There’s a lot of talk about the evils of cultural appropriation that I think miss the real issue. No one objects to the cultural exchange where everyone worldwide wearing denim jeans and eating a burger at McDonalds (OK, people object to the global takeover of American ‘fast food’ but that’s more of health objection to the high-calorie/low-nutrient lifestyle the restaurant style represents.). Cultural appropriation is only ‘bad’ to garner sympathy for the source.
There’s something to be said for enjoying aspects of another culture. Experiencing other cultures teaches us about other groups. It’s important not to conflate appropriated cultural elements with the culture as a whole — wearing lederhosen does not impart a deep knowledge of Bavarian culture — so as to avoid stereotyping the culture into just those appropriated elements.
There are certainly problems associated with cultural appropriation — you can appropriate cultural elements but remain prejudice against the culture itself, you can disrespect cultural elements being appropriated, and objecting to cultural appropriation serves as a proxy for actually doing something to help groups being harmed or diminished in modern society.
Trump symbolizes the first problem to me — loudly proclaims that Mexicans in this country are a bunch of thugs, rapists … hold on a sec, let me chow down on this burrito … and drug dealers. And, really, my objection isn’t the guy eating a burrito. It’s the vitriol being spewed about the culture. Cultural appropriation is a red herring in this case.
When appropriated culture subversively or disrespectfully — especially cultural components with a deep religious meaning that is ignored. Satanists with crosses, a teen listening to rap because it anger their parents … and there’s a difference between experiencing/enjoying and mocking. At that, there are different types of mocking. I have a set of espresso cups that are done in the style of traditional English willow patterns but using industrialized areas instead of natural subjects. Irony is a form of mockery – albeit self-mockery since the manufacturer, artist, and I are all part of the ultra-industrialized Western civilization. When objecting to the appropriation of religious symbolism by a particular culture, say a non-Rasta wearing dreadlocks, the objection should be universal. A German non-Rasta, a Egyptian non-Rasta, a Sudanese non-Rasta, hell a Jamaican non-Rasta should all receive the same criticism.
Leaving aside insult to religious symbols and adoption of style to create offense, kids are boycotting food service at Uni over the inclusion of sushi in the menu!? The person who taught me to make sushi was a white guy from Connecticut – a fact that in no way diminishes either Japanese culture or the sushi we produced. It’s as if appreciation of arts, foods, and style have become a proxy war for opposing real harms against groups. Many groups of people were enslaved around the world. That sucks, but some white person wearing or not wearing dreadlocks isn’t going to change history any more than it will change the more subtle slights against now-freed races. Muslims have been persecuted (not just in recent years, ‘retaking the Iberian peninsula from the Moors’ or the Crusades weren’t exactly cross-cultural love fests), but refusing to eat a falafel isn’t going to change that. And sushi … yes, the American government imprisoned Japanese Americans during WW2 (I assume ‘for their own good’), but only allowing someone of Japanese descent to layer slices of fish on rice isn’t going to change it.
People want to do something – sometimes for a historically wronged culture, sometimes for a currently harmed culture – without actually doing something hard or admitting the limits of their personal influence. Instead of taking real action to work against racism or to support under-served communities (join an organization, volunteer somewhere, send money somewhere) … we attack people who are enjoying components of the culture. What I find most ironic is that every organisation to promote cross-cultural understanding in which I’ve ever participated has encouraged cultural appropriation. A Turkish American organization that held cooking classes. A Greek American association teaching art, a Native American society teaching traditional dying and weaving methods, an African American organization teaching dance. Which makes me wonder if the cultures in question even object to the appropriation. Certainly, in some cases … where they are significantly losing out on the bargain. Rock and roll comes to mind as a prime example there. But as a general rule, are indigenous Aussies offended that we’re winging boomerangs around in a park?
That being said, why do we have to move dates around? I’m used to American Oktoberfest celebrations being in October (sounds the same, must be right?) although the actual event in Munich starts in September and can run into the first few days of October. There’s a Hindu celebration, Holi … there are several stories behind the celebration, but it is a SPRING celebration. That starts on 12 March this year.
Since that date is coming up, I wanted to find a local kid-friendly Holi celebration … and found a local kids-allowed festival is in September. There are, it seems, many “Festival of Colours” celebrations across the US and a handful actually occur in Spring. We’ll probably still go … never refused to drink a nice eisbock just because it was mid-October either 🙂