Laughing at a “Race Realist” Lecture

How about something a bit different?

I just stumbled across this lecture, which seems to be fairly well-liked among the alt-right and/or white supremacist scene. It’s about “race realism” and how Africans’ dearth in mental ability is supposedly reflected in their native languages. And holy shit, is it a gold mine of pseudo-intellectual garbage. To sum up the argumentation: “I studied the apparent lack of one abstract concept in one Africa-originating language, so now I’m going to talk about how black people as a global, generalized racial group have no ability to congnicize any abstract concepts whatsoever and are therefore intellectually lacking.” If you think that’s a little bit more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from a logical conclusion, congratulations, you’re smarter than 90% of the people who commented on this video. If you want to feel simultaneously entertained and enraged by idiots too stupid to realize they’re not smarter than you, then grab your popcorn and start reading.

This is going to be a really nerdy post by the way, with lots of philosophy of language and psycholinguistics mumbo-jumbo thrown in. I think that kind of thing is interesting, which is why I decided to address this lecture; but I majored in language cognition and neurology, so the esoteric subjects I think are entertaining may not be overly interesting to anyone else. Warning you now.

Also, this lecture is an hour long. I literally could not get past his opening statements before having pages full of notes on everything wrong he was saying. I stopped after five fucking minutes, because that was enough fuel for five blog posts, let along just one. So if you want me to respond to the next 50 minutes of this lecture, let me know. Otherwise, I’m only going to address literally the first five minutes of this travesty of academic work.


He starts out with a nice little anecdote about how students he met in Nigeria informed him that they weren’t able to say something like “half-way up the tree,” instead only being able to say “up” without further qualifers, with there being no sense of gradation. He then goes on to speak about how oral languages (ones with no writing system) are by necessity finite in size and “basically static.” From there, he states that since the size of these oral languages is limited, then the concepts in that language are also limited. Most egregiously, he then says that “the language and thinking of these people is going to be impoverished in comparison to a language like English.”

Okay . . . what?

What is this guy’s PhD in, chiropractic medicine? The fucking thesis statement–the backbone of his entire argument in this lecture–is just flat out wrong. It’s not just a little inaccurate. It’s not a difference of opinion. It is just wholly incorrect. Either this guy is actively and intentionally lying to his audience who he knows won’t question what he’s saying to any great degree, or he is so stuck in the mental frame work of “race realism” that he somehow managed to overlook one of the foundational rules of human linguistics even when he was trying to be accurate. I actually dug out my notebook from my Intro Psychology of Language course, and the first bullet point on the first page goes against his thesis. This is not rare knowledge available only to the most specialized linguistics researchers in elite academia. Here’s a link about the basics of human language for you guys. The Key Points section is all you need.

Oral language is not “finite and static.” The thing that differentiates human language from the communication of other creatures–the thing that makes humans cogntively unique–is our infinitely productive language and ability to communicate abstract concepts. For everyone too lazy to click that link:

 

  • Human language is generative, which means that it can communicate an infinite number of ideas from a finite number of parts.

  • Human language is recursive, which means that it can build upon itself without limits.

  • Human language uses displacement, which means that it can refer to things that are not directly present.

 

There is not a known human language in existence or out of existence (that includes strictly oral languages) that has not been infinitely productive. That includes African languages.

What do I mean by that? That simply means that the capacity to create novel words is always present within the structure of a language. As long as a word can be spoken with the phonemes of that language, it can be recognized as a potential term and integrated into the wider vocabulary. And that’s just in regards to totally new base words; you can also infinitely generate novel terms by taking base morphemes (individual units of meaning) and sticking them together in new ways to create words that are understandable even if they’ve never been heard or spoken before. For instance, what do you think exculpatory means? You may not have heard that word before, but you’d probably be able to guess what it means because you can put together morphemes! Ex-, culp-, -ate , and –ory. Ex means not, culp as in culpable, and -atory describing a consistent, descriptive state.

Any language that has morphemes is infinitely productive. All human languages have morphemes, by the way. That’s also ignoring things like tense, gender, and other various grammatical forms that also enable the formation of novel words through set grammatical rules and conjugations that can be universally applied and understood. So, to put it briefly, the notion that a language is “static and finite” in size because its vocabulary is smaller is just not accurate. This professor goes on a tangent about how small the native Africans’ dictionary was compared to his pocket dictionary of English as though that was somehow an indication of their language being “impoverished.”

This is especially inaccurate when you consider that a good number of African languages are tonal and grammar-heavy, unlike English. With all languages you see this trade-off: A language with a lower vocabulary has a ridiculously more complex grammatical and conjugation system to derive meaning. A language with a large vocabulary has quote/unquote impoverished grammar and syntax by comparison, because it derives most of its meaning through words, not grammar. English is a very vocabulary-heavy language, so there’s less meaning derived from grammar. There is a tribal language in Africa–I forget the name, sue me–where a sentence is usually just a single actual word, but a very complex meaning is taken almost completely from grammatical conjugations onto that single word: who they’re talking to, what their relationship to that person is, is there more than one person present, what topic it is they are talking about, how urgent the topic is, where on the timeline the topic happened, how they feel about the topic, how they think others should feel about the topic, etc. In that language, all of those linguistic subtleties are achieved through grammar, not words. They don’t have words for those concepts because the language doesn’t require them. The dictionary for some random African language being small compared to a vocabulary-heavy language like English says nothing about how expressive that language is.

The worst thing about this argument is that it could easily be applied to any language, including English. “Look, this language has less X than other languages, therefore it’s impoverished!” His first anecdote about how lacking African languages are is all about how one of them was too vague with its location descriptions. You could do the same thing with English. Easily. For example, English prepositions are very difficult for most non-native learners of the language because English prepositions are incredibly vague and under-informative. The sentence “It’s under the table,” is really shitty. Is it stuck underneath the tabletop? Is it on the floor underneath the table? Is it visible underneath the table or obscured? What side of the table is it under? Is it all the way underneath the table or only part way? Is it closer to you or me? There are languages that let you know those things with a single preposition or particle. I guess English is impoverished now.

Hell, Japanese is considered to have one of the most intricate writing systems ever established. You know why it has that intricate writing system, though? Because it is phonologically impoverished. That’s fancy talk for “far too many of their words sound/are phonetically spelled the same way.” わたし, for example, can refer to multiple different words. It’s the kanji, 私 vs.  渡し just to name a few, that lets you know what the actual intended meaning is. Seeing as how this professor is a stereotypical alt-righter and a race realist, I highly doubt he’s willing to call the Japanese dumb; but using his same logic, I could call the Japanese language “static and finite” because it doesn’t have enough phonemes to make unique words and has to rely on a separate writing system to offer differentiation. Compared to strictly oral languages that rely solely on audibly distinguishable sound, Japanese is pretty much retarded.


Now that I’ve made it clear why calling any human language “static and finite” is incredibly off-base and unsupported by actual linguistics, let’s move on to his point about abstract thinking. This professor is paying major lip-service toward the Whorfian view of langauage, aka linguistic relativity.

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories, whereas the weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions.

For those of you who really like Orwell, he discusses this very frequently in 1984. The entire concept of Newspeak is one based around strong linguistic relativity: if you get rid of the word for something, people will have no concept of it. This is a very interesting hypothesis, and very fun to talk about, but it’s just not overly accurate. It’s at least not completely and utterly wrong like the “African languages are static” talking point, but progress in the field of psycholinguistics since the initial Whorfian hypothesis shows it to be lacking. All you have to do is look at babies and non-speaking infants and realize that they have conceptual understanding of the world and its contents before having access to language. So his statement about “the size of these oral languages being limited leads to concepts of that language being limited” is also not true.

The general consensus is that human beings don’t need specific words to refer to concepts (abstract or otherwise) in order to have an idea of those concepts, but having a specific word makes mental compartmentalization easier. That’s not saying that language has no effect on our mental concepts: the Pirahã, for example, are a very isolated Amazonian tribe whose language doesn’t have a numerical system, and it’s essentially been impossible to teach them how to count past the subitizing range (1-3). This professor would probably take that as an example of the Pirahã being a punch of stupid brown people who can’t do math haha, but that tribe lacks a numerical system because they think of “number” in more abstract terms (“not enough,” “enough,” “more than enough”). In other words, they think in more abstract conceptual terms than hu-white people, so you definitely cannot say that they lack the ability to think in abstractions, as is being argued about “impoverished” languages.

How concepts work is still contested. There are multiple camps in philosophy and linguistics. But they all agree that a specific vocab. word isn’t necessary for concept-building. They just disagree on everything after that. Personally, I like Wittgenstein and his idea that we understand and tweek our mental concepts by putting them on a constantly calibrating scale of comparison. That doesn’t require words at all, it just requires you to recognize how similar or different things are.

To bring it back to 1984, someone living without freedom doesn’t need the word “freedom” to get the concept because they can mentally understand that something exists on the opposite end of the scale from where they are now. A good example of this is the supremely disappointing (but good for this one reference) movie The Invention of Lying, where the main character is trying to explain that he lied without having a word for “truth” or “lie,” so he just settles with, “I said something that wasn’t.” The concept is there without the words. The idea that having a small vocabulary means that a language utterly castrates your cognitive ability to form and rectify concepts is not true. Just like most everything else this “doctor” said in this entire lecture is not true.

Nerdy rant: Over.

 

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!

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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.

A Black Person Answers 21 Questions One White Guy has for Black People

Hey,  guys!

And hello, Discount Armored Skeptic who posted the video I’m responding to.  As you know,  I’ve responded to three of Buzzfeed’s race baiting videos about how much white people suck,  and I made a comment about how they would never make a video where white people asked black people questions.  They still have not, big surprise, but this guy has. It has the DP stamp of approval already just for specifying that he is one guy asking these questions, avoiding the racial collectivism that other videos of this type often fall into. 

So let’s get started,  shall we?

What is your opinion on Black Lives Matter?

