Saturday, September 12, 2015

When black Americans do cultural appropriation: from cradle to grave (1)

On Lipstick Alley, a website by black women (just kidding, look up who owns that site) for black women, a particularly hilarious thread has sprung up. The full title of this gem is: Black America, please stop appropriating African clothing and tribal marks. Yes, that means everyone at Afropunk too. This has caused a number of high post count threads, some of which I'll report upon all the way up to the last part when this issue was buried when the blogger causing the controversy was exposed, which will be the last part of the installment.

What is "cultural appropriation" anyway?

Just look at the dictionary definition of "appropriate":
1.suitable or proper in the circumstances.
1. take (something) for one's own use, typically without the owner's permission.
2. devote (money or assets) to a special purpose.
So it seems to mean taking (elements of) culture for one's own use, typically without the owner's permission.

How is the term "cultural appropriation" misused?

Social justice activist will use this term to deny white people the use of certain cultural elements. The part "typically without the owner's permission" is however completely forgotten about. Black people "own" neither rap, reggae, dreadlocks, cornrows or whatever. Just like white people don't own rock or heavy metal. You will not see white people whining about Lenny Kravitz is appropriating rock (social justice activists will tell you btw evil whitey "stole" this too).

The term is mostly misused by black people. Not all black people though. Black men are usually not insecure about themselves so you won't see them whine about Beckham sporting cornrows or Eminem doing rap. They know they can wear it better and rap as well or better. The only black men you see will see whining about "cultural appropriation" are insecure hotep types, probably still living with their parents. The misuse of the term seems almost exclusively limited to black women, possibly the most insecure species of humandkind on the planet. A white Australian girl starts to rap in a mediocre fashion and all of a sudden she needs to be destroyed in social media, there's cries of racism, petty insults (Igloo Australia, haha, how creative) and death is wished upon her. A white girl with natural thin lips wears cornrows, all of a sudden she needs to be edumacated by some "woke" girl that is half white (by the name Amandla, if you thought Igloo Australia was funny, real life is funnier) about the black "culture" she is appropriating. Hair is not "culture", although for black women hair sure has a special meaning, as evidenced in another item I did on when Beyoncé was criticized for wearing blonde hair.

Half white girl sure edumacated white girl about black "culture"

Get to the point, what's the current crap about?

Well, it seems black Americans have their chickens come home to roost, as apparently a certain article has taken offense at e.g. black Americans "appropriating" black African clothing and tribal marks.

Original image causing the whole fuss (they all do look like clowns to me)

But anyway, I digress. that's the original post. What are the reactions?
  • User Jigga claims: I believe black culture should be open to all black people.
  • User Ethereal Spirit claims: How is it appropriation when black Americans are primarily of Sub-saharan AFRICAN descent themselves?
  • User IMMORTAL claims while benefiting from her parents and grandparents and not doing jack herself: Africans can stop coming here and benefiting from the hard work American blacks put in for equal rights.
  • User ILLNaNa claims: I equate this behavior to the act of wearing Native American headdresses or Indian saris. We (blacks) do not get a pass for cultural appropriation.
  • User  ILLNaNa claims (massively downvoted for some reason, unlike previous comment): Why is it ok for non-Caribbean blacks to borrow parts of your culture but not white people? They're doing the same thing and neither of them identify with you.
  • User Bianacolum claims (not realizing nearly all "cultural appropriation" is contrived controversy): More contrived controversy to once again denigrate AAs while skirting the very real issue of confronting and stemming the wholesale exploitation and appropriation of American culture (read, AA culture) by ALL non-AA groups.
  • User ILLNaNa claims: Because people are blindly wearing tribal art on their faces, wearing fabrics that are not appropriate for the occasions, etc. It's one thing to KNOW your lineage and wear tribal art for a cultural event. But when you're just painting the ish on your face cuz you think it's cute, or when you make a corny headband out of kente cloth, you aren't using these cultural resources in the proper context and it's ridiculous. Just because we have black blood doesn't mean that we get to borrow from every black culture that ever existed.
  • User claims: This is such an interesting concept. But cultural appropriation seems limited to RACE and not nationality/culture. For example, if an Irish woman decided to braid her hair and wear a German outfit would not cause an outrage.And I find this piece to be tone deaf bc blacks in America did not choose to be displaced from our African culture. We were all on the continent being black and minding our business before our ancestors were captured.So instead of seeing it as appropriation the author should see it as an attempt to reclaim and recapture a culture that was stolen from us.
  • User DangerDay claims: I've actually been thinking alot about this recently, and I can agree with the article. I'm okay with them wearing our African prints, as long as they know about its history and not for appearing trendy, but I honestly feel like the majority of them wear it as the latter. The same would would apply to face paints too. But then again being some Africans will be okay with it and some won't.......
  • User Mimi Faust claims: So disgusting and vile. When AA wear African clothing and whatnot its not appropriating, I thought ppl knew this. We AA understand the struggle and history,were reclaiming what is our HISTORY that was snatched and forgotten. Completely different from Becky and Rachel wearing the stuff as a trend or to attract bm (you know they do that). 
  • User DCX claims: Tell Africa to stop rapping. Tell Africa to stop making house music.
  • User itgurl_29 claims: I see Black Americans are getting the whole "cultural appropriation" thing thrown back at us, huh? LOL, that's what happens when you want to be self-righteous. All the while Black Americans are whining about Miley Cyrus wearing dreads, we're wearing African head wraps that actually represent things we know NOTHING about. Oh, well. I love seeing high and mighty politically correct folks called out on their bullshit. This is what happens when you let tumblr logic overtake you.
  • User Plisskin claims: All 3 black people in the U.S who wear dashiki's need to stop wearing that shit and return it asap. We are offending our African "brothers" and "sisters". It is not our culture. And all Africans should stop appropriating AA culture. No more Jazz, Hip hop, break dancing, rock music, etc. Cool. Problem solved. End thread.
  • User milktree claims: I don't see what whites have to do with this. I've watched American media most of my life and I never thought negatively of AAs. Stop painting black people as this weak minded group, and whites "taught us." Some black people just don't want to come together because of their experiences with other groups of black people, and that's their right.
  • User Sugilite claims: So this is how white people feel when they get called out for cultural appropriation
  • User Baker Dandridge claims: Unfortunately some feel that we should avoid such challenging and eye-opening topics because the white man may be watching us.

Cliff's Notes please

There are black people both Africa and America who appeal to black unity and that black Americans came from black Africans anyway, there are black people from Africa who claim black Americans generalize Africa as one continent, that unity is exaggerated, diversity is great and black Americans don't know nor care about non native cultural elements they are wearing (supposing this is necessary) and finally there are black people from America who claim Africans don't appreciate the struggles black Americans have made for civil rights and profit when they immigrate in the US (false as those struggles were largely made decades ago) and who point out that Africans also rap and use other cultural elements from America.

With regards to white people, near universal approval is for when it is claimed this is all their fault (as always) for enslaving black Africans to America and "creating division" within the black community. An occasional person observes that this is how white people must feel when called out for cultural appropriation and another calls to close ranks because white people may be watching. That's right, I am watching you.

And I am watching too.

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