On cultural appropriation
In Tablet Magazine, Claire Lehmann explains “how victimhood became a moral currency dependent on defining and policing the boundaries of human identity.” Read “The Evils Of Cultural Appropriation” in full at http://bit.ly/2KRflTW. Here’s an excerpt.
For many, no defense or condemnation of cultural appropriation is required, because such complaints are almost beyond the realm of comprehension in the first place. Without cultural appropriation we would not be able to eat Italian food, listen to reggae, or go to yoga. Without cultural appropriation we would not be able to drink tea or use chopsticks or speak English or apply algebra, or listen to jazz, or write novels. Almost every cultural practice we engage in is the byproduct of centuries of cross-cultural pollination. The future of our civilization depends on it continuing.
Yet the concept was not always so perplexing. Originally derived from sociologists writing in the 1990s, its usage appears to have first been adopted by indigenous peoples of nations tainted by histories of colonization, such as Canada, Australia and the United States. Understandably, indigenous communities have been protective of their sacred objects and cultural artifacts, not wishing the experience of exploitation to be repeated generation after generation. … Even the most tough-minded skeptic should be able to see why indigenous peoples who have historically had their land and territories taken away from them might be unwilling to “share their culture” unconditionally. Particularly when it is applied to the co-opting of a people’s sacred and religious iconography for the base purposes of profit-making, the concept of cultural appropriation seems quite reasonable.
Nevertheless, the concept quickly becomes baffling when young Westerners … use the term as a weapon to disrupt the natural process of cultural exchange that happens in cosmopolitan societies in which culture is, thankfully, hybrid. When controversies erupt over hoop earrings or sombrero hats or sushi or braids or cannabis-themed parties, the concept of cultural appropriation appears to have departed from its formerly understood meaning — that is, to protect sacred or religious objects from desecration and exploitation.