Brendan Whitt

WHEN BRENDAN WHITT THINKS...

Blought #19: Is Cultural Appropriation a Real Problem?

Is denying a white person the freedom to embrace
cultures outside of their own racists or justifiable?
This is probably as best a time to be African American as it’s ever been. The nation’s first black president is finishing up his second term, our music continues to dominate the airways and American pop culture and racists attitudes and remarks are finally becoming taboo in our society. As a black male in my early 20’s it’s great to know that I live in a country that is becoming more socially liberal and accepting of all types of cultures.

I do however find it counterproductive to our own cause as a race and culture to blast anything not black that would like to take part in our culture. I know cultural appropriation exists but is it always negative when a white girl wants to wear cornrows? How can hair braiding be cultural appropriation when cultures in Europe and Asia had their own braiding styles that most black hair textures can‘t achieve. The modern cornrow wasn’t worn until c. 1970. I know this question is becoming old but are you black women not appropriating white culture when you dye your hair blonde?


Would you shun an  African American
who dressed and behaved like this? 
You can’t say them wearing our fashion is cultural appropriation. The Hip-Hop era took white owned brands like Adidas, Nike, Levi and Kangol and made them a part of our culture. Adidas was founded in Germany and even made boots for German soldiers during WWII. Nike was created by Phil Knight from Oregon in the 1970’s for track and field athletes. Levi’s was invented by German immigrant Levi Strauss during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s and Kangol was created by a Polish dude in the late 1930’s.

So I guess you’ll say the music is being appropriated by Macklemore and Iggy Azalea. I call complete bullshit. One of Hip-Hop’s most revered pioneers are the Beastie Boys. Three white Jewish kids from Brooklyn who loved listening to the Funk music of the 70’s like Parliament Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins. They were essentially the first rap group by today’s standards. Who says a white kid can’t enjoy Hip-Hop as much as a black kid? It’s hard to call anything music wise cultural appropriation when it was whites, mostly Jewish who are responsible for putting Hip-Hop in the mainstream. It’s like slavery and abolitionists. Without white abolitionists there would have been no abolishment of slavery. In theory, without rich Jewish Investors there would be no Hip-Hop.

Not even the same hairstyle bro...
I can understand the cause for alarm. The line between Cultural Appropriation and Appreciation is a very thin one. Writer and Illustrator Mojuicy from Queens, New York explored the difference in his 2014 piece titled “Appropriation vs. Appreciation”. He described Lady Gaga’s wearing of a Burqa as a “sexual” and non-Political play that “position Middle Eastern cultures as a second class, exotic cultures worth dominating.” I’m not Arab so I won’t speak on his sentiments, but I can speak on mine.

I believe the idea of our claims of Cultural Appropriation comes from the belief that African Americans have nothing else to offer besides our music and fashion. To me that speaks poorly of us as a race and culture. We place emphasis on things that don’t reflect positively on us as a race. I will be the first to admit that I sag my pants, listen to vulgar rap music and I curse more than the congregation shouts “Amen” on Sunday.

Some argue that Appropriation is an extension of Slavery. I’d like to refute that by saying it could be an extension of Jim Crow. In my eyes we, meaning African Americans are keeping Jim Crow alive ourselves. The idea of hatred fueled racism. That same hatred has trickled down into the black psyche causing us to hate the white man in turn making our main objective to reject the white man in the same manner he has done us for centuries.

To me Cultural Appropriation is another device for us to pigeonhole our objectives and movements as a race. If we can move on from what we shun other cultures in appreciating, then we can spend more time on fixing real problems facing our community versus focusing on ones that offer no threat to our culture or race.

Sources:
http://interruptmag.com/article/appropriation-vs-appreciation

http://www.lovelyish.com/2013/04/15/the-beautiful-and-amazing-history-of-braids/

http://www.feminish.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/culturalappropriationread.pdf

The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Van Woodward