). I have Eritrean headscarves. I save them for Pascha. It is an appropriate time and place for me to wear them. It would not be appropriate for me to wear an Eritrean dress and covering around the city as everyday wear, even if they do.

Crafts. Omg...I could scream at all of the "let's wrap yarn around a circle, throw some cute dangley things on it, and call it a unicorn dreamcatcher!" No! It's NOT a dreamcatcher. The same goes for many other crafts.

When the art is something specific to a group (particularly a suppressed, minority group) and someone from a privileged group starts making the same thing, advertises, and makes huge money off of it that could have gone to the minority group it originated with. Examples: kayaks (this was actually done), amautik (the making of these is being heavily guarded due to what happened with kayaks).

When white people take center stage. I was completely disgusted by a recent African festival held here. I thought it was great we were having one. We also have other cultural festivals and we have large, immigrant communities from all over the world here. Two white women, part of a dance group, were leading the dances, teaching others, and putting themselves center stage. There were plenty of black and African females joining in, but these two white women were constantly center staged and telling about the dances, almost as if they owned the stories themselves or others couldn't speak for themselves (they could, trust me). The few stands I saw were manned by white people: face paint, local radio station, posters about different parts of Africa. The only places manned by actual Africans were the food stands in the back and those playing the drums on stage. Do you know where most of the city's Africans were that day? On my side of the city, going to the stores, walking on the sidewalks, getting stuff done...anywhere other than the festival. I felt more of a loss in that festival and left.

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Sometimes it is easy to describe, and sometimes less so. I ‘feel it’ more than ‘know it’ when I see it. This is an example. https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.eurweb.com/2019/07/25/black-twitter-slams-white-woman-who-invented-98-hair-bonnet/amp/

Hair ‘bonnets’ have been a ‘thing’ since my grannie was a kid so seeing someone claim it as an ‘innovation’ Smarts something fierce. 

At the same time, seeing kids dress up as their favorite fictional characters bothers me not at all. I never lightened my child’s face to do that and I trust that other parents will similarly affirm their child’s beauty by not darkening theirs.

Edited by Sneezyone
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I think cultural appropriation is a weird thing because groups are made of individuals, and individuals have different thoughts and ideas.  So, within a group, what one person sees as cultural appropriation another person might see as a sharing of a tradition.

 

Honestly, I wish I could wear braids.  Not because of some trend or whatever, but to just keep my hair under control.  

1 hour ago, Catwoman said:

 

Bad perms were very popular in the 70s. Bob Ross didn’t naturally have that kind of hair, but I have never heard anyone accuse him of cultural appropriation. 😉

🤣

Most days, my hair looks like a bad perm that Bob Ross could have been proud of lol 

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1 hour ago, whitehawk said:

<snip>

I occasionally use Indian recipes (but it would be weird and I think inappropriate if I tried to open an Indian restaurant, especially in an area where there are so many immigrants from there, even if I was good at it).

<snip>

 

I've been thinking about this today.  Julia Child wasn't French yet she was an expert on French cooking.  Diana Kennedy is considered an expert on Mexican food, yet she is English.  Paula Wolfert has won awards for her books on Mediterranean, particularly Moroccan, food, yet she is from Brooklyn NY.  All these women lived and/or traveled extensively in the countries whose food they studied, but... they were not part of that culture, or at least not from birth. 

Not the same as opening a restaurant, but they all have published numerous cookbooks in their areas of expertise.  Was it cultural appropriation for them to learn about these cuisines and write about them?

Not arguing, just pondering, ya  know?

ETA: thinking more... should people not use their books/recipes and rather seek out books/recipes from people who "own" (for lack of a better word) those cuisines? Or should they be applauded for seeking excellence in cuisines that many people had been unfamiliar with?

Edited by marbel
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It's a slippery concept with a lot of grey areas. 