I think it’s unhelpful and ill-equipped to make any significant change due to its only cohesive feature being a victim complex.  When your entire foundation is based on being a perpetual victim,  it’s against the interest of the longevity of your movement to do anything about that victimization.  Black Lives Matter,  much like American feminism,  seems more interested in perpetuating its brand than actually being helpful.  It’s also co-opted the very concept of race activism to the point where not supporting them is considered racist by default,  which does nothing to help the situation.

What is your opinion on black American subculture?

I like the music and food. I’m not a fan of the glorification of anti-intellectualism and external locus of control that the subculture often encourages.

When a cop in America is a lot more cautious towards a black person than a white person,  is that because he is racist?

Possibly.  Individual cops can be racist.  Generally,  though,  the most you can say is that they’re (realistically)  taking into account that black people commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime and are acting accordingly. You can call it stereotyping all you want, but that stereotype exists because black people’s actions keep affirming that stereotype. That’s not the cops’ fault at that point.

Why does chicken taste so good to you?

To me?  Chicken is objectively delicious,  dude.

Do you believe that America suffers from systemic racism?

This is arguable.  I would like to point out that “systemic” and “systematic” are two different words that people often confuse before elaborating: “systematic” means “intentional,” and seeing as how Jim Crow laws don’t exist anymore,  America is not systematically racist. You could argue that since a relatively short amount of time has passed since those laws stopped being in effect that America still has systemic issues due to the echoes of past racism.  I would make that argument,  but I would also argue that addressing those issues as “racism” is pointless since race isn’t the current cause of any of the issues so tackling Racism *insert thunder clap* wouldn’t actually address the problems.

Do you believe all whites to be racist?

No. All people have an inherent bias for their in-group,  but there are so many different and overlapping in-groups that acting like race is the most important one is ridiculous. Also, having biases and being racist aren’t commensurate anyway.

Do you believe that white people of this generation should take responsibilities for what their ancestors did?

No,  white guilt is the secular version of Original Sin, and it’s pathetic to indulge in. You are you, and you’re responsible for yourself and your beliefs. If you don’t believe in racial supremacy,  looking like someone who beloved that once means absolutely nothing. This notion also totally ignores that most Americans today aren’t related to anyone who owned slaves or was even in the country during the time of slavery. My white ancestors didn’t come over until the 1920s, and they were from fucking Ireland. Guess who had nothing to do with slavery and was actually on the receiving end of similar racist treatment?  My white ancestors. The idea that all white people are inherently connected to slavery,  then,  is stupid. This also ignores that there were white people fighting against slavery and segregation from the very beginning,  as well as ignoring that Africa and brown Muslim countries had quite a hand in multiple slave trades. So if white people have to shoulder the burden of past misdeeds of their race,  there’s no reason that black people shouldn’t also be shouldering that awful burden of . . . being related to people who might have done bad things once.

When you label yourself as African American,  do you do so because you’re descended from people who originally came from Africa or is it because you have a strong tie to Africa?

I don’t label myself that. I’m not from Africa,  I’ve never been to Africa,  I don’t plan to go there,  I have no connection to the place,  and I don’t even know if my black relatives are from there. I’m black and an American.  The end.

What do you think the reason is for black males ages 15-34 to primarily die from homicide?

Lots of things. Black children are typically raised in environments where more aggressive behavior is encouraged by their parents/guardians. So being part of a culture that tacitly endorses aggression definitely contributes to the violent escalation of interpersonal confrontation that leads to people getting shot over nothing. The Boondocks called these occurrences “nigga moments.” It’s pretty accurate. That, combined with the lack of familial support in many black families (single motherhood + poverty = not good) leads to the popularization of gangs. Lots of bad life choices piling up. So and and so forth.

Do you guys get sunburned?

I do actually. Granted,  I’m lighter skinned than others. Usually I just tan really well.

Is a black person seeking a higher education negative?

Well, I’m about to go on to get my Masters, so I hope not.

Why do you think the majority of black people in America end up in poverty?

Go to: the “Why are so many homicide victims black males?” answer.

A good number of them end up in poverty because the cycle of poverty that a good number of them are born into is easy to perpetuate and often difficult to break. It’s even more difficult with the current state of race affairs saying that black people don’t need to do anything to improve their own situation and that it’s the world’s job to make things better for them without them having to lift a finger to help themselves. In the end of the day, breaking the cycle of poverty has more to do with your own choices and behavior than what other people are doing. Things like practicing safe sex, being a responsible parent, being interested in education, and having community investment aren’t really things that outside parties can do.

What is your opinion on black ghettos?

They’re shitty and dangerous and any place where you have to move in at four in the morning to guard against people stealing your shit is not a place I want to be in.

What is your opinion on ghettos in general?

See above.

Do you believe in a future where one day blacks,  whites,  and all other race groups won’t see each other for their skin?

There will always be racists, so probably not. Maybe in places like the US, Canada, and the UK this could be widely accomplished, but with all the race-baiting and fear mongering going on that has made racial tensions worse than they’ve been in thirty years, I doubt this will happen any time soon. Japan and China aren’t going to start not seeing race any time soon either. I firmly believe that this will only happen if we enter a Mass Effect style situation where human beings have to ban together under the same flag while interacting with other alien races. Barring that, I doubt it.

Why is it that black people take their black identity so seriously?

Intro Development Psychology class I took two years ago, don’t fail me now.

Black children (not sure about other races) actually have higher self esteem than their white peers because they have a stronger sense of self rooted in having a strong connection to their racial identity, with that typically being enforced by their parents. That is a strong contributor to why many black people take it so seriously, especially since black people are a minority in America that has formed something resembling its own community with its own leaders, culture, and ideas. I doubt a black person in Kenya gives a fuck about their “black identity.” Also, on the sociological side of things, many prominent black subcultures (hip-hop, afro-centrism, etc.) often define themselves as groups in opposition to another group, ie, “My identity is just NOT being like those people over there.” Hip-hop culture is often focused on not “acting white,” afro-centrism is often focused on not doing things the way white people do it (you see this a lot with many black people deriding the idea of nuclear family structures as a Western thing). So, in many ways, the easiest and most mainstream way to have a black identity is to define yourself as just not being like the other races, meaning that “acting black” is very important and something you consciously have to do.

Do you believe white people could be the villains of history?

I feel like the villains of history are the villains of history. Some of them are white and some aren’t. There’s an entire world out there. And it’s a world full of shitty humans.

*Insert Hamilton reference here.*

How do you think Africa would evolve if white colonists didn’t arrive?

Don’t know. That’d be an interesting alternative universe book, though. Get on it.

Do you think that whites were the first to enslave black people?

I’m pretty sure black people were the first to enslave other black people. The African slave trade was going on for years before white people even showed up, to the point where Europeans being offered slaves by black slave traders is what kick-started the Atlantic slave trade.

Do you think that the racial tension black and white people is inherently because of skin difference or because the colonial and enslavery past of America?

The second one. Many black people, and especially the ones who subscribe to Marxist racial theory (the one that treats black people like the proletariat social class going up against the rich white people) use the faults of the past in order to justify current racial hatred and bitterness. How many times have you heard someone say to a white person, “You went over to Africa and made us slaves, and blahblahblah,” like that white person was the one who did it to that black person. There’s no room for temporal understanding after you become thoroughly entrenched in Marxism-inspired identity politics, so anything done to any black person ever has officially been done to you by all white people, and this is encouraged by the guilty white liberals who feel personally responsible for things that happened decades or centuries ago. Once again, no understanding that the present is not the past, apparently.

Cultural Appropriation, Vanilla Edition

I’ll be responding to this post  from . . . Black Girl Dangerous . . . and yet I’m still going to have to try to take this seriously. Okay. I’ll be responding to a post called Can People of Color Culturally Appropriate? Yes. BUT . . . which is a title that inspires confidence in me. So much.

*sigh*

Does it seem like I’m getting more and more depressed? I honestly can’t tell. There’s just so much bullshit in the world, guys. I just don’t know. Let’s get started. The picture for this article is some chubby Asian kid wearing “urban” clothes, which I think is perfectly fine (Koreans have consistently proven themselves to be better at “black” things than black people, after all). I don’t know if this author has an issue with it though. Maybe this is one of the buts.


Lets face it, cultural appropriation sucks. We’ve all seen white people with dreads stomping around like they own the place, or drunk hipsters at music festivals with headdresses and bindis. As people of color it can be incredibly frustrating to see things like this. It reminds us that we live in a world in which whiteness continues to steal cultures without regard to the actual people who’ve invented or maintained those cultures.

“White people with dreads stomping around like they own the place?” Really? Why do I even have to respond to this? I feel like that sentence sums up everything wrong with this mentality in a nutshell. I’ve already talked about headdresses before, and I feel inclined to point out that bindis are only seen as important by some cultures. Other countries in Asia see traditional bindis as a fashion thing and that’s about it. Also, I’m sure there’s never been a vaguely brown hipster at any point ever who has worn feathers in their hair at Burning Man. It’s only the socially-acceptable-to-hate white people who do it. But, hey, dismantling that idea is what this article is all about, right?

So . . . these are the issues you have, huh? Horrible, horrible white people wearing their hair how they want to, and annual music festivals having dumb fashion trends? These are the hot button issues that oppress you? I feel like your life is pretty okay, then, if this is what you complain about. Am I the only one confused by this utter disassociation that certain POC want to have with mainstream American culture? They act like they’re not a part of it at all–like they never participate in fashion trends, or use new slang, or watch what other people watch, or listen to Top 40 radio hits, or go on YouTube. They utterly refuse to believe that they are a part of that at all because “They’re a person of color, and mainstream shit is for white people.”

But if white people are culture stealing bastards, you are just as much a culture stealing bastard too. I would prefer that you don’t group me together with you and your ilk just because we have the same skin tone. This doesn’t frustrate me. Personally, I find it really fucking cool whenever something like box-braids or tattoo designs reach a cross-cultural appeal. It shows that we are becoming one people of planet Earth not divided by barriers as ultimately arbitrary as different cultures, that we can find mutual joy in things and share in each other’s unique aesthetics in order to create our own unique worlds that incorporate many things. White people can do it. Everyone else can do it. It’s great fun. But if you want to see that as a dirty white person punching you in the face and stealing your shit, I guess that’s fine too. I guess I just like liking things and people and not assuming the absolute worst of someone for shoddy reasons. I’m weird that way.

