Cultural Appropriation, TexMex Edition

皆さん、こんにちは!    今日に、文化的歳出について書きますね。楽しい事実で, cultural appropriationのたまに, 良い翻訳がないと思います。だからその言葉を英語で書いたのです。面白いですね。文化的歳出とは何ですか。さて、私は皆さんに見せてあげます。行きましょう!

* * *

So, why did I just write an intro in a language that’s only spoken by 125 million people on the other side of the world? Besides the fact that my language skills have been floundering ever since I left campus and I’m desperate to make sure I maintain at least a middle-school level of literacy, I did it to make a point.

I am a twenty-two year old biracial chick from bumfuck nowhere South who up and decided to learn the Japanese language because “why not.” To make Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles had to travel to another country for months to learn about musical instruments that you can now sample in Garage Band for free. Post-WWII, Julia Child became famous for bringing French cuisine to American culinary tastes–French cuisine you can now learn about on the internet after a quick Google search. In the 1960s, black American kung fu stars had to travel to and live in China in order to learn martial arts. Fast forward to the present day when having a dojo in your local mini-mall has become a cliche. One of the best places to get Thai food in the US is a place in Nashville, Tennessee right across from a BBQ restaurant and a Greek diner. If you watch one K-Pop music video on YouTube, your recommended videos will be flooded with K-drama clips and BIGBANG interviews for days.

The point that I’m trying to get across is that it’s far easier now than it has ever been to take part in the products of other cultures. The geographical divide that used to keep vastly different cultures relatively separate has been bridged by technology and accessible travel options. And with that cultural bridge comes the inevitable cultural mixing. That’s how you get things like pineapple pizza and Latin jazz and Bollywood superhero movies and kick-ass cartoons written by a Russian guy about a Japanese samurai voiced by a black man fighting an evil demon overlord and a scatting robot based off of Sammy Davis Jr.. Watch Samurai Jack–it’s an awesome show.

It’s not like all cultural mixing is a good thing–the forced introduction of hierarchy-based religions into previously polytheistic or animistic societies lead to new forms of religiously-justified social inequalities that weren’t there previously, for example. But the good thing about modern-day culture mixing, with its roots in voluntary tourism and internet culture, is that it tends to only care about the cool parts–the aesthetically appealing, the interesting, the fun. No one’s going over to Japan and saying, “You know what’s awesome? A work culture so intense it breeds alcoholism, social isolation, and suicide. Let’s bring that shit over here!” But maybe they’ll be inspired to go back home and start a karaoke bar (karaoke is a Japanese invention, you know), or put a rock garden in their backyard, or take up ink painting (which in of itself is a Chinese invention that the Japanese just added a few more techniques to).

According to Jagger Blaec from the Portland Mercury, doing any of the above things would be awful because cultural appropriation *insert the Indiana Jones clip of people’s faces melting off here.* Her article is entitled “This Week in Appropriation: Kooks Burritos and Williamette Week,” and it is just . . . I don’t want to say it’s the worst thing ever, but I would rather wake up at 7am to go stand in line at the DMV than read it again. So, a couple of hipster-douche white girls went to Mexico, decided that they really liked tortilla-making, and opened a food truck making tortilla-based foods in Portland, Oregon. This is apparently worse than the Holocaust.

I’m actually not going to go through her article point-by-point because I have discussed cultural appropriation before multiple times and would just be rehashing myself. I’ve made plenty of points in the three articles linked above that I will not bother re-stating here. I’m just going to be responding to some select excerpts to try to say something new on this ridiculous, ridiculous subject. To start off, I’m going to compile a few instances of this totally-not-racist writer being totally-not-racist.

  • “This week in ‘white nonsense’.”
  • The existence of a list of blacklisted restaurants, blacklisted because they’re “ethnic” restaurants owned and operated by white people.
  • Openly celebrating the fact that the women got their new business shut down.

It’s good to see the social hierarchy in social justice circles make itself clear. Brown people are at least a few rungs above women when it comes to who is the most oppressed. Those two young, entrepreneurial women starting their own business in the male-dominated sphere of restauranteering must be stopped! Fighting the patriarchy isn’t as important as fighting white supremacy, guys. Remember that.

I will now compile the instances of this writer conflating two women opening a taco truck to violence, murder, and general malicious intent:

  • ‘they colonized this style of food’
  • ‘The “they” she was referring to were probably the Mexican “abuelitas” these two women preyed upon in order to appropriate the secrets of their livelihood.’
  • ‘This is where things go from quirky to predatory.’
  • ‘These two white women went to Mexico, ate tacos, and then decided they would just take what the locals clearly didn’t want to give them. If that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to pack up all their stolen intellectual property and repackage it.’
  • ‘Week after week people of color in Portland bear witness to the hijacking of their cultures.’
  • ‘. . . birthed as a result of curious white people going to a foreign country, or an international venture, and poaching as many trade secrets, customs, recipes as possible, and then coming back to Portland to claim it as their own and score a tidy profit.’

How two women opening a food truck in a city across the fucking globe ruins the livelihoods of a bunch of old women in Mexico is truly a riddle for the ages. As many people have pointed out, tortillas are a culinary staple–they’re a simple recipe with a simple cooking technique, owned by no one. Tortillas are not intellectual property. The girls themselves overtly said that they had to come up with their own recipes and techniques since they only learned the basics while they were in Mexico. This is how food sharing works.

When something is poached or preyed upon, as you so hyperbolically put it, it is dead: The elephant that gets poached for its ivory doesn’t have tusks anymore once those poachers are done with it. The owl that preys upon chipmunks eats them alive. The grifter that prays upon people’s stupidity takes something from them, leaving them worse for wear at the end of the encounter.

