Thoughtful Thursday – Cultural Appropriation


thoughtfulPlease bear with me and read to the end as it’s a difficult topic prone to enraging people.

The iconic image of the Japanese rice ball found its way to Hawaii. While you might hate pineapple on pizza, it’s a delicious fruit we wouldn’t have if not for trade.

Japan has done a lot of appropriating over the years. Their written language came from China, as did Bonsai. They got Buddhism from Korea who got it from China. Wet-rice farming also came from China.

A former friend’s Chinese boss loved Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pepsi. I’m not sure if he also like collared greens or not.

Yoga is REALLY popular among many cultures today. It’s from India. And I’m sure you’ve heard about the Kama Sutra 😉

Pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, and more pasta comes from Italy, but tomatoes are newer to Italy than you might imagine. Oh, Italy also has rice balls. They’re deep-fried, but Italian rice can be used to make Japanese-style rice balls too.

The earliest record of beer is from Sumeria.

While the Irish are known for potatoes and whiskey, french fries come from Belgium.

Romans invented french toast.

The croissant comes from Austria.

I guess part of what I want to say about cultural appropriation is, be sure it’s actually happening before attacking people on the Internet or in the street. Wait for all the information to come out. Someone being influenced or inspired by something is often a good thing. It can generate interest in the original thing.

When it’s not someone being a despicable plagiarizing jerk anyway.

Braided hair, for example, is part of many cultures, especially Celtic ones full of white people. There’s historical evidence dreads may be from Egypt.

Dance teachers, martial artists, and more study styles from many different cultures to encourage more people to enjoy them.

As we approach Comiccon, I expect to see posts about culture not being a costume, but there will always be a little kid who loves Disney and wants to dress up like Pocahontas, Mulan, or some other character. Yes, some of these were real people. People dress up like historical figures all the time whether it be for a reenactment or a role in a film. Now, I see a problem if Pocahontas was suddenly cast as a white woman; that’s totally reasonable. But making children feel bad for liking her so much they want to be her for Halloween, I don’t agree with.

Think about where everything you eat comes from. All the technology you use on a daily basis. The things you love like movies, hockey, etc. Much of it comes from sharing. Some surely also from conquering other peoples. People are generally more open to sharing when they haven’t been treated shitty in the past.

Do you celebrate Octoberfest (Germany), Cinco de Mayo (Mexico), St. Paddy’s Day (Ireland), Robbie Burns Day (Scotland), and/or Christmas (Christian)? A lot of people do. And it’s fun to explore other cultures!

But some things are sacred.

There’s a Toronto artist going around plagiarizing the work of Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. The problem isn’t exactly the Woodland Style itself. The problem is that Woodland Style is like stained glass and the stories told by the Indigenous artists through the style are like their biblical stories. If you were any sort of Christian and an atheist ran about making Jesus wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops in stained glass… Well, maybe you can see how upsetting that might be.

If that doesn’t work for you as an analogy, think about communion wafers being used for a wine and cheese party at your home, then a drunk guest pukes them up all over a couch your dead mother gave you as a wedding gift. That’s basically the level of wrong we’re talking here.

This woman is taking their religious art for her own and trying to insert herself into their history. Now, is there a way to have the feeling of Woodland Style without outright copying Morrisseau’s work and being respectful to the culture though you’re not part of it? Perhaps. The first step would definitely not be to say you don’t pay attention to critics and that you’ll do whatever you want anyway.

So while sometimes it’s beneficial to share cultural elements, some things just aren’t shareable. Some religions you just can’t convert to.

It’s taken me all week to figure out my own feelings about this. My mother grew up on a reserve, but we’re not Indigenous. Well there’s like 0.001% Mongolian Indigenous in me, but it really doesn’t count. Anyway, that’s not important. I’m saying that as cool as it is, instead of being a thief and a crappy human, buy authentic Indigenous art from real Indigenous people. There’s nothing wrong with playing around with painting it at home, but don’t go selling it if you aren’t part of the culture.

If you were invited to a pow-wow, it’s not an indoctrination into the culture. All cultures have the right to decide which parts they share with outsiders. Outsiders are not entitled to a damn thing.

What is super cool? Enjoying your own culture and appreciating that different ones exist.

I hope I didn’t piss anyone off, but things just had to be said. I also hope the issue is clearer now for those that haven’t been understanding why it’s a problem.

Salut,
R~

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One thought on “Thoughtful Thursday – Cultural Appropriation

  1. Pingback: ROW80 – Mid-Week | Raeanne G. Roy

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