Cultural appropriation occurs when members of a dominant group take elements and symbols of another culture for their own economic or social gain while simultaneously devaluing and silencing the bodies, opinions and voices of the oppressed culture.

So cultural appropriation is one of those things that wholly depends on where you are, then? Can a white person complain about cultural appropriation if they go over to Japan or Korea? They would be the overwhelming minority in that case. How about an African American going over to Nigeria? Can that black guy get mad at the other black people for making hip-hop songs, which are a very African American invention. Can a Southern white person go up to Canada and get mad at the appropriation of cowboy hats there? I’m just confused as to what your standards are.

I’d be inclined to agree with the notion that economic exploitation is bad, but, once again, it’s never economic exploitation that you talk about. It’s white people with dread locks, or hipsters wearing headdresses at Coachella. Was someone taking money out of Native Americans’ pockets in that situation? Was a Cherokee guy waiting in the wings to sell feather hats to the hipsters, but a white person just punched him in the face and stole his merchandise? If Native Americans want to sell feather hats at Bonaroo, I’m sure they’re perfectly able to, they just don’t. Is the person getting a Ying/Yang tattoo taking money away from Chinese people? Was the American who came up with that design stealing it from a Chinese tattoo artist and taking all his customers on the basis of offering that one tattoo that he stole?

Also, the statement that your voice is devalued and silenced rings a little hollow when you have a very popular blog all about how your voice is devalued and silenced. As a general note, people telling you that you’re overreacting aren’t silencing you, as much as you’d love to believe that. They’re telling you that you’re overreacting. That in no way means that they’re making you stop or taking away your platform to speak. They’re saying they don’t agree with the assertions that you are making from that platform. You know what is silencing, though? Telling someone that they can’t do some benign thing and then utterly disregarding their opinion on the matter because their parents weren’t from the right place. Pot, meet kettle. You’re fucking black.

This is problematic for a lot of reasons, and triggering for people of color because it reinforces the way imperialism and racism have allowed the white Western world to steal and exploit people of color while simultaneously denying us representation and rights.

Sorry, I had to take a moment to laugh out loud at the mental image of a black person having a ‘Nam flashback because they see a wigger walking down the street one day. It’s triggering? Way to utterly infantalize a group that you yourself are a part of. Don’t go to The Gap any time soon, I hear they have lots of plaid prints out right now, and the past and current oppression of the Scottish should make the presence of plaid in our horrible, horrible American stores really terrible. I’m surprised someone hasn’t had a heart attack. Fun fact: different plaid patterns are actually important in Scottish culture, so this should actually count as cultural appropriation. And if we’re talking about imperialism, you don’t even want to know how traumatizing it was to be a Westerner in Japan.

Why do you keep talking about this in terms of stealing? You realize that you can’t steal abstract concepts, right? Unless you lose the ability to do something just because someone else can do it too, no one stole anything from you. They just have it too now. Sharing sucks, amiright? But, Moooooooom, I had it fiiiiiiirst!

Since most things regarding race in the US are thought of in terms of their relationship to whiteness, it’s easy for people of color to spot when white people are appropriating our cultures. It’s harder to examine the ways that we borrow from, steal from, and erase each other.

Why are you using this universal ‘we’ like all people of color agree with you and understand what you’re saying? Stop that. I don’t agree with you. I don’t want people to think I agree with you. I don’t want you to think I agree with you. I don’t. Stop putting words into my mouth based off of nothing but my skin tone. Insert accusation of racism here.

Are we finally going to start some good ‘ole identity politics infighting? Golly gee, I thought only the feminists did this, but we’re finally getting to draw ethnic/racial lines now in our attempt to lessen the cultural importance of ethnic/racial lines. Makes sense! Should be fun.

So, can people of color appropriate from each other?

I’m going to go with no seeing as how you’ve spent this entire article so far talking about appropriation specifically as something committed by white people against non-white people with not a glimmer of an idea that it could be any other way, all while setting up very blatant us vs. them situations and using us vs. them terminology that paints them as the perpetual oppressor and wrongdoer in this situation that all of us have to deal with. So no, they can’t. That is my guess.

1. Yes, we can. But:

2. Sometimes people call things appropriation without understanding that multiple cultures engage in the same practices and have shared practices for centuries.

Wha . . .

Just . . . what?

Okay. People of color can commit cultural appropriation, but not really because when a non-white person is called out for cultural appropriation it’s really just people not understanding that cultures have similarities? Okay. Whatever. How does that argument not apply to white people, then? Are there just no shared practices between any of the “white cultures” and all the other ones? No white people in the history of ever have ever had symbolic tattoos or dreadlocks? And how the fuck does this explain away the Asian kid dressing like a gangster? What, are people just not aware of how Africa totes has so much in common with Japan? They’re both not white, and that’s a good enough similarity to me!

That is a piss poor reason designed solely to passive aggressively say that people of color can commit cultural appropriation . . . but actually not really, with that “but actually not really” conveniently excluding white people entirely even though the single qualification you gave should obviously include white people as well.

While all groups of color face our own unique problems that grow with intersecting identities (gender, sexuality, class, etc) we all face a lack of representation and the repercussions of negative stereotypes in America.

Just replace “groups of color” with “people” in that first sentence, and you’ll have something that makes more sense. What about negative stereotypes about white people? What about negative stereotypes about white people perpetuated largely by people of color? What about positive stereotypes of people of color?

This is reinforced and evidenced in many ways, such as the creation of the model-minority myth of Asians in America, colorism (discrimination based on the pigmentation of your skin and the belief that lighter skin is better), or hierarchy among immigrant generations and who is considered ‘more American’.

It seems like the model-minority idea is just a cop-out to ignore that Asians don’t really have anything negative said about them. I can think of one negative stereotype, and that’s that they’re bad drivers. But we can spin that into racism somehow! “People find us respectable and intelligent because they’re racist!” “Colorism” sounds like a fancy word for people just being dicks and also another cop-out to blame white people for the racism of non-white people because we can’t call non-white people “racists.” And the idea of “being American” among immigrant generations happens with white immigrants to America as well. And I doubt you’re ever going to acknowledge “white European” cultures as something that can be appropriated by Americans since they’re “white”, so I wouldn’t mention that if I were you, in order to avoid the hypocrisy.

When we take from each other, we might be assimilating into our neighborhoods or schools or community in order to be accepted by them.

Or, or, just hear me out here–maybe you just like something. I know, I know, shocking revelations all around. It’s not like the black kid who gets a kanji tattoo got it because he wanted it, he only got it to assimilate to horrible, horrible white culture that says that it’s okay. It’s not like that Mexican kid who braids his hair just likes the style, it’s because white culture has taught him that stealing from the blacks is cool! Opinions and likes and personal autonomy don’t exist! A spade is never just a spade. A spade is a sign of fucking oppression.

And assimilation isn’t bad by default, by the way. This is another example of a social justice warrior just talking about something like it’s bad, like I’m already supposed to know that. I don’t. Why is cultural assimilation bad, again? Tell me. I don’t even think this author thinks that cultural assimilation is bad as long as it’s assimilation to a culture she likes. But if it’s evil, bad Western culture, assimilation is bad. The idea that Western culture is the devil with no good qualities and no actual culture confounds me. It’s not like assimilating to Western culture means that you don’t have a culture anymore or that you have a lesser culture. It just means you have a different one than the one you had before, one that happens to be more prevalent (a prevalence that does not make it evil).

Because many communities of color are set next to each other in the U.S., we often end up in a series of cultural exchanges that can be mutually respectful and important to our survival or negotiating of America. My friends of color would often hang out with me for Eid and dress up in our traditional clothes. We constantly exchanged food and recipes. I would go to their houses for Easter, Christmas, and Kwanza and participate in all of the rituals that came along with those holidays. The key here was that we were active participants in celebrating each other, not erasing each other. We were invited by each other to participate in customs, not just donning them because we thought they looked or sounded cool. We also weren’t gaining social or economic capital from partaking in each other’s cultures.

Yeah, Little Mexico being right next to Little Italy means that I can get my indie brewed olive oil and homemade salsa all on the same block! Awesome! So, what I gather here is that cultural exchange is good as long as it’s people of color doing it. As soon as a white person gets involved, though, let me guess . . . that exchange could not change at all yet suddenly turn much less “respectful” in your eyes, right?

How dare you just “play dress up” in your traditional clothes? Don’t you know that that is trivialization of an important garment? So you would go over to their houses for holidays and hang out? Well aren’t you the regular fair weather cultural taste-tester? As a note, I think it’s awesome that she did these things growing up. It sounds fun to me. But using her own logic, it shouldn’t be okay that she did any of this because it wasn’t in the “right” context and she wasn’t an active participant in the new cultures as much as she was just sticking around for the cool parts then leaving. I think that what she did was fine, but her own rhetoric can easily be used against her.

What does “erasing each other” even mean? You were playing fucking dress-up, okay? You thought the clothes looked pretty, so you tried them on. That’s what little girls do. Once again, something tells me that the second a little white girl “plays dress-up” with her Asian friend, she’s going to get accused of erasing the Asian identity by taking the clothes as her own without learning about the appropriate time to wear them because she has white entitlement. This all seems to boil down to “It’s okay when we do it. But when you do it, it’s bad.”

And how exactly is a white person supposed to “education themself” on the culture if they don’t have a helpful ethnic friend to invite them to a “Come do cultural things with me!” party? This idea that you can get your ethnic friend’s permission for something goes against so many progressive talking points it’s ridiculous. It’s making that person a spokesperson for their whole race. It’s tokenizing that person. And then a white person can still be called racist by saying that their Indian friend told them that wearing a bindi to prom was okay, because it’s only the people of color who tell their white friends things that you agree with that are representatives of their race, otherwise they don’t represent a culture . . . unless they do. It’s a lose/lose situation.

As people of color, many of us come from painful legacies of immigration, slavery, and exploitation. There is a violent erasure and orphaning that we have to deal with as we negotiate America.