Questions I ask myself:

1) Is this a sacred item being used for fashion or profit?  Definitely appropriation

2) Is their a power imbalance between my culture and the culture I'm borrowing from? Might be appropriation,  need to think and evaluate, context matters

3) Have I been invited to use this item/participate in this cultural practice, and am I using/participating in a way that's authentic?  Not appropriation

1 and 3 are usually obvious and easy to identify.  It's 2 that's tricky - is adoption of a non-sacred item or practice from minority, historically oppressed culture into one's lifestyle appropriation?. I feel like what's OK and what's not OK depends a lot on local culture, and changes over time.  And what's considered mainstream changes overtime.  Cultures merge and evolve.  Eating and cooking food from minority cultures is not generally considered appropriation.    Paddling a canoe is not appropriation; manufacturing and selling canoes and kayaks for profit is not seen as appropriation, I don't think, because these things have been absorbed into mainstream culture. Wearing moccasin-style shoes is not seen as appropriation - it's mainstream. A white person running a first nations style jewelry and traditional clothing business for profit would be seen as appropriation.

And as an example regarding authenticity I will share:  Last week, at a kid activity while waiting for a class to end, I saw a white woman with a very elaborate braided african-style hairstyle that that made me inwardly cringe a little and set off my appropriation radar. Then her kids came out of class - mixed-race girls with tight, curly hair, and my feeling instantly changed - she's modeling non-white beauty standards for her kids.  Instantly felt authentic.  Now, this woman's hair is, of course,  none of my business - I'm sharing my inner monologue to illustrate a point, not to criticize or condone.

Edited by wathe
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Interesting topic.  The thing is, isn't so much of the stuff we do taken from other cultures over time?  I have a rug that has an Aztec style print on it.  I wear a turban-style headband to keep my hair and sweat out of my eyes on hot, humid days.  I cook lentil soup -- surely this wasn't originally from my family's culture.  I have a kimono-style robe I wear with pajamas.  I know a lot of people who wear cross necklaces who aren't Christian, and who celebrate Christmas.   I drink Chai tea and I sometimes wear Turkish-style pants to lounge in.  We're a hodgepodge of cultures and styles and tastes, and it seems natural to me that these traditions will cross borders over time.  To me, that actually seems like a positive thing, a sharing of lives.  But, I also want to remain sensitive to this, and understand how others might be offended.

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I'd like to elaborate on the canoe/kayak example.   My modern kevlar canoe, and modern fiberglass/plastic kayaks are inspired by indigenous watercraft, but no-one would really consider these modern craft as indigenous products, hence not appropriation.  But, if a white-owned company manufactured and sold indigenous-style birch bark canoes and skin kayaks, that would be considered appropriation, I think.

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I don't hear people crying cultural appropriation when people wear rosaries as necklaces. Or when famous people, with no religious affiliation, wear a big cross or Star of Davids as decorations.   How is that different than the dream-catcher example?

 

That's interesting that you say that, because "You wearing that headdress is exactly like somebody wearing a rosary as decoration" has got to be the most common explanation I've heard.

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2 hours ago, wathe said:

I'd like to elaborate on the canoe/kayak example.   My modern kevlar canoe, and modern fiberglass/plastic kayaks are inspired by indigenous watercraft, but no-one would really consider these modern craft as indigenous products, hence not appropriation.  But, if a white-owned company manufactured and sold indigenous-style birch bark canoes and skin kayaks, that would be considered appropriation, I think.

 

And there are people that would argue that what you have is NOT a canoe or kayak. That said, just because someone modernized it long after the initial appropriation, doesn't negate the fact that it was appropriated. The modern version may be common use now, but it doesn't change the fact that something was appropriated in the first place.

Edited by mommaduck
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5 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

And there are people that would argue that what you have is NOT a canoe or kayak. That said, just because someone modernized it long after the initial appropriation, doesn't negate the fact that it was appropriated. The modern version may be common use now, but it doesn't change the fact that something was appropriated in the first place.

Is that a bad thing?

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Cultural appropriation has to do with the dominant culture taking a historically repressed culture's "stuff" and re purposing them without respect or thought.   I really think if you're the dominant culture, you don't really get to decide what is appropriation.  And among people of other cultures, you might get mixed opinions.  I think if people try to be respectful, you're generally going to be fine.  