No one was hurt by what these women did. Their food truck in Portland, Oregon didn’t put those women in Mexico out of work. Those women in Mexico aren’t losing money because a food truck opened across the world selling what they also make. Those women in Mexico didn’t lose the resources and ability to make tortillas because two white girls are doing it now. If anything, they were momentarily annoyed by two tourists who wanted to be taught how to make a certain kind of food even though they didn’t have time to teach them.

You know who did leave this situation having lost something? Having been overtly targeted by people trying to take away their chance at a livelihood? The two girls who had their business shut down because someone on the internet decided that they were too pale to be making the food they wanted to make. You are accusing these random hipsters of doing something that you yourself are perpetrating. You and people like you, with your blacklists and your internet hate-mobs forcing people to quit, actually are “preying upon” businesses that you don’t think have the right to exist. And you don’t even see the fucking irony. The projection is astounding.

* * *

This is ridiculous, and, to super-liberal Portland’s credit, almost all of the comments on the original article are very straightforward about that. All hope is not lost. People are starting to get fed up with this mentality, and it’s starting to show, slowly but surely. The funniest part is that the writer, after overtly applauding the fact that someone’s business was forced to close, has the gall to say that “cultures are meant to be shared.”

The hilarious thing about this entire situation is that it is made extremely evident to anyone who has half a fucking idea what they’re talking about that Miss Jagger Blaec and the people getting up-in-arms with her are nothing but armchair activists. They are getting mad about the “cultural appropriation” perpetuated by the creation of a burrito stand.

Burritos . . . an American food. It’s called Tex-Mex for a reason–burritos are a Southwestern American food item. So are tacos and nachos. Burritos weren’t even a named, recognizable thing until the mid-twentieth century, for crying out loud. If you go to Mexico, the only burrito stands you’ll find are ones for tourists. They’re not a Mexican food. These people are getting pissed off about two American women opening a food truck selling American food. This is even funnier than SJWs getting mad about college Cinco de Mayo parties, totally ignoring the fact that Mexico considers Cinco de Mayo nothing but a corporatized holiday not even worth taking the whole day off for, only celebrated at all because the Corona beer company thought that it’d be a good marketing gimmick to make a drink for specific days. What are you going to complain about next? Are you going to bitch and moan about how fortune cookies aren’t authentically Chinese?

If you ever find yourself in Japan, Ms. Blaec, do not go to a Sushi Roll restaurant. The horrible, horrible sushi-based abominations in that place would make your head explode. That is a company in Japan, owned by Japanese people, and it appropriates everyone with its culinary creations: from its East Asian neighbors, to ASEAN, to Europe, to Australia, to the US. Have you ever had fish n’ chips sushi? How about bacon and scrambled eggs sushi? Kimchi sushi? Fried rice sushi? Orange chicken sushi? I have, all thanks to Sushi Roll. Are you gonna get up in arms about that? Japan did try to colonize China, Korea, and parts of South East Asia, after all. The existence of kimchi sushi should just be considered culinary poaching and theft, am I right?

Hell, what about this one burger place I went to all the time when I lived in Japan–owned and operated by some Japanese hipster dude with dreadlocks and a fedora, making dirty profit off of American food in a country where Americans are an oppressed minority making up less than 1% of the population. Yes, Westerners actually are oppressed by the usual social justice standard–they are tokenized and hindered from being able to advance in the workplace. Western English teachers are often just their for show, unable to promote any actual English-learning. Housing discrimination against anyone non-Japanese is prevalent, and places, especially restaurants, sometimes charge Westerners more by default. Just check the differences between the prices on the Japanese and English menus in tourist cities. With that background of exploitation and erasure, how dare he ask Americans for burger recipes from their home-states?! He stole our food, and now he’s exploiting us even further by making us active participants in that theft?

Holy shit, I just remembered that when I was in Krakow I went to a pizza shop owned by a bunch of Arabs who made “Polish pizzas” with things like potatoes and blood sausage on them. With Poland’s history of being taken over and colonized by outside forces ten ways to Sunday, I gotta call appropriation on that too.

Seriously, guys. Travel the world. It’s the best cure for the cultural separatism and solipsism being promoted by Ms. Blaec and her friends.

* * *

The thing about cultural appropriation is that is assumes that culture is a sacred thing that can only be engaged in one “good” way.  I don’t think that people understand just how dangerous that idea is. That intellectual hard-lining about “doing things the right way” is how you get the Westboro Baptist Church and its lamentation that other Christians have become too weak and “worldly” to promote God’s true will. This conflation of culture with ethnicity and skin tone is how you get white nationalists who insist that a brown person can never truly be “part of their culture” simply because only white people can have “white culture.” The leftist idea of cultural appropriation sounds exactly like the white nationalist idea about how whites need to “protect their culture from outside invaders who want to steal it.” Good to see those on the left finally extending a hand across the aisle and breaking bread with new types of people. It’s very open-minded of them.

So, Jagger Blaec and her friends can live in their boring-ass world where cultures are irreparably separated by skin tone if they want to. While they’re off making a manifesto about the morals of fusion cuisine, I’ll be off caring about actual problems and enjoying the aspects and facets of cultures that are good and beautiful and worth taking part in and ignoring the bad parts.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation, TexMex Edition

  1. TFW there’s a rising tide of white nationalists and literal Nazis amongst the group currently in power but you’re really concerned about that cracker starting a taco stand across the street

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s