You should really get into death metal. You describe things in the most metal way possible. “Living in America is a violent erasure/full of pain/cutting myself in the rain!” Has anyone ever told you to lighten up before? Jesus.

My experience has taught me that I am not considered American even though I was born here. I don’t speak Urdu fluently, am not well versed on the current politics of Pakistan, but cling to elements of my Pakistani and Kashmiri culture and sometimes romanticize them. I rock saris anytime I can and wear kameezes as dresses.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! You romanticize another culture that is admittedly not your own or one you are deeply connected to, CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!

I do my research before I wear something, but a lot of time that comes from the Internet and not from some deep cultural exchange in my family. That might be considered by some to be appropriative, but for me and other individuals of diasporic identity, it is a necessary part of survival and sanity in America.

Well, writer, without that “deep cultural exchange” what you’re doing is CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. That’s what you tell white people. Why should it not apply to you? Because you really like it? “That might be considered by some to be appropriative.” Huh, it’s almost like shrieking cultural appropriation is a totally subjective thing leveled by people who either have no idea what your thought processes are or who don’t care. It’s almost like people can yell cultural appropriation at fucking anything. You are so close to self awareness. So close.

Has it ever occurred to you that white people can have this same mentality? That a “diasporic identity” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with race and that a white person can feel just as alien in America as you for various reasons that you may or may not understand? Has it ever occurred to you that having these different cultural elements in their life, even if they’re not deeply attached to it, help them find sanity as well because they are finding things that bring them joy and that they find beauty in in a world that alienates them?

Maybe they identify with that other culture more than the one they were born into. Culture is ultimately a set of values and ideas reflected in certain actions like holidays or dances or art. Just being from a place or having parents that are from a place doesn’t mean that you identify with that culture. The cool thing about culture is that you can pick your own, and if there isn’t one out there that you identify with, then you can create your own either entirely uniquely or from the parts of others. That’s how culture is made. Especially if you live in America, you can create your own cultural identity out of many parts.

Nope! They do it ’cause racist. End of story.

My South Asian friends have complained about seeing other people of color rocking bindis or shalwaar kameez and called them appropriative. Yes, it hurts us to see our culture trivialized or worn as an easily dispensable fashion accessory, especially when it wasn’t seen as cool to wear those things growing up.

This is all about having low self-esteem. I see that now. It should have been obvious before. But this is totally about low self-esteem. Note: I’m making a more sweeping theory here, not specifically about this writer. So here’s my theory, tell me what you think:

You lack a firm sense of self and internal validation of your identity based off of your own ideas and feelings, so you attach yourself onto a culture and what that culture does as a means of giving yourself a concrete identity validated by those around you so you don’t have to worry about actually figuring out who you are. Because when you tried to figure out who you were, people didn’t think you were cool, and you need some kind of outside validation to feel good about yourself. Hey, if you participate in a culture, you get a cool little in-group that will always give you validation!

Attaching yourself to this culture means that this culture is the only solid means of forming an identity that you have, so whenever you see someone indulging in that culture in a way that indicates that they haven’t stapled their entire personhood to it, it freaks you out, because that means that some people have personalities outside of a culture that someone else arbitrarily told them that they should have because their parents were from a place. Who knows, maybe that person is also an insecure individual looking to tack their identity onto cultural expression. But as far as you know, seeing someone indulge in a culture without it being the foundation of their sense of self makes you feel bad about your own surety of self. So you don’t want to be around it.

Is that it? Am I close?

However, it ignores the incredibly complex and rich history of exchange between East and North Africa and South Asia. Though bindis have an important place in Hinduism, they are not only a symbol of Hindu spirituality, but also have important symbolic value and origin in Africa.

Because white people never had cultural exchange with any non-white people in the past or share any similar cultural ideas! Also, read over what you just wrote again. It is ridiculous. Do you think black teenagers wearing a bindi are aware of any of that? I get the feeling that they just saw the bindi at Claire’s and thought it was pretty, so they wore it, the same way a white girl would. You’re essentially saying that past cultural exchanges that are kind of obscure and that people may or may not even actually know about when they do something are the things that make people of color immune to cultural appropriation.

People who looked like them met up with people who looked like you once and may or may not have gleaned anything from that interaction. Awesome. Can you please just fucking admit that you just don’t want white people to be able to do something and that it’s fine for anyone who isn’t white to do it because they’re not white?

Therefore, people of the African diaspora have the cultural right to wear bindis in the same way people of the South Asian diaspora have that right.

A “cultural right?” What does that mean? This is so goddamn esoteric. People doing something 100s and 100s of years ago–people who current generations are most likely in no way attached to either intellectually or emotionally–gives someone “the right” to do something now? So if some black person somewhere ever engaged in some culture act, I’m just entitled to that act? It is mine? God, and you call white people entitled? You’re the one saying that you own everything that anyone whose ever looked like you has ever done. You’re the one claiming personal ownership of something that you don’t even know everything about because people who you may or may not be related to or even care about did it at some point. You’re the one saying that you own types of art and expression solely based on birth right. And that others shouldn’t intrude on your stuff unless they too can prove some convoluted birth right to it as well. You’re worse than Disney’s copyright lawyers who chomp at the bit to sue someone for putting three Mickey-esque circles together.

So next time you are quick to call out someone for culturally appropriating, ask yourself:

Something tells me this is going to apply to everyone, not just the coloreds who you should be giving a break to.

  • Do I know the full history of this symbol? Is it used in other cultures as well?

Why does that matter? Something tells me you would’t be okay with a black kid walking around with a swastika shirt even though the Buddhists thought of the symbol first. This seems like a totally arbitrary qualification that can easily be given to people you like, and then taken back as soon as you personally don’t approve of something. You can’t tell people to operate with discretion whenever they see a person of color doing something they don’t approve of, but then imply that the discretion isn’t necessary for white people as well. It relies totally on non-quantifiable and only vaguely qualifiable elements. How do you know how much a random stranger knows about something else? How much is “enough” in order for their behavior to be appropriate? And if the person doing the appropriating has no idea of that vague cultural connection, does that ignorance matter, or does their inherent birth right that they may or may not even know about cancel that ignorance out?

  • Do I know the identity of the person who I am accusing of being problematic, or am I assuming their identity?

Once again, how does this not apply to white people? How do you know their identity? I have white-passing siblings, so did that lose them their birth right to “black” culture?

  • By using or doing this symbol, is this person benefiting from it socially or economically while erasing the people who made it?

Benefiting from something isn’t bad, you know? I don’t even understand this argument. Do you benefit socially or economically from doing something that isn’t part of your culture? The whole appropriation claim is a double-edged sword, after all. Do you listen to Bach and get credits among the intellectuals even though you’re not European? Are you an Asian who plays classical music in an orchestra? You’re benefiting economically from German culture. Stop that. “Erasing the people who made it.” is such a vague term that it could mean anything. I get the feeling that, in most cases, all it translates to is someone doing something that you have attached yourself to, but they don’t give you the attention you want. It’s like an emo teenager whose entire life is My Chemical Romance getting pissy when they hear someone listening to “Teenagers” without acknowledging that they totally love MCR more than anybody else, dude.

This isn’t to say that people of color can’t be problematic or appropriative. Cultural exchange is important to know, but sometimes people can just fuck up and are appropriative.

This is generally coming across as a totally arbitrary accusation that you can level at anyone for doing anything for incredibly shoddy, personal, and subjective reasons. You personally feeling not okay with something is the only thing required to throw this accusation at someone. That’s at least what I’m gleaning.

We can do this by exoticizing other cultures, and like whiteness, taking while erasing the bodies of others.

Wow, racism alert. “Like whiteness.” Not even “like white people.” Just whiteness. Because the very act of existing while pale entails that you take things and erase people. That’s just what whiteness is, guys.

Once again, you just imply that exoticizing something is bad without ever explaining why it’s bad. At worst, exoticizing something is just inaccurate. It’s not malicious, or racist, or even inherently uniformed (you can know everything about a place and still have a rosy view of it after all). Yes, you can overdo it and become a weeaboo or a mod or something, but anyone can overdo anything. That’s not a “white” thing, that’s a human being thing. Thinking that something is cool because it’s different isn’t bad. That’s a tendency that gets us new things in the world because people actually care about not culturally stagnating in soul-crushing monotony.

I also like how you had to specify that they’re “erasing the bodies of others.” Because not even you would be disingenuous enough to say they’re erasing ideas, which you’d think would be the most important element of upkeeping a culture, you know, the ideas. They’re not erasing your culture or the ideas of your culture, they’re just ignoring you. And that is just unacceptable because you getting outside validation was the whole point of this. But if we talked about actual ideas, you really wouldn’t have any leg to stand on as far as complaining about people stealing it from you go.

For example, wearing Indigenous American headdresses because its ‘cool’ or ‘pretty’ when we are not Indigenous American (such as Pharrell Williams wearing a headdress). The erasure of Indigenous American bodies and culture is not figurative, but very literally enacted by the systematic genocide of indigenous people. Even if we (or our people) were not the ones to have orchestrated this systematic genocide, we live on stolen land and might be complicit in their erasure.

You must be super fun at parties. God, it must be so fucking depressing to have this mentality. You are complicit in every horrible thing that has ever happened ever. It doesn’t matter if you don’t approve of it or are even actively speaking against it, it doesn’t matter if you personally had nothing to do with it, it doesn’t even matter if your ancestors had anything to do with it. You are complicit in horrible things happening all the time. How have you not killed yourself yet if you are this perpetually responsible for everything wrong that as ever happened? How has that cross you’re irrationally baring not crushing you to death?

Also, as a general note, the only reason someone needs to wear an article of clothing is them thinking that they think it looks cool and/or pretty. That is the only reason you need. Because it’s clothes. And clothes, at least in the first world, are an outlet of personal expression. Sometimes that can be a cultural expression, sometimes it can be regular old artistic expression. If a singer known for wearing dumb hats wants to wear another dumb hat, there’s no reason besides your personal feelings that he shouldn’t. And he doesn’t have to listen to you or care about your feelings. He just doesn’t.