I think it's easy to say as a member of the dominant culture that you had friends of other races/cultures and all was well back in the good days and we didn't talk about stuff like this and no on was offended.  But I think people of other races were just conditioned to keep their mouth shut when they were racially profiled or saw acts of mild racism or were made to feel like they didn't belong or felt mocked.  It's ok for people to air their feelings.  It's also within your rights to ignore other people's requests to not do certain things.  I am personally much more aware of this stuff now.  

This is a couple years old but came across a social media feed of mine fairly recently about cultural appropriation and Halloween.  I thought the video was interesting and a nice explanation and is only about 5 minutes.  It gives a nice base for thinking about it more broadly.  

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/cultural-appropriation-halloween-costume-video?fbclid=IwAR3sTnnLR-e5wrwCz_f4DAzdDI99YTqVmNUhIRgV1-Imxyqx92BKf11DvAw

Edited by FuzzyCatz
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1 hour ago, happysmileylady said:

Is that a bad thing?

 

Is it a bad thing to go into a repressed, minority culture, see something that they make in a unique way, go and mass produce it to sell for millions and not give anything back to the people it originated from? What do you think?

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Cultural appropriation to me is something big, like a white artist taking the style of an Indigenous artist, and passing it off as a form arising from his own spirituality and connection with the land. And probably making money out of it, while the indigenous artist is still unknown. Basically more akin to a white person ripping off a BIPOC person.

I am not here for arguments over hairstyles and earrings though  - those kind of arguments I just don't find compelling. 

Personally, I feel uncomfortable about things other people don't - so, I know plenty of white people who dress in traditional Indian dress (they are part of an Indian music and culture scene), but I'd feel weird doing that, and as if I was appropriating something, so I don't, but I don't judge those who do.

 

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5 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

Is it a bad thing to go into a repressed, minority culture, see something that they make in a unique way, go and mass produce it to sell for millions and not give anything back to the people it originated from? What do you think?

Do you believe that somehow we went from a white European seeing a native person with a canoe to instantaneously mass producing plastic canoes that Bass Pro Shops makes millions off of?  

I am sure you don't.  I am sure you understand how it's hundreds of years of bits and pieces and sharing of ideas and so on.  I think what you are suggesting is that the "idea" of the canoe was appropriated.  Which, honestly I just can't agree with.  Virtually every technological idea and advancement is not a single idea or invention, but rather a conglomeration of hundreds of years of ideas.  And no, I just can't see that long term sharing of ideas and such as a bad thing.  

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Just now, happysmileylady said:

Do you believe that somehow we went from a white European seeing a native person with a canoe to instantaneously mass producing plastic canoes that Bass Pro Shops makes millions off of?  

I am sure you don't.  I am sure you understand how it's hundreds of years of bits and pieces and sharing of ideas and so on.  I think what you are suggesting is that the "idea" of the canoe was appropriated.  Which, honestly I just can't agree with.  Virtually every technological idea and advancement is not a single idea or invention, but rather a conglomeration of hundreds of years of ideas.  And no, I just can't see that long term sharing of ideas and such as a bad thing.  

 

There is cultural exchange and then there is ripping off. Look up the difference and the history. Is each case identical? No. I used an example that had been used for me before when learning about amautik. We had someone that made amautik on another board I was on long ago. There was this exact type of discussion.

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12 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

There is cultural exchange and then there is ripping off. Look up the difference and the history. Is each case identical? No. I used an example that had been used for me before when learning about amautik. We had someone that made amautik on another board I was on long ago. There was this exact type of discussion.

Do you believe that the plastic massed produced canoes of today are direct ripoffs of a specific culture's method of water transportation?  

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"Why can't I wear box braids?" Because as a white person, the style has gone in and out of style and it is only considered acceptable when it's popular with white people. For black people, they have been sent home from school and fired from jobs for a hair style that is specific towards protecting their natural hair.

Part of my dislike of the overuse of the term 'cultural appropriation' comes from it being an American cultural export in many ways. 

The braid thing I see as a US issue.

Our appropriation issues may be related, but they are different, and it really bugs me when young white activists here, in another country entirely, start carrying on about issues that don't really match up with their own cultural context.

That's the sense in which I object to it. I mean, not here on this majority US board, but in Aussie political groups ? It's just virtue signalling of the worst kind.

