Monday, April 4, 2016


Cultural Appropriation is apparently a new term among minority activists, or self-named justice warriors. The popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged the breaking of boundaries in some quarters but the erection of more boundaries in others. Some similar historic cultural dichotomies: LBJ vs George Wallace, Martin Luther King vs Malcolm X, Gloria Steinem vs Phyllis Schlafly. 

I am rather fed up with the appropriation of the worst of Black urban culture by the music industry, the fashion industry and sports elites. I encounter real Black people from poor neighborhoods daily in my part of the world. The appropriated Black culture in retail media does not represent them at all. The gangster culture is a small minority in the Black community. And it appears to be shrinking, thank goodness. It would most likely shrink faster if well-off White people would stop doing drugs and stop patronizing products which exploit Black machismo and criminality. 

Perhaps that perception, conscious or unconscious, is in part what caused this Black woman in the video above to act the way she did. Perhaps she's just been raised to act out the Black female rage which is popular in media and some segments of Black culture. I see that in my environment frequently, but it is not the demeanor of the majority of Black women I encounter by any means. If it were, I would have moved house long ago.

Gay men are used to having our culture appropriated. Since the first pretty representational cave paintings of animals, heterosexuals have stolen our ideas or tried to portray our best historical gay geniuses as bisexual or straight. We shrug and move on to the next fabulous idea. Or we sell our fabulous ideas as hairdressers, interior designers, architects, fashionistas, etc.. We have learned to profit from this appropriation of our culture. We move from one gentrified dumpy neighborhood to another as heterosexuals snap up our renovated houses and condos. We have made it work for us by understanding that imitation is sincere compliment.

I grew up in an immigrant home where my grandmother's Russian food reigned supreme. She never seemed insulted when non-Russians gobbled down her food and asked her to teach them how to make it. That wasn't cultural appropriation; that was sharing between people who appreciated tasty cooking when they ate it.  That sharing cut both ways. It softened my uneducated grandmother's resistance to assimilation, and it softened the Cold War prejudice of non-Russians who met her. 

The problem with cultural appropriation these days is the garbage that is being appropriated and foisted on the public for money: Drug culture, gang culture, macho culture, victim culture. I recall my horror twenty years ago when I first deciphered rap lyrics to discover that they were encouraging gay-bashing. Imagine my reaction over the past two decades as I have seen that subculture mainstreamed in clothes, music and other media. Yet there was little outcry from the minority communities as that cultural appropriation occurred and spread across the planet. 

I hope I eventually live to see a cultural appropriation of love of education, good will and good manners from those who have them in our society. Now that would be something great. 

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