This is also true for the pervasive anti-blackness in Asian, Latino, and Indigenous cultures—the way that we can appropriate slang, dress, and black cultures while simultaneously erasing black people. Or the ways that we can benefit off of black civil rights struggle without contributing to it or fighting against anti-blackness.

Please tell me that you’re not another one of those idiots who thinks that “black foolishness” is black culture. Please. Also, engaging in hip-hop culture, which I’m assuming is what you’re talking about here, is not being anti-black. There isn’t a fucking cap. Black people aren’t being kicked out of the culture in order to make room for the Asians and the Latinos. Culture doesn’t have limits. It doesn’t run out. Someone else participating in it doesn’t mean that you can’t anymore. And this totally ignores the idea that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so maybe, just maybe, using “black” slang is showing an appreciation, not appropriation. But nope.

If you want to talk about how Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans can be fucking racist, I agree. I also agree that black people can be racist, and white people. But you’re not talking about people actually being racist, you’re talking about people doing totally benign things that you just so happen to not want them to do. Even worse, you’re talking about them doing totally benign things that they find joy and self expression in doing, and telling them that it’s morally wrong because they’re not from the right place. What the fuck.

Here are some guiding questions to ask yourself when you wonder if you are appropriating:

  • Why do I want to do this? Is it to be cool? Because it looks pretty? (Heads up: if it’s just to be cool or look pretty, it’s probably problematic)

Why is thinking that something is cool bad or problematic? Why is culture something that you can only indulge in in one very particular way, otherwise racism? Culture is the only thing we treat like this, too.

Even fucking religion, the mother of divisive issues, is talked about like a personal thing, like something that everyone does their own way and how everyone should be encouraged to go about doing in their own way because spirituality is a very personal endeavor. You can be super religious and follow the book to a tee, or you can just like gospel and nothing else. You can just like going to church or temple to hang out with friends. You can just like the atmosphere but not believe in the rest. You can Life of Pi that shit and be three different religions at once. You can do whatever the fuck you want whenever it comes to how your express your religiosity and spirituality.

But, for some reason, when it comes to wider culture, even though “culture” is super vague and includes any number of things, unless you do it one “right” way, it’s unacceptable. Why? No one ever says why culture is so important that it needs to be shielded away and kept sacrosanct. They just say that it is.

  • Is this a symbol of a political statement? If so, do I align with the politics not in just dress and appearance, but in actual struggle and resistance?

Tell that to all the progressive liberal kids on my campus who appropriate the fuck out of the Communist hammer and sickle because they like Marx and fancy themselves socialists. Slap that symbol on a flyer for an ice cream party, it has no negative connotations whatsoever! Who cares if Stalin was worse than Hitler, this flag is perfectly fine to wear around. Not the Confederate flag though. That takes it too far. Note: I think they can use whatever imagery they want, just pointing out the hypocrisy there.

  • Do I know the history of this symbol or where it comes from?

This is a cool thing to know from a fun facts and trivia standpoint, but why is this a requirement? Do the random Japanese kids I see wearing American flag memorabilia know why that flag looks the way it does? Probably not. There’s a history behind everything, and knowing about it is all fine and dandy, but it shouldn’t be a pre-requisite to being able to do something totally benign like wearing a thing.

  • Have I been invited by a member of this community to participate in this this culture, word, or symbol?

What happened to the whole, “I am not an educator or representative of my race.” idea? Is that just out the window now? Okay. What if they were invited by a member of the community to participate? Would that change anything? Seeing as how my post about kimonos was rife with protesters calling people race traitors for saying that non-Japanese people wearing a kimono is fine, something tells me that you would utterly dismiss someone who says, “It’s okay, my Mexican friend told me it’s fine.” And really, that’s all you need? You just need some random foreigner who isn’t a representative of their race except for when they are to give you the thumbs up? That’s really arbitrary and pointless. 

  • What role has this symbol played in my own life?

Why does it matter? Also, what if a white person really cares about the yin/yang symbol and it actually had played a part in their life? Is that okay then? Is it? I honestly don’t know.

  • Why do I feel entitled to this symbol?

You do realize that saying, “This X is mine because it’s my birthright! And you shouldn’t be able to have it because it isn’t your birthright!” is also extremely entitled right? You didn’t do anything to earn that ownership, you were just born to certain people who happened to be related to other people who existed a long time ago and made up some cool stuff for their relatives to do. That is your reason for saying that you own a culture that shouldn’t be appropriated. That is your reason. So maybe think twice before you call other people entitled.

When we approach each other with respect for cultures and struggles as well as the awareness that communities of color have historically been reliant on each other for survival in America, we are much more likely to be able to define the line of respect and appropriation. We can question and examine our own choices rather than assuming that we should have access to everything.

So, after all of this, your end point is what I thought it would be: It’s only bad when white people do it (expect for on very few isolated occasions, only one of which I’m actually going to point out), and I’ll be able to jump through hoops to explain to you why it’s more okay when we do it. And, wow,  that last sentence is just . . . it’s just perfect, isn’t it?

How about a pallet cleanser? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the very racially diverse hip hop dance group, the Jaborwockeez!

So . . . Can I Wear a Kimono Then?

Hey, guys! It’s been a while. How about a nice little post about the dreaded cultural appropriation. [Insert Twilight Zone theme song.] So, I already wrote a post called The Case FOR Cultural Appropriation about how I don’t think “cultural appropriation” is even a thing, and after a bs controversy on my college campus about some dude having the gall to wear a sombrero at a party, I’ve really hunkered down on the issue. Claims of cultural appropriation officially make no goddamn sense to me. So here’s this shit for me to get pissed off at for your amusement:

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is hosting “Kimono Wednesdays” through July 2015. People are invited to wear a replica uchikake of Monet’s La Japonaise as a way to explore how Japanese culture influenced European art.

I might have actually shilled out the bus fare to go to this event if it had been anywhere near me. It sounds fun. Japanese art has had quite the influence on many Western artists (look at Avatar: The Last Airbender or the myriad woodblock print inspired patterns more prevalent than the fluer-de-lis for more modern examples). Western art has also inspired lots of Japanese art (the thing I immediately think of is the superflat postmodern Japanese art that oftentimes takes after Western-style cartoons–think Hello Kitty). It’s really interesting to see how the two different cultures’ influences can be found in both pop and high art, and I personally love learning about that kind of thing. One of my final projects was a nearly twenty-minute long video of me talking about the Americanization The Ring and how it’s different from the original Japanese film mainly do to cultural localization yet is still inherently a “Japanese” film. It’s fun. I love comparative art. Let me guess though, you’re going to find something wrong with it?

However, La Japonaise represents Orientalist attitudes of the period and donning the uchikake recreates that fetishism with Japanese culture.

Aaaaaaaaaaanddddd here we go. UGH. Okay.

1.) Even if that painting represents racists attitudes of the period, are people just not allowed to appreciate art that is a product of it’s time, and, more importantly, take what was initially a negative message and spin it into something positive? Because that would be what this event was. The painting was made to be racist, well let’s flip that around and use that painting as a way to promote Japanese culture and help people learn more about it. That seems like a pretty good thing to me. It’s like people who make parodies of those old racist comic strips from the 1940s in order to make fun of racism. And all of that is assuming that the original La Japonaise is objectively racist, which I would argue that it isn’t.

2.) I don’t even get that fetishism part. Am I the only one confused by the negative connotation that SJWs give to fetishes? Even if this painting did just fetishize “Japanese-ness,” what’s really wrong with that again? Japan fetishizes “American-ness” all the time in its media, I don’t see anyone freaking out about that. Isn’t it ultimately just having a really rosy view of something and/or just really liking it? I don’t see anything wrong with liking things, and while you could argue that having rose-colored glasses regarding anything, culture included, is naive, but I don’t know why it’s wrong. Plus, don’t the protesters have rose-colored glasses on regarding Japanese culture since they apparently see it as something pure that should not be tainted by your horrible, horrible whiteness?

I don’t get things, guys. Somebody educate me.

Oh, look. A helpful FAQ that will hopefully do just that:

While we have garnered much support from peers and media, there has also been strong pushback from some members of the public with negative comments through social media. The often aggressively defensive tone, boldness and personal attacks are examples of vitriolic Orientalist attitude. By extension, these behaviors are precisely what events like ‘Kimono Wednesdays’ and ‘Flirting with the Exotic’ foster and make acceptable. The MFA is essentially helping to perpetuate these Orientalist perspectives and doing little to eradicate them.

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of support. Sure. Also, people tend to get a bit aggressively defensive when you make baseless assumptions about their personal character by calling them racist, sexist, bigots. Plus, the people complaining about this are people who regularly go to an art museum for fun. They’re not the typical lower burnouts who “need to educate themselves on the issues,” if you get my meaning. And, yes, I’m sure the MFA is doing lots to eradicate racist ideas by kneeling to the shrieking complaints of people who say that innocent museum goers who just want to learn about another culture shouldn’t be allowed to do that based solely on “not being the right race.” Totally promoting racial cohesion there, guys! Before you know it, we’ll all be sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya and wondering how the hell Japanese internment camps were ever even a thing. I still wonder that . . .

a. What’s the big deal?
Orientalism matters because it reinforces racist hierarchies. White supremacy leverages AAPI as model minorities and “good” immigrant populations to further oppress and demean Black and Brown people in America. Orientalist violence is related to aggression against dark-skinned and black bodies. Darker shades of Asian people most certainly bear violence from Orientalist ideology, compounded by anti-black racism.

Okay. Back up. First you tell me how this event was Orientalist. You are the ones claiming that it is. You can’t just act like everyone already agrees with you and then start from there. The burden of proof is on you. Tell me how this event is racist. You’ve already said multiple times at this point that “It’s racist, and it promotes racism, and racism is bad, and this is racist, it’s racist, guys!” But you’ve yet to actually say why that is. You’ve just been saying it over and over and hoping that the repetition will make people think it’s true. You’ve just said that it’s fetishizing and Orientalist, but okay. Why? What about it makes it those things? Is there another way to do it that wouldn’t make it those things, or is this event just inherently horrible no matter what?