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4 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

Do you believe that the plastic massed produced canoes of today are direct ripoffs of a specific culture's method of water transportation?  

 

I believe they are an extension of the original problem. I understand why amautik-making is heavily guarded today.

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1 minute ago, StellaM said:

"Why can't I wear box braids?" Because as a white person, the style has gone in and out of style and it is only considered acceptable when it's popular with white people. For black people, they have been sent home from school and fired from jobs for a hair style that is specific towards protecting their natural hair.

Part of my dislike of the overuse of the term 'cultural appropriation' comes from it being an American cultural export in many ways. 

The braid thing I see as a US issue.

Our appropriation issues may be related, but they are different, and it really bugs me when young white activists here, in another country entirely, start carrying on about issues that don't really match up with their own cultural context.

That's the sense in which I object to it. I mean, not here on this majority US board, but in Aussie political groups ? It's just virtue signalling of the worst kind.

 

Excellent point. In other countries, it is not an issue. You can travel places and they either make money off of tourists with box braids and other styles or don't see it as a black/white issue and it is no big deal. 

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3 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

Excellent point. In other countries, it is not an issue. You can travel places and they either make money off of tourists with box braids and other styles or don't see it as a black/white issue and it is no big deal. 

 

The thing that most bugs me is that a lot of virtue is expended here (AU) on the political left, on responding to American social issues - but most of the people doing that don't know about things like blackbirding

We've got more than enough going on in our own backyard without adopting American issues.

IMO. And a tangent from the main thread, so that's me done talking about it 🙂

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11 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

I believe they are an extension of the original problem. I understand why amautik-making is heavily guarded today.

At what point though does it stop being an extension of the original problem?  

 

Of course, we are talking about canoes here, which aren't exactly something a single culture invented. And it's not like white Europeans had never ever seen such a water craft before the colonial period.  

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3 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

At what point though does it stop being an extension of the original problem?  

 

Of course, we are talking about canoes here, which aren't exactly something a single culture invented. And it's not like white Europeans had never ever seen such a water craft before the colonial period.  

 

I specifically was referring to kayaks. Again, there are articles online about it. Google is your friend. I'm not telling you where to draw the line. Where you believe the line is and where I believe the line may or may not be the same thing. This isn't about where we believe it stops being an extension or if it stops being an extension. I do believe it should be about awareness and choices based on that awareness.

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3 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

I specifically was referring to kayaks. Again, there are articles online about it. Google is your friend. I'm not telling you where to draw the line. Where you believe the line is and where I believe the line may or may not be the same thing. This isn't about where we believe it stops being an extension or if it stops being an extension. I do believe it should be about awareness and choices based on that awareness.

And this is really what makes the concept of cultural appropriation so hard.  The line IS so different for everyone.  And "awareness" can really only do so much.  The truth is, most good people (and I believe that most people are good) don't want to hurt other people's feelings.  So, most good people try not to offend and therefore, try to avoid cultural appropriation.  But, at some point, there's this place where, everything is going to be viewed as offensive by someone.  Stella said 

54 minutes ago, StellaM said:

I am not here for arguments over hairstyles and earrings

But, some other people are.  There are people who feel things about hairstyles and earrings very strongly.  

Which ultimately is why the thread exists in the first place.  Cultural appropriation is a place where "awareness" intersects with the reality of "you can't please everyone."

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So we just throw it all out the window or do we learn to be aware of context and cultural understandings? It seems like there is a whole group of people that believe it should just be ignored, excused, or thrown out the window. 

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3 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

So we just throw it all out the window or do we learn to be aware of context and cultural understandings? It seems like there is a whole group of people that believe it should just be ignored, excused, or thrown out the window. 

No, not throw it out the window.

You said awareness.

I am saying be aware that awareness not a one way street, but an intersection with multiple roads coming together.  

Be aware of where you are coming from, of where you are going, and also be aware of all the other routes, roads, and paths that are part of the whole thing.  

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1 minute ago, happysmileylady said:

No, not throw it out the window.

You said awareness.

