Appropriation and Hypocrisy — May 6, 2015

Appropriation and Hypocrisy

When I hear the word appropriation this comes to mind:

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Its titled The Liberation of Aunt Jemima and it was done by Betye Saar- one of the my personal favorite contemporary artists. When I think of this image I see the bad and the good that has come from appropriation- more-like the good as a result of the bad. You see the cliche Aunt Jemima image- a fat black nanny. I don’t think I need to tell you guys how stereotypical and terrible that generalization was and is of black women. So there’s the negative. The positive is that in this artwork Betye Saar takes back that image for black women. She changes the fat black nanny to a warrior- because people always listen to others with a weapon. She has reclaimed the image, changed how we view Aunt Jemima, changed how we think of black women. Appropriation is actually an artistic term as well. She appropriates the images of Aunt Jemima that you can see along the back panel of the piece. This means she did not make them, she took them, and incorporated them into her piece. So there’s the positive side of appropriating- the bad side is that she had to do that in the first place.

Appropriation, cultural appropriation in specific, is defined as the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

The definition itself clarifies how crappy the whole thing is.

The mixing of cultures can be beautiful. Cultures can live side by side influencing each other and exchanging respectfully cultural aspects from the other. However, most of the time that isn’t the case. Most of the time its like the definition says- a dominant culture adopting elements from an oppressed culture. The whole idea doesn’t make sense to me- if the dominant culture was oppressing another culture, why would the dominant culture want to adopt elements that make them more like the oppressed culture? Now I’m not saying that oppressed cultures are lesser. Dominant cultures usually think they are better than others, and it doesn’t make sense to adopt aspects that would make you “lesser”.

Anyways, appropriation has occurred for all of time. But nowadays, its completely obvious when you look around. If you live in the United States, you can see clear references to Native American culture. People wear headdresses for the heck of it, the patterns and symbols of that culture are found on clothing, and there’s even a baseball team called the “Redskins”- I won’t even get into how messed up that is. Maybe I will in another post. But white Europeans conquered these people, calling them savages, and then adopted certain aspects of their life. The impact is obvious- we still see these elements from Native American culture today. Its not just Native Americans, however. White Americans have adopted black culture. From rap to cornrows to hip-hop dancing to baggy pants. The adoption of these elements has led to racial stereotyping- just like the Aunt Jemima image.

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Today, however, I want to point out something in relation to yesterday’s date- May 5th. White Americans have appropriated  the holiday of Cinco de Mayo. We have taken a day from those across the border who we excessively try to prevent to cross it. It’s okay for their culture to cross it, but not the people themselves? Hypocrisy. Now, its known that I’m a supporter of easier immigration and path to citizenship (Go Hillary for announcing that recently!!). So I may be biased on the topic, but I’d prefer to say educated. You can support tighter border security, if you aren’t throwing on sombreros, drinking tequila, and hanging out in “Mexican” restaurants the day of May 5th. We claim that if Mexican immigrants are going to come to the United States, they have to learn our language, take part in our culture.

Yet on Cinco de Mayo, White America is mispronouncing the holiday’s name itself and none of us truly know what this holiday means. We butcher their language, yet want them to take part in ours. We exploit their holiday, language, culture, and expect them to be okay with it as they enter into our “correct” culture. How do we believe that our culture is correct yet we still adopt aspects from the culture we try to keep out of our country? HYPOCRISY. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday where Mexicans commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Pueblaon May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Mexican Americans often use it to celebrate their nationality- to be proud of their heritage. Americans participate in this as an excuse to chug down margaritas not understanding what it really means. We are not aware of the deep cultural significance we take part in and we don’t care because we are the privileged, the dominant culture, the appropriators.

Stop before you appropriate. That’s all folks. Something to think about.

xoxo

abby

p.s. the intermingling of cultures in not a bad thing. it becomes bad when you cross the line from cultural exchange to cultural appropriation.

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Let’s talk about White Privilege…. — May 2, 2015

Let’s talk about White Privilege….

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I’ve stood by long enough. Coming from an overtly-conservative and white area, I usually silence my opinion because if I speak up approximately 3 people will jump in to tell me how I’m wrong because I’m either “too young”, “too stupid”, or whatever else. I don’t want to silence my voice anymore. My voice will bring about change. So here we go.

White Privilege is defined as: societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

I, myself, am white. Here’s ways that I am privileged:

  • Anywhere I go, people will not automatically think I cause trouble, am rowdy, and/or “ghetto”. People will think I am respectable and kind until I prove otherwise- because people see me and not my color.
  • When watching television and movies or reading a book or magazine, I see my race widely represented. White people are spoken for.
  • I can ignore the consequences of race because they do not affect me.
  • I do not have to fear for my family’s life when they leave the house because the system does not work against us.
  • I can choose to fight for racism, then choose not to.
  • People do not attempt to turn my name into an easier-to-pronounce name, that also will end up being Anglo-Saxon.
  • I can seek legal, financial, medical help without my race being held against me.
  • People do not tell me to simply “get over slavery”.
  • I do not have an accent that causes me to be mocked and ridiculed when speaking the all-important language: English.
  • When I succeed, I am awarded my accomplishments, not my race.
  • When I fail, I as an individual am attributed that failure- it is not a reflection on my race.
  • People are not surprised when I am intelligent, articulate, and successful.
  • People think I am capable due to my whiteness.
  • I don’t have to worry about being the victim of law enforcement.
  • I don’t have a “one third of black men will go to prison” statistic constantly looming over my head.
  • I can act how I want without being labeled a “thug”.
  • People automatically assume I am qualified when I get accepted into college or get a new job. They don’t attribute it to “having to meet a quota”.
  • When shopping, employees don’t keep a careful watch on me in case I try to steal.
  • I will never be labelled a terrorist for merely existing.
  • I am never stopped to be frisked.
  • I am always my own person, never referred to as the “White Beyonce” for instance.
  • I can live my life unaware of my skin color.

And that’s just the beginning of this list…


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Most people have some sort of privilege, some groups of people just have more than others. Blacks have privileges too- they’re more likely to get athletic scholarships whereas white athletes, especially in basketball, tend to be ridiculed with the term “white boy” and not taken seriously. (I realize this privilege is nowhere near as serious as the ones I listed earlier). Men are privileged because they won’t be asked “what were you wearing?” if they were raped. Women are privileged because we can be openly emotive without being asked “are you gay?” or being called a “sissy” or “pussy”. Everyone has some kind of privilege- its just that white people have more. US citizens have privileges that non-citizens will never have access to. Wealthier people are privileged because they can afford more opportunities such as college, even if they don’t have a scholarship. Heterosexuals are privileged because they never have to “come out” or worry about whether they can get married or not. By being born cisgender you never have to worry about upsetting people if you use the bathroom you identify with. Being born able-bodied and without disabilities, people automatically assume you are intelligent and you have an “easier” life.

Instead of denying that privilege, we should use that privilege to help others. Become allies to groups that are way under-privileged compared to yourself- any group of color, LGBTQIA, poorer