I also love how your answer to people asking you what the big deal is is to go on some totally unrelated diatribe on how, shock of all shocks, racism is bad without even mentioning the painting or the kimono event once. Yeah, you’re totally not just regurgitating tired rhetoric, you’re totally applying logical thought on a case-by-case basis. That was sarcasm. If you couldn’t tell.

b. The Japanese government promotes foreigners to wear and appreciate kimonos. This event happened in Japan. How is this different?
The Japanese government is promoting its own culture in a context where Japanese people do not have a history of being discriminated against in Japan for being Japanese.

So . . . all this event would have had to do to be a-okay in your book would be to get a Japanese person to stand outside the door and give everyone the thumbs up before they went inside? That seems . . . really fucking arbitrary. Also, from my personal experience, Japanese people actually really like it when Americans gush over how cool their stuff is. Japan is one of the world’s leading cultural soft powers for a reason.

c. People in Japan do not agree with the protesters.
We have discovered that there has been much mistranslation of our original writing, which was reduced to, among other things, “no one who is not Japanese can wear a kimono therefore the MFA event is racist.” Some of us have been engaging one-on-one with people in Japan and when we explain our thoughts, they have tended to agree. We are currently translating this letter.

Yeah. I’m sure “they’ve tended to agree.” I’m also sure you’re going to provide some helpful translations of their responses so everyone can see for themselves, wait no. Good thing some of us can read Japanese then. . . wait you’re not even showing us the responses in their original language. Awesome. On another note, that was not a mis-translation. That is what you think. That is why you only ever talk about this event in terms of “white supremacy” and white people putting their grubby little hands over everything. It is very much just a case of “if you’re not X, you can’t do Y.” Stop acting like you’re being mis-quoted, okay? You’re not. It’s not our fault that the translator was straightforward.

d. I’m Asian American, and I think it’s okay. Japanese people should not be used for your political gain.
The model minority myth and Asian complicity with white supremacy are interlinked. Also there is historic discrimination against AAPI as well as other POC when not assimilating into Western norms of culture.

Those goddamn, dirty race traitors, am I right? Any Asian person who disagrees with you is just brainwashed and what they have to say can be thoroughly disregarded, why not?

e. This is appreciation, not appropriation.
The way this programming was framed and curated makes it appropriation, not appreciation.

What? The way it was framed and curated . . . It was literally promoted as “Come on in and appreciate and learn about Japanese culture’s melding with Western culture! Look at the pretty picture, learn more about kimonos!” This is an art museum. Appreciation of the art inside of it is literally the only reason it exist as a place. I don’t even get how a painting can be curated in a racist fashion. What do you people fucking want? This event couldn’t get more “appreciative.”

f. White people putting on the uchikake for a few minutes is not yellow face.
Yes it is, when it is done in order to replicate an Orientalist painting. No matter how it is curated, within such framing it is racist.

Well, seeing as how yellow face literally refers to someone changing their skin tone/facial features to pretend to be Asian, this is objectively not yellow face. Them putting on a Japanese robe doesn’t mean they’re pretending to be Japanese. Seeing as how the event was promoted as “Eastern Art Meets Western Artists,” it was the exact opposite of them pretending to be Japanese since it was explicitly referenced that it was a Western artist’s work as influenced by Eastern art.

Plus, you just said in one of the above points that “the way it was curated” added to the racism. But now you’re saying that it doesn’t matter how it was curated, it’s going to be racist no matter what. So what? Anytime someone not from a place decides to try to replicate art from that place in their work, it’s just going to be racist? Nothing to be done about it? Somebody call up the guy who designed Hello Kitty and tell him that he’s racist for taking inspiration from Western cartoons. While you’re at it, go burn down all the Gothic Lolita stores in Japan because Victorian-style dresses are our thing.

g. Putting on a kimono is not real racism. There are more important problems.
White supremacy is a major problem in the world. This kind of programming fuels and propagates it.

How the fuck is saying “I think Japan is cool! Japanese kimonos, which I fully acknowledge as being Japanese in origin and design, are beautiful articles of clothing! More beautiful than the dresses my ancestors’ culture made!” something that promotes white supremacy? Maybe if they just were totally historically inaccurate and said, “Europe totes invented the kimono, guys, you can tell from it’s authentically European name.” you’d have a point. But this is a case of a museum lauding the artistic merits of Japanese clothing and how it is so artistically valuable that it had an overt effect on Western artistic perceptions and made at least one artist “more Eastern” in his content because it was just that aesthetically good. How is that degrading to Japanese art again?

i. What about Japanese and Asian Americans wearing Western clothing? Isn’t that racist against white people or hypocritical?
Reverse racism claims that there can be oppression against white people and cultures. Here’s an article on reverse racism and why it’s not a valid argument.

Wow. So you’re one of those, huh? I love how you don’t even try to address claims of hypocrisy, you just devalue the very identity of the person calling you a hypocrite and act like that makes their claim less valid. “I think you’re dumb, Bob.” “Well, you’re ugly, Alice.” “Can’t argue with that, I guess you’re not dumb after all!”

j. How can Japan be oppressed? Wasn’t Japan a racist imperialist power, too?
Yes, Japan has a legacy of racism and imperialism. That does not impact the racism Japanese-Americans in the U.S. have experienced (e.g internment camps), and continue to experience by association (e.g. the racist reception of the Japanese women’s soccer team cup loss to the U.S.). The Japanese have not escaped Orientalism (imagine the rhetoric used to justify U.S. internment and atomic bombs during WWII).

No, no, no. You don’t get it, anonymous question-asker. I know we use vague history as a way of talking about how white people have sucked and will always suck. But we can’t use history to talk about how literally everyone else has sucked too. That would be dumb. It derails the conversation. Now, can we please go back to talking about how history proves that white people and only white people are horribly oppressive?

k. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Yes, Japan is the only Axis power that dared to bomb the U.S. However, the Allies were decidedly winning the war when the atomic bombs were being considered. Scientists urged that the bombs not be deployed. The attacks therefore reflect damningly on U.S. foreign policy at best and the choices to justify the target at worst. They did not target Germany. They did not target Russia.

Who the fuck is saying this as a response to a museum canceling an exhibit. And, yes, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and, yes, I’m fairly sure that’s a contributing reason to why America bombed them instead of the other Axis powers (I feel like basic geography and war-time strategy also contributed, but, you know, racism has to be the main thing). I also don’t think that it was right to bomb Japanese civilians with the deadliest bomb ever created. I will talk shit about America’s decision to do that until the cows come home.

That being said, Japan sure has taken advantage of the fact that America’s army is pretty much its army. (For those of you who don’t know: After the war, Japan was forced to de-militarize itself, leaving it unprotected from attack, with America promising as a “Sorry for the whole bombing your civilians thing” gift to use its military to protect Japan if and when Japan found itself in a war. That may or may not still be the case as of this year, since the Japanese government is currently eating itself trying to decide if it wants to renew the aforementioned military contract with America, but that’s how it was up until very recently.) And Japan has essentially been using the backing of the American armed forces as a bluffing point to antagonize the hell out of China for years now because America has to protect them if anything bad happens and they know that China doesn’t want to fight America.

So Japan isn’t 100% some sniveling victim in all of this even though how America ended WWII was, in my opinion, a bad thing. Plus, once again, Japan may not be a military force to be reckoned with anymore, but they’re second only to America in the amount of soft power/culture clout they have.

l. The protesters are not Japanese and not all of them are of Asian descent.
As we wrote earlier, this is a hyphenated-American issue in a context where AAPIs are homogenized. There are Japanese and Japanese-Americans supporting this response.

White supremacy is supported by Orientalism in order to minimize the Asian-American experience, especially when Asian-Americans try to advocate for themselves: when it is convenient, the Asian-American experience is either homogenized or not authentic enough.

Why are you still talking about white supremacy? Oh my GOD. Are the people criticizing you even white? I’m not, by the way, so can wear a kimono, then, being one of their fellow oppressed POCs and all? You’ve already called some people race traitors, so probably not, but I might as well ask. That’s the thing with obvious hypocrites, you don’t know what they think about anything. And apparently the Asian-American experience is homogeneous seeing as how those aforementioned Asian race traitors’ opinions don’t seem to matter much to you. So much so that you disregard them entirely.

The “Asian-American” experience, to you, extends only to the Asian-Americans who are offended at what you think they should be offended by. The only Asian-American opinion that matters to you is the one that affirms what you already think. The only Asian-American voice that is authentic is the one that doesn’t like white people wearing kimonos. The other voices support white supremacy. So don’t even act like it’s other people trying to silence Asian-Americans. I think you can say whatever you goddamn want.

Also, allyhood is important. Folks with different experiences can and must stand in solidarity where needed. Furthermore, we all stand in solidarity against anti-black and anti-indigenous systemic oppression, because black and indigenous people bear the brunt of the violence fueled by white supremacist iconography and ideology.

What does this have to do with anything?! You’re talking about a museum exhibit of a white woman wearing an Asian dress. Stay on goddamn topic.

m. The protesters don’t represent all Asian-Americans.
We are well aware we do not represent all Asian-Americans nor do we intend to.

But we will shut down entire events that could have been used to educate people and/or just make someone’s life a little less sad and monotonous for a while in the name of “all Asian-Americans.” We will act like the only Asian-American opinion that matters to this discussion is the one that agrees with ours. And we will accuse any Asian-American who disagrees with us as being a supporter of white supremacy. We don’t represent all Asian-Americans . . . just all the true, authentic ones, just the Asian-Americans’ whose opinions are actually worth anything.

n. The protesters are “bad” Asian Americans. They are selfish and just want attention.
Badness, selfishness and attention-grabbing are typical shaming done in Asian cultures against women who are non-conforming. This is specifically misogynist, because of how the public sees us as the visible protesters. This is how stereotypical Asian patriarchal misogyny folds into Orientalism so people in the West can further oppress women, feminine and/or gender queer folk in the Asian-American community.