I am saying be aware that awareness not a one way street, but an intersection with multiple roads coming together.  

Be aware of where you are coming from, of where you are going, and also be aware of all the other routes, roads, and paths that are part of the whole thing.  

 

You know what? I don't believe it is that difficult of a concept to understand or to go research and educate oneself on. Don't ask me to draw the lines for you. Figure it out.

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I've moved around on this a little over the last several years.

I started to write a really long response, but then I deleted it. Suffice it to say, I really believe in many of the arguments against appropriation as stated above and I think the power dynamic and context are important to understand. But also, I have seen it go too far in my opinion. I think we have to be open to sharing and learning and evolving culture and arts and dress. And we have to look for ways to share those things while honoring creators and originators. 

I think the most important thing for us lay people is just to be open and try and not be defensive. Like, evaluate for yourself whether "trying on" a cultural outfit, style, art, product, etc. is potentially harmful to people. Ask yourself if you doing/using/wearing it will be received in a positive way when it wouldn't be for POC's. When you consume products and arts, ask yourself if the thing you're using or enjoying has a creator that is going unrecognized. Like, it's not on you to fix the music industry, but if you like a white musician who is performing style originated by black musicians, then think about whether some of your downloads should maybe go to black artists instead. But above all else, if a person from a marginalized group says, this is appropriation, just LISTEN. You don't have to agree in the end, but be willing to think about it instead of being defensive.

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6 minutes ago, mommaduck said:

 

You know what? I don't believe it is that difficult of a concept to understand or to go research and educate oneself on. Don't ask me to draw the lines for you. Figure it out.

I'm having a hard time figuring out your position here. Are you saying there IS a hard line, and it should be perfectly obvious what is cultural appropriation and what isn't? I'm also not clear on what you mean about kayaks being cultural appropriation. Do you believe that only Inuit/Aleut/Yupik peoples should be allowed to use kayaks? Or that others can use them but only if they buy them from native people who make them traditionally? Or is it OK for a company to make modern versions out of fiberglass if they pay some kind of royalty for the use of the concept? Who would they send the check to? What if many Inuit/Aleut/Yupik peoples don't have an issue with companies making modern kayaks, who gets to decide? Is it cultural appropriation if white people breed Huskies and Malamutes or participate in sled racing?

Some have claimed that white people teaching yoga is cultural appropriation, even though it was white people, not Indians, who were objecting to it. What percentage of ethnicity does a chef need to have in order to cook at a restaurant that serves ethnic cuisine? If the person lived and worked in that culture for years, is that OK even if their parents or grandparents are not of that ethnicity? If the owner of a successful Mexican restaurant wants to sell it, is he obligated to only sell it to another Mexican? Is it OK for a Chinese-owned restaurant to also serve Thai or Vietnamese dishes?  

I didn't get the impression at all that @happysmileylady was saying cultural appropriation doesn't exist, or we should just ignore it, or we shouldn't even bother to try to tease these things out. I think her point was that there is rarely agreement about where the line is, even among people whose culture is claimed to be appropriated, and people should be aware of that before assuming that someone is being racist just because they see that line in a different place. Borrowing cultural traits and technological innovations from other groups is the most natural and fundamental mechanism through which cultures evolve and change. IMO, "borrowing" becomes "appropriation" when it is exploitive or disrespectful to the original culture.

 

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Between this thread and the blackface one, I'm learning all kinds of things that I hadn't thought deeply about before. Thank you for engaging with me on these issues. I'm still not sure where I would draw these lines for myself, but I do have much to think on much more deeply than I have in the past. Would it be overly dramatic to say that I can feel myself evolving a bit today? 

In case you're curious, if my daughter wants to braid her hair like her cousins', or if they offer and she wants to accept, I will let her but we will be having some conversation about it first. I'm also going to be doing some thinking about my own practices, where they come from, and if they're ethical for everyone involved.

