Saturday, September 12, 2015

When black Americans do cultural appropriation: from cradle to grave (2)

On Lipstick Alley, a website by black women (just kidding, look up who owns that site) for black women, there has been some serious discussion about whether black Americans can appropriate African culture, as detailed in my previous post. In this second installment, I wish to address a follow up thread entitled "Black Americans Wearing African Clothing Is NOT Cultural Appropriation", after an article mentioned in the original post.

As already mentioned in the cliff's notes in the first installment: when faced with internal division in the black community, it can often help to blame whitey for all your problems and call for unity. This is exactly what is happening in the original post:

Over 400 years ago, many of us were torn from the shores of our homelands in Africa. We were beaten for speaking our languages, shunned for our skin, raped, murdered and brutalized. Some of us tossed ourselves over the sides of ships in order to see freedom through death. We have witnessed our family members hanging from trees. We have survived a horror like no other and still have the unmitigated gall to walk around in 2015 with our tribal print and paint. Our ancestors are somewhere smiling.
The original post also creates a new definition of cultural appropriation, as "social justice activist" are good with words. They like to create newspeak words and twist the meaning of old well known words, just to fit their agenda. Let's look what is going on, here is an excerpt of the original post:

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes, claims and establishes itself the creator of the cultural heritage and artifacts of a minority and or marginalized culture thereby erasing the history of the marginalized culture.
We see the addition of the word "dominant". I gave the definition of appropriation in my first instalment, you can look in the dictionary for yourself: there is no mentioning of the word "dominant" anywhere. Black people use the same trick when accused asian and black people are accused of racism: they can be called bigoted, but not racist, as they are not the majority or not dominant. This is an artificial construction to absolve oneself of guilt. You can find many social activists who truly believe this artificial wordplay nonsense, creating a very strong self delusion.

We also see the addition of other nonsense like "establishing itself the creator" and "erasing the history". The latter I will not even address as it is too ridiculous to even address, but the "establishing itself the creator" part deserves some addressing. This is a typical lie from black social justice activists: when they have for example picked on a little white girl (they like easy victims) for wearing cornrows, the argument goes that next time you know white people will claim they have invented cornrows. This is false because ... ah, screw it, it is too ridiculous to address too. There has rarely ever occurred such a thing.

So what are the reactions this time?

There are many reactions that are interesting, I will not post all but make a selection, you can read the thread yourself. If it is too long, skip to a summary below.

  • User Moionfire claims: I disagree. Just because you are of the same race or because you are marginalized doesn't mean you can't appropriate. Especially when what you are appropriating has a religious or sacred significance.
  • User Kiku falls for the bogus redefinition of cultural appropriation: How are blacks from the Diaspora erasing history, and establishing themselves as the creator??? I think you're confusing misinterpretation for appropriation. And like the article states, how do you know that the AA or other black person isn't aware of the sacred meaning!? Maye he's a babalao, or bonuman as we would call such a person in Suriname. Or are Diasporan blacks not able to possess sacred knowledge?
  • User MissMila claims: Okay so what's your opinion on black American girls wearing bindis, tattooing Arabic and Asian words on themselves and dying their hair blonde ? Are you going to tell me that's not cultural appropriation ?everyone is entitled to their own opinion but African and Black American culture is not the same. Never was and will never be
  • User madonnamia mocks Pan Africanism and dragging slavery into this argument: I can just imagine some of my family's reactions if I ever said this. The writer went left describing the slave trade as if we all lived through it. I hope the black Americans and the Africans work out the clothing issue.
  • User SaLiLi claims: They'd have to really detail what they're talking about. Yeah I think they're misusing the definition of cultural appropriation, but even if it were true what are AA's appropriating from Africans? If anything it happens the other way around and AA's aren't complaining. I've never seen any AA's walking around with tribal markings. That would look weird as fuk in the US and the are "African print" clothing you can buy online or sold in stored by Africans. So all this is hogposh...
  • User SaLiLi also claims: Even using their definition would be fine. I'll call AA's wearing African clothing appropriation if that's where they want to go, but are they going to stop appropriating AA's. Remember we don't say ANYTHING we they speak our slang, dress like us, imitate our music, etc.
  • User ErykahDandridge claims: Please elaborate and make sure you distinguish the difference between modern African culture and the African culture our ancestors were able to pass down to us...You know our African ancestors that were sold into slavery there this common misconception that everything was lost. Voodoo and hoodoo passed down, hair braiding passed down, the rhythm and beat of our music was passed down. A lot of African influences in our culture is OURS to claim because it came from our African Ancestors who were brought to America.
  • User itgurl_29 sure put a person claiming blonde hair is not exclusive to white people in her place (so plenty of down-votes from sourpusses): Blonde hair is not a marker of Blackness and to say so is disingenuous. Blonde hair is a marker of whiteness. Are there Blacks with naturally blonde hair? Yes. And those people are usually very mixed as well. The blonde comes from their European blonde, not their African blood. And to claim otherwise is ridiculous. Blonde hair is not a common trait amongst Black peoples around the world. There are as many whites with kinky hair as there are Blacks with blonde hair. There are Jews and Italians, and even Irish people, with tightly curled hair. So since white people can have tightly curled hair that behaves like ours, shouldn't we stop accusing whites of appropriating Blackness when they wear Black hairstyles? To claim Black people rocking blonde hair is not appropriation but whites wearing locs and braids is, is downright hypocritical.
  • User itgurl_29 also sees through the bullshit word games (somehow approved): Why is it that when Black people emulate the socially dominate culture, whites, it's called "assimilation". Yet when Africans emulate the socially dominate culture, Black Americans, you call it appropriation. Aren't they trying to assimilate and fit in just as Black Americans try to assimilate and fit in to the dominate white social structure?
  • User HeadsWillRoll doesn't see the bullshit: White people are the dominant group in your country. European culture is the dominant culture. White people are/were not oppressed for having blonde hair. You are a minority, making it assimilation. And, white people benefit from minorities conforming to their beauty standards (it's the beauty standard, regardless of whether that was your intention or not, I have nothing against it, though!).
  • User Kiku claims victimhood, persecution and a whole bunch of other nonsense:
When they take without acknowledging the source!!
As in, "Kylie Jenner is making cornrows cute", "MArc Jabobs created the "slick down baby hair trend" .
That's appropriation!

Did those white magazine acknowledge that black women where wearing their hair like that since God knows how long? Did they acknowledge that when bw were doing taht it was deemed "loud", "ghetto", inappropriate? Nope.
There's a difference

African Hip Hop artist are:
1. not claiming that they invented Hiphop
2. not the dominant culture power wise that's even able to lay such a claim

So what are we talking about? We have black people learning from one another, sharing their culture, music from Africa traveling all the way to the New World, trasnforming into something different IN SPITE OF ALL THE SHT, and then traveling back home. That's a beautiful thing. One that should be encouraged. Not demeaned due to some petty BS.
  • User itgurl_29 claims: Miley Cyrus wearing fake locs on an awards show doesn't take anything from any Black woman. Not a thing. Just like Beyonce/Nicki Minaj wearing blonde wigs does not take away anything from blonde white women. The whole cultural appropriation argument from Black folks has become bullshit. You can't do the exact same thing as someone else and then somehow claim it's ok for you to do it because by claiming victimhood.
  • User Mrs KangDaesung feels like accusing itgurl_29 of being white: I'm not mad, because I know the definition of cultural appropriation. You sitting there defending white people's blonde locks as if white people were persecuted and ridiculed for having blonde hair  I don't see white people losing job opportunities or being looked down upon simply for having blonde hair. You seriously don't know how stupid you look and sound trying to defend their appropriation of black culture. If only Condi didn't ban the usage of a gif. and a certain word I would've been called you said word.
  • User itgurl_29 claims in reaction: "Persecuted and ridiculed". Victim status. How does a white hippie wearing locs leave you or any other black person "persecuted and ridiculed"? Are yo actually claiming that Black people are losing jobs because Miley Cyrus wore fake locs on the MTV Video Awards? And I'm not "defending" white people. I'm pointing out the hypocrisy of those who whine about so-called "cultural appropriation".
  • User MimiLuvs... claims (funny as my Ugandan ex-wife claimed the same supposedly "crazy" thing): Your comment reminds me of a time where an Ugandan man told me (and few others) that BAs are not a part of any Africa - based culture and we have American culture... which is derived from Africa - originated cultures. Yeah, we just stared at him like he was crazy as hell.
  • User itgurl_29 claims: I just cannot abide by the blatant hypocrisy. The same people buy into this so-called cultural appropriation nonsense are the very ones who were whining and crying about Idris Elba not being considered for the James Bond role, a white English character from a series of English novels written by a white Englishman. The hypocrisy, I swear. So white people can't twerk or wear locs, but black people can demand a story about a white man and written by a white man be recasted as Black or else it's racism? Again. Hypocrisy. You can't demand you be given space in someone else's culture and then cry foul when others want to partake in yours. The idea of "cultural appropriation" is bullshit across the board. But if you're gonna push that nonsense, then you had better be consistent.
  • User LagosGirl123 keeps it real: I didn't even bother to read this nonsense. I just came in here to say don't tell us (Africans and let's be real this only concerns West Africans) how to feel when about our cultures and communities. Black Americans posses social power 1) by being American and being privileged on the basis of being Westerners 2) by being part of the American global cultural hegemony - American culture is forced down everyone in the worlds throats every day, this means that black americans become the global representation for blackness + 'the black experience' across the world. Meaning that when Black Americans do misrepresent African history and culture it is extremely harmful. The unique prejudice African immigrants and refugees face (and yes it is unique prejudice this is why Africans face harsher treatment than black westerners) is only exacerbated when these misrepresentations happen. Not to mention it's fucking annoying and insulting. African Americans have a culture that their AFRICAN ancestors created and engaging with that is a way to pay homage to their ancestors, not messing with a culture and people they have no understanding of. Sorry if your feelings are hurt and feel free to groan me to hell but this is the truth and I'm not apologising for it.
  • User LUPITA NYONGO , queen of darkskin women, weighs in: I will say the outrage of African Americans surprises me, as black Americans in general tend to be very quiet during any global conversation of African current events, if they are even aware. They complain about being stolen, but allow themselves to remain ignorant. I mean if you are looking for a "connection", it goes further than wearing cute clothes. Start a conversation with those around you, puck up a book or a magazine you know. I mean, I kinda get wear the author of the original article is coming from because it seems like little more than a passing fashion trend for the people in question.
  • User Lady Sith claims: Write all the articles you want, post all the articles you want. It ain't your culture. And I will not hesitate to put you in your place, in here and off line. I don't fuck around with my culture and I will disgrace you over it. Learn some respect, cos we share skin color doesn't mean we are kin.
I end with the comment above because this provoked a comment using the GIF below, which summarizes the whole thread:

Cliff's notes please

Well, the GIF above summarizes it all in a single picture. To summarize: 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.

This is the same like last time. Similar like last time, all this is also whitey's fault according to some and victimhood and persecution complex is rife. Predictably, if you call out the hypocrisy of all of this, you'll be accused of being white on Lipstick Alley, which is an insult. The fact that being white is an insult, is by the way not racist, it is bigotry as black people are not the dominant race.

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