SJWs are attention whores? I thought all their histrionics were caused by their self-diagnosed bipolar disorders. Huh, who’d a thunk? I feel like the rest of this speaks for itself. You just went on a rant about how not everyone protesting this event is Asian, then one point down you try and fail to connect people calling you attention whores (which you are, by the way) with them being racist toward Asians. And also, they’re sexist, I guess. I don’t even know the genders of the protesters involved. They could all be guys as far as I’m concerned. You’re still attention whores. Oh my God. I can’t even argue with you.

Badness is also part of entitled elite white supremacist patriarchal fantasy that the model minority myth ascribes to. What is bad and what is good helps people in the U.S. assess each others’ desirability. So when members of the Asian-American community speak out, they risk breaking their model minority status, leaving themselves vulnerable to oppressive attacks from both white and Asian-American neighbors.

Someone calling you an obnoxious killjoy when you are being an obnoxious killjoy is not them distressing over you breaking the model minority stereotype. It’s them distressing over you being fucking obnoxious. That’s why the Asian protesters are taken just as seriously (read: not taken seriously at all) as the other protesters are. Or are the non-Asian protesters being treated with staggering levels of respect and understanding by detractors while only the Asian SJWs are being called out for being dumb-asses? That doesn’t seem to be how it worked out. Playing the race card has been denied here.

o. The protesters don’t understand what Orientalism or racism really is.
We cannot possibly have any misunderstanding. We speak from lived experiences of Orientalized racism.

What do you mean “you can’t possibly have any misunderstanding”? Why? Because you’re Asian? You seem like someone who doesn’t like stereotypes, and good for you because you definitely don’t fall into the “Asians are logical, smart, respectable people” stereotype. Way to tear down those misconceptions by being the change you want to see.

Well, I’m black, which I guess means I can never be wrong or have a misunderstanding of anything. I now decide that racism is defined as “a thing that people go into histrionic hysterics over in a counterproductive way to prove that they’re sorry about slavery and which is undeservedly given way too much power as a hammer to beat any and all detractors with.” There. It’s my lived experience, so it’s right, I guess. I look forward to seeing the new definition of racism, as defined by Disorderly Politics, in the next Webster’s Dictionary.

p. The MFA has good intentions. They can’t be racist because racists are bad.
Again, the MFA is defined as good by white elite supremacist standards and benefits from the immediate trust given it. In this framework, if there is any opposition, as an institution it is being bullied. By this ideology, blatant and violent racism is not cultured enough to be good and therefore labeled bad or even evil. Therefore, the MFA cannot be racist.

So, what does an Asian define as good, again? Oh, wait a minute, Asians are not a  homogeneous monolith. Unless they are, I guess, because all the Asians who thought that what the MFA was doing was fine/a good thing are totally ignored here. Of course. Now, I hate the Man just as much as anyone else. I don’t think corporations are people, I think our military has committed unpunished war crimes, yadayadayada. But this is a case of an institution being bullied. Blithely denouncing the idea with a condescending tone doesn’t make it not so. The MFA is being bullied. I can tell by this very next sentence:

We have enough work to do to dismantle white supremacy. Don’t contribute to this mess, MFA.

Using rather baseless and defaming assumptions to shame people into doing what you want is blatant manipulation and blatant bullying. You’re essentially calling the people who organized this, went to it, wanted to go to it, and/or defended this as horrible, horrible racists who really need to go sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done. Making people feel bad about benign, harmless acts as a means of controlling what they do to fit your standards is being a bully.

q. The MFA programming is not racist because the dictionary definition doesn’t apply to this situation.
Most dictionaries do not acknowledge the inherent power structure of white supremacy within their definition.

But we’ll make sure to acknowledge the dictionary definition of feminism like that’s all anyone needs to know and scoff at anyone who acts like the dictionary definition isn’t enough to define a specific situation! Oh, don’t look at me like that, you know these people are in the same feminist camp. Also, dictionaries don’t tend to act like a certain group’s theory is fucking correct. It’s why the definition of Hell isn’t “the place all the fags, niggers, and Jews are gonna end up.”

r. I am offended that I am being called racist. The protesters are the true racists for calling people racist.
This is response, called white fragility, is common in discussions about racism. (More about white fragility at this link.) Being called racist can be uncomfortable. However, when brown and black communities are suffering every day due to systemic racialized violence, white people can afford a little discomfort.

Well, I’m black and I’m offended at you calling white people racist. Also, me, I guess. I’m still not sure if other POC are included in the whole “this promotes white supremacy” thing. This article has done a tremendous job of acting like no slightly tan person on the face of the earth was ever interested in attending that event or angered that it was canceled after someone cried racism. It was only the whites. And those poor white people. They don’t have pseudo-intellectual bullshit to fall back on to justify how saying “making people feel bad for no other reason than their race” isn’t racist. That’s something only we coloreds have.

s. If only Asian people are able to present Asian art, then there can be no cultural exchange.
Again, our opposition is not against cultural exchange. However, we do expect Asian folks to be curators and head administrators at institutions of arts and culture, especially involving Asian-related programming, along with responsible curation, so that this kind of egregious oversight never happens again. Representation is important until we no longer have pervasive white fragility.

Well, clearly it is against cultural exchange seeing as how a picture of a woman wearing an article of clothing not from her culture apparently takes things to far. How do you know that the curator wasn’t Asian, by the way? Also, I love this: “We’re not against cultural exchange, we’re just against anyone of different cultures having anything to do with something that isn’t theirs!” Are you an expert in Edo Era wood block printing because you fell in love with Japanese art styles in college? Well, too bad, if you’re not Asian, you clearly don’t have what it takes to work with Asian art! Race segregated curation is responsible curation. Remember that.

I wonder if they’d say the same thing about a Chinese American who works as a head curator on an exhibit of paintings from Victorian England. Is that just unacceptable too? How about if I went and curated that painting? Would it still be racist and an issue with representation then? I can see the protests now: “Kick Out the Black, and Bring in More Yellow.” I’m sure that would happen.

t. I’m not racist. I just really love Japanese culture.
It is great to really love and want to appreciate a culture different from yours. To do that responsibly know the wider impact your actions have in how that culture is both perceived and received by those who have not put in the time to study it. Appreciate the culture by providing knowledge about it. A culture is more than a set of aesthetics. Learn about the background behind the ‘pretty style.’ Be sure also to assess and acknowledge your privileges and the history of power from which you might benefit.

These people must be really fun at parties. “We love that you like a different culture’s art. Just don’t try to actually indulge in a different culture’s art in any way, shape, or form, because that has a vague ‘wider impact’.” How do you know those people never studied Japanese art? It kind of seems like many people would have gone to that event for the express purposes of studying and learning more about Japanese art because going to art exhibits to see the art is how you learn about it.

Just thinking that something is a ‘pretty style’ isn’t wrong, by the way. You don’t have to know everything about everything before indulging in anything. Or are you going to fly on over to Japan and lambaste all the Japanese youths who have taken a liking to hip-hop even though they don’t know everything about the struggle of African Americans? Hell, how about all the Japanese youths who love K-Pop without acknowledging how racist Japan has been to its Korean neighbors? Not going to address that though, are you?

I’d put a picture of me wearing my kimono (given to me by a Japanese person in Japan, by the way) flipping you off, but I don’t want the internet to know my face. For shame.

Edit: My face is on here now (yay.  . .), so here is me in my kimono. I’m not flipping anyone off in this picture because, believe it or not, I’m a pleasant person. Just imagine it being the case.

12992350_10201851009154559_1739735932_n-1


This is stupid. It’s nothing but authoritarian-minded, entitled idiots self-appointing themselves as moral arbitrators, using shame and offense as a way to make people do what they want them to do. So, since I actually know Japanese (at this point I’m not sure that the writer of this FAQ who cares so deeply about Japan does), why don’t you go and translate this, from me to you?

くそくらえ

ばか . . .

Why Iggy Azalea Doesn’t Deserve All the Hate

Hey there, guys! Time for something a little different. To get this out of the way–I’m not one of those black college girls who writes microaggressions against me on a poster and gets my angry, shame-on-you picture on Buzzfeed. Liberals would call me a “black conservative” even though I am in no way conservative whatsoever. But not agreeing that racism is the worst thing since unsliced bread and that it should be given our undivided attention gets you labeled as one of those by default. What are you gonna do? That being said, let’s talk about Iggy Azalea!


Iggy Azalea is a Mad Lib. She’s a white, female, Australian borderline criminal who moved to the American South without her parents when she was a teenager, got mentored by TI, and became a rapper. And now she’s popular. And the brains of social justice warriors are imploding more than they did when “Same Love” hit the charts–because having a song about how being gay is okay of course makes you just as bad as a homophobe.

So why has Ms. Azalea inspired so much vitriol from the social justice world? Well, she’s a white girl trying to make it in the rap world, so you tell me. People are calling her a culturally appropritive racist. I’ll leave my feelings about cultural appropriation to be written about another day, but I think that the criticism she’s gotten is needlessly harsh and full of specious claims used to get people riled up about how racism is still such an important issue.

I’ll address this right now. I don’t like Iggy Azalea. I don’t want to defend her or her music, but the comments that have been leveled at her are ridiculous upon even the smallest amount of scrutiny, and that’s not all that fair. If you’re not going to like an artist, make sure you have a legitimate reason.

Personally, I don’t like her music. I’ve heard “Fancy” the most, and I don’t get why everyone likes that song so much. It’s not that catchy. It’s actually fairly minimalistic, and the chorus is okay. But is it ironic? Like “ha, ha, I’m talking about how I’m fancy when I’m really just classless new money who wants everyone to know how rich I am now”? That’s the idea that the chorus gets across, but then the verses seem to take the “fancy” claim seriously, and I just don’t get it. It’s a confusing single, and the rest of her songs that I’ve heard have the same quality of just floating around in the ether not really knowing what they want to be.

So I’m not a fan of hers. A lot of people would assume that’s because I’m a Southern black woman who is ashamed of this little white girl stealing rap and acting like a caricature of black people. That’s nowhere near my reason, and I’m here to explain why I think that’s a bad reason to have.