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13 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

I'm having a hard time figuring out your position here. Are you saying there IS a hard line, and it should be perfectly obvious what is cultural appropriation and what isn't? I'm also not clear on what you mean about kayaks being cultural appropriation. Do you believe that only Inuit/Aleut/Yupik peoples should be allowed to use kayaks? Or that others can use them but only if they buy them from native people who make them traditionally? Or is it OK for a company to make modern versions out of fiberglass if they pay some kind of royalty for the use of the concept? Who would they send the check to? What if many Inuit/Aleut/Yupik peoples don't have an issue with companies making modern kayaks, who gets to decide? Is it cultural appropriation if white people breed Huskies and Malamutes or participate in sled racing?

Some have claimed that white people teaching yoga is cultural appropriation, even though it was white people, not Indians, who were objecting to it. What percentage of ethnicity does a chef need to have in order to cook at a restaurant that serves ethnic cuisine? If the person lived and worked in that culture for years, is that OK even if their parents or grandparents are not of that ethnicity? If the owner of a successful Mexican restaurant wants to sell it, is he obligated to only sell it to another Mexican? Is it OK for a Chinese-owned restaurant to also serve Thai or Vietnamese dishes?  

I didn't get the impression at all that @happysmileylady was saying cultural appropriation doesn't exist, or we should just ignore it, or we shouldn't even bother to try to tease these things out. I think her point was that there is rarely agreement about where the line is, even among people whose culture is claimed to be appropriated, and people should be aware of that before assuming that someone is being racist just because they see that line in a different place. Borrowing cultural traits and technological innovations from other groups is the most natural and fundamental mechanism through which cultures evolve and change. IMO, "borrowing" becomes "appropriation" when it is exploitive or disrespectful to the original culture.

 

Right, all of this.

 

 

As I am sure people can guess based on my previous post, I have curly hair.  As Arctic Mama can attest to....it's like *really* curly.  My kid shares my curly hair.  She and I have different hair types, and therefore use different products.  Some of the product she uses come from what is usually titled the "ethnic" hair section of the store.  When she lived on campus, a black student who was friends with her roommate saw the product and using words I won't repeat, informed my kid she had no right to use that product because it wasn't for white people.

My kid doesn't use it to mock black people or black hair.  She uses it because it works well *for her hair.*  (and, honestly, there isn't a whole lot of product in the non "ethnic" section for people with hair like ours.  And there aren't many stylists who can handle it properly)  And while there a a lot of folks who wouldn't care if a white person uses hair product from the "ethnic" section of the store, the truth is, there are also a lot of people who really do care.  It is just one more thing that makes the line of appropriation so hard to figure out.  

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Cultural sharing, e.g. getting inspiration from seeing one region's technology, is part of human evolution IMO, it always goes both ways, and there is nothing immoral about it.

Native Americans did not have wheels (for transportation).  Should they never be allowed to use wheel technology without giving Europe a payback?

I do understand being culturally sensitive when considering using or copying something from another culture.  But most things used in most cultures are just "things."  If I buy a tiffin box from India, I don't have to use it exactly the way it would be used by a culturally Indian person in India.  I would add that my friends from India are much more eager to adopt US culture than most US individuals are to adopt non-US cultural items/practices.  They are much more "modern" than I am.  Yet it's always the Western folks who are wrong.   That does get old.

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10 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

<snip>

As I am sure people can guess based on my previous post, I have curly hair.  As Arctic Mama can attest to....it's like *really* curly.  My kid shares my curly hair.  She and I have different hair types, and therefore use different products.  Some of the product she uses come from what is usually titled the "ethnic" hair section of the store.  When she lived on campus, a black student who was friends with her roommate saw the product and using words I won't repeat, informed my kid she had no right to use that product because it wasn't for white people.

<snip>

These are the sorts of things that make people roll their eyes when they hear "cultural appropriation."  How ridiculous is that that someone would think a person could not use a hair product because they are not the right ethnicity for it.  And presumably the person who said it saw your daughter and thus saw her hair.  Your daughter is not taking anything from anyone; the product is there for anyone to purchase and I'd be quite surprised if the people making money from that product care who is buying it or what their hair is like.  

I put this in the category of people making things harder for themselves/their group by focusing on petty things at the expense of bigger things. 'Cause when people whine and complain about petty things like hair products, the people they are whining to/about shut down and the big things get lost. 

 

Edited by marbel
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13 hours ago, StellaM said:

That's the sense in which I object to it. I mean, not here on this majority US board, but in Aussie political groups ? It's just virtue signalling of the worst kind.

I think this is the main thing that is bothering me both about this subject and about blackface and brown face. It’s people reveling in their woke-ness and acting incredulous that everyone hasn’t been thinking the same thing since the sixties. 

I, too, never heard the term “brownface” until the JT news article, though I can certainly extrapolate the meaning, having heard of blackface. But even with that - I thought “blackface” was entirely about mockery, not mere costuming

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20 hours ago, marbel said:

I've been thinking about this today.  Julia Child wasn't French yet she was an expert on French cooking.  Diana Kennedy is considered an expert on Mexican food, yet she is English.  Paula Wolfert has won awards for her books on Mediterranean, particularly Moroccan, food, yet she is from Brooklyn NY.  All these women lived and/or traveled extensively in the countries whose food they studied, but... they were not part of that culture, or at least not from birth. 

Not the same as opening a restaurant, but they all have published numerous cookbooks in their areas of expertise.  Was it cultural appropriation for them to learn about these cuisines and write about them?

Not arguing, just pondering, ya  know?

ETA: thinking more... should people not use their books/recipes and rather seek out books/recipes from people who "own" (for lack of a better word) those cuisines? Or should they be applauded for seeking excellence in cuisines that many people had been unfamiliar with?

I have been listening to a Great Courses on the history of food and cultures of food. It is a subject I find fascinating. Many times, when I’m cooking or eating something, I muse about its origins - how did someone decide to cook a crab? How did they decide which parts were good for eating and others, not so much? Who figured out you need this ratio of flour to hydration in order to make this bread? Etc. Etc. Etc. 

This Course talks extensively about, you could call it, food appropriation, both of the actual food choices and the manner of eating certain things; i.e., eating with your hands, eating with utensils, sipping from a bowl vs. spooning liquids to the mouth, communally sharing food from the center of the table vs. individual servings to each person. In some cases, the “appropriation” of food culture does go directly from an oppressed people group to the power group, such as the adoption of Okra and gumbo by white people from African slaves. 

In a given week, the food I make may have originally been Dutch, Native American, Irish, French, South American, Asian, or practically anywhere. I drink coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon. I have sugar and cream or sometimes coconut milk. I didn’t invent any of these things. And the adoption of a food or technique into the dominant culture was probably more often than not crassly appropriated. I mean, in a way, none of us should ever let a teaspoon of sugar pass our lips because of the extremely abusive and exploitive way sugar came into wide use. Morally, it should be such an outrage we can’t even *think* of using sugar. Or tea! 

I don’t know...I find this subject awfully nebulous. I can see where there are some stark examples that would make me very uncomfortable, but a white girl having some beaded braids put in her hair in Jamaica is not one of them. I think what is *better* for tolerance is noting superior goods/ideas/foods and sharing those things, not saying, “No! You can’t make that kind of bread because that’s Slavic and you’re not!” I just don’t get that. 

Edited by Quill
Misspoke; clarified meaning
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9 hours ago, Quill said:

I think this is the main thing that is bothering me both about this subject and about blackface and brown face. It’s people reveling in their woke-ness and acting incredulous that everyone hasn’t been thinking the same thing since the sixties. 

I, too, never heard the term “brownface” until the JT news article, though I can certainly extrapolate the meaning, having heard of blackface. But even with that - I thought “blackface” was entirely about mockery, not mere costuming

 

Well, I am surprised so many people didn't know that it was offensive, particularly from the 90's on.  But that doesn't mean I am revelling in my wokeness. I'm not very woke at all; just knew about this as a kid for some reason. 

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1 minute ago, StellaM said:

 

Well, I am surprised so many people didn't know that it was offensive, particularly from the 90's on.  But that doesn't mean I am revelling in my wokeness. I'm not very woke at all; just knew about this as a kid for some reason. 

Yeah, I didn’t mean you in particular. Just that I see that a lot with anything like the JT story. There are always some people who are like, “OMG, you didn’t *know* that was wrong?! Do you live in a cave?”

It annoys me. 

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