Iggy is not “the realest” as she claims in her hit song. She probably shouldn’t have said that blatant non-truth first. She raps in a Southern drawl but gives interviews with her natural Australian accent, for instance. But it’s hard to find any rapper who lives up to the constant, bragging claims of being “real” that you find so often in the hip-hop genre, even the classic figures. Was Tupac being “real” when he talked about being gangsta and having it hard when he went to one of the most expensive performing arts schools in America and got big not too long afterwards? Was Drake being “real” when he claimed to start from the bottom but really grew up in a comfortable middle class household for most of his life? Is Nicki Minaj being “real” when she raps in a voice totally exaggerated and unlike how she speaks in her interviews (just as Iggy does)? Are any of the rappers who make it big and become rich and famous being “real” when they still talk about living on the streets gang banging like its their current life? Oddly, Kanye West is the only mainstream rapper who can really claim to be “real,” and that’s only because the man has no filter in his music or his personal life, which may or may not be a good thing.

Iggy has the same excuse as the rest of them. Rappers, like plenty of other artists, create stage personas. They create characters to perform in because it’s more interesting that way, or because that’s the kind of person their audience wants to hear music from. Ke$ha actually isn’t a drunken party skank, for instance. Iggy Azalea was mentored by TI and idolized Tupac, so it makes sense that the rap persona she created would take after ATL-style Southern hip-hop, complete with the slow, methodical beats and the Southern drawl. (For the record, Nelly’s Southern accent was nowhere near as thick as it was in his raps mainly because he was capitalizing on being one of the first St. Louis rappers and exaggerating what then made him stand out at the time.) She apparently really appreciates TI’s mentorship and wanted to incorporate his style it into her own because she liked it so much.

Then there’s the idea that she’s Australian and not “part of the culture.” But what is an Australian girl who moved to the Dirty South as a teenager, spent most of her time in hip-hop culture, loved Tupac’s music and style, and then got mentored by TI supposed to act like? She doesn’t have a very stereotypical circumstance. She’s mimicking hip-hop culture about as much as any other rapper who didn’t come directly “from the hood” yet still uses the slang and has the mannerisms. I don’t really know what she’s like as a person, but it seems like that would be her culture, given her background of living in the areas where that culture was prevalent since a young age. It doesn’t really seem like she couldn’t give a damn about hip-hop and is just using it to make money off of her own novelty–she seems genuinely immersed in it.

In the end of the day, the only novelty of Iggy Azalea is the fact that she’s a Mad Lib, like I said before. If she wasn’t a white, female, Australian, TI mentee I doubt anyone would be paying much attention to her. Because she’s no different from every other mainstream rapper. She wears expensive clothes, talks about having money, being awesome, going to clubs, says “bad bitch” a lot, and brags about how people should already know how great she is because it’s just so obvious. That’s the synopsis of almost every popular rap song that’s hit the charts since 2000. I was alive in America in the 2000s, I know how obsessed we were with carbon copy crunk songs back then, and even though rap as a genre isn’t all that mainstream anymore, just go and turn on BET for twenty minutes and tell me that the five music videos you watched were all different and unique and varied in their subject matter. You can’t do it.

She makes music that record companies say that people want to hear, i.e., vapid raps about how cool she is and how much money she has and how much people should love her if they don’t already. That’s the kind of rap that people listen to, so that’s the kind of rap she makes. She was intended to be a star–a popular act in the mainstream, not just the rap world. Her novelty was probably why she and her producers had that intention–she’d be easier to promote to the public if she initially seemed like something new and different–but that doesn’t change the fact that Iggy Azalea has no control over what music the public likes to hear. She is very much at the whim of what other people want. Her persona is that of a cookie cutter Southern rapper no different from every rapper that came before or after, and her popular songs have the stamp of uninspired bragging typical of cookie cutter rapping because those are safe to do.

She even acknowledges that she’s only here to make popular music. Yeah, her songs and style are manufactured to sell, but she’s fully aware of that. That doesn’t mean her music is good, by any means, but she knows what she’s trying to do, and I can commend that. It’s like Ke$ha going out and saying that she only makes the music people want to hear and therefore only makes vapid party skank club tunes. You don’t get many points as an artist for being aware of the poor quality and ulterior motivation behind your product, but you at least get points as a self-aware human being who just wants to have fun and make music that other people like without having to be “deep.”

For manufactured pop/rap music, I think you can do better than Iggy Azalea, and that’s why I don’t like her. It’s based purely upon the quality of the music, and, for the kind of music she makes–intended to entertain and do nothing more–there are better rappers out there. All I Do Is Win beats Fancy by a mile. In Da Club beats Murder Business.

It’s not like she isn’t talented. She has a good flow, which is the most important thing you can have as a rapper, but it’s definitely not the only thing you need to be considered objectively good, and with that, she comes out lacking. I think she has the potential to be genuinely good at what she does, but her social justice critics won’t let her.

To explain that: “Cookie cutter” doesn’t automatically mean “bad.” Pacific Rim is the most cookie cutter movie in existence, but I and many other people had a blast with it, unlike with a similar cookie cutter action robot movie, TransformersYeah by Usher could be renamed “Background Music In Every Club Scene of Every Cable TV Show,” but it’s still really fun.

If you make manufactured music with the intention of selling it to mass audiences first and foremost, that doesn’t mean that the music has to be bad, but it does mean that it has to be good in other ways in order to be anything worth talking about. With pop music, it’s all about personality. You can make the most generic songs ever, but if you as an artist have a distinct personality that shows in all of your songs, you’ve done something good–you’ve done something that helps your generic music stand out through sheer force of will. That’s why Katy Perry’s early songs are better; she had a personality back then that stamped her music as distinctly Katy Perry. That’s why her new songs are bad; you can’t tell any of her songs from anyone else’s now.

To get back to Iggy Azalea, that lack of a personal touch is what makes her music hit below the mark for me. If she didn’t have a girl’s voice I wouldn’t be able to distinguish her songs from Wiz Kalifah’s. Her novelty is all she has, and her critics are making sure that it’s all she’s ever going to have because that’s all they’re ever going to talk about. Why try to have a personality when no one cares and no one will notice? Any and all attempts she’s made at being her own person with her own style, the social justice warriors have come out of the woodwork to criticize her for being a racist or for appropriating hip-hop culture–basically for being an evil white woman trying to steal stuff from the black folk and make fun of it. Iggy Azalea isn’t going to grow into her skin until people just leave her the hell alone for two seconds and start treating her like a rapper instead of just some racist white girl who wants to “act black.”

Because she is, indeed, a rapper. Everything the social justice peeps criticize her of doing is nothing wildly out of the ordinary for other rappers. Rappers have been doing the same thing as Iggy for years without significant comment from them–making politically incorrect comments on social messaging sites, having distinct rap personas, using a different voice while recording, talking about a culture that isn’t immediately theirs and, if it was, isn’t a culture they can honestly claim anymore as someone with money in their wallet. It seems to me that people are using her as a catalyst for what they don’t like about rap culture in general but were afraid to give voice to before because “that would be racist.” Thank god a little white girl came along and gave us someone to throw all of our pre-existing criticisms at in a way that’s socially acceptable.

I’m not saying that you can’t criticize her for doing those things, but it’s incredibly hypocritical to criticize her while simultaneously acting like none of the “real” rappers do the exact same thing. If the action is okay when they do it, it should be okay when she does it–the color of her skin and her place of origin doesn’t matter. If middle class Canadian Drake can “act street,” so can she. If 50 Cent can intentionally mumble in order to replicate how he sounded when his jaw was wired shut even though he’s perfectly capable of enunciating words, she should be able to rap like Tupac.

There are plenty of things wrong with hip-hop culture. Even the female rappers refer to themselves as “bad bitch,” it’s really materialistic, and it makes being a violent thug seem like something to be aspired to because it makes you “real.” Even Jay Z makes claims about how he did terrible things in his past “for the love of drug dealing” in a song all about how he’s so rich now that all he does is sit around wanting to own famous pieces of classical art just to brag about owning them, not for any actual appreciation of the works. I like hip-hop and I can acknowledge those things.

But the vitriol that Iggy Azalea gets seems like her critics are looking at her with blinders on. If they were more consistent in their critiques–if they treated her like a rapper and acknowledged that all of her questionable behaviors are common in that scene for everyone–I wouldn’t care. But they act like she’s some racist white girl stealing the style just to make money and appropriating something beautiful and wonderful and faultless. Rap culture is not faultless, guys. It’s, to use a word that we liberals love, very problematic. And it’s not just her, so you can stop acting like rap is perfect and it’s just Iggy Azalea fucking it up with her white-girlness. People say that she’s racist because she’s acting like a caricature of hip-hop culture when, in reality, all she’s doing is indulging in genuine hip-hop culture with all of its good points and flaws while also being white. Which, of course, makes her horrible. When you do it, Iggy, it’s a caricature. We when act the exact same way, that’s just us being “real.”

I actually find it rather insulting when people say that Iggy Azalea is appropriating black culture. Because broken ebonics, terrible slang words (“Retarded” means “good” now? Really? No wonder rappers do nothing but brag, the slang of the genre makes negative connotation impossible.), materialistic egotism, and  nouveau riche idiocy is black culture now. It’s the thing that we should be proud of and shelter as a part of our racial identity to keep the white man from enforcing his culture on us. Glad we could draw the line and lay claim to that, brothers and sisters. It’s a damn shame that the white gurl took it away from us. . . .

That’s an element of social justice that’s always confused me. Proper, standardized English shouldn’t be attributed to white people and black people shouldn’t be called less “authentically black” if they talk that way. But ebonics is most definitely something that should only be associated with being black, and you can definitely judge a white person as racist and disingenuine for using it. Because that’s not hypocritical and double standard-y in the slightest.

I don’t like Iggy Azalea because I don’t like her music, which is how a musician should be judged. Maybe if she isn’t supported by the public, we’ll get something new (that’s not just Nicki Minaj wearing crazy wigs and failing at creating alter-egos). But calling her racist against black people makes no sense, especially when she really seems to love the culture that she’s “appropriating” so much, and has loved it since she was a teenager and probably before. If anything, Iggy Azalea proved that white girls can be just as factory-mill average as black guys when it comes to the rap game. And that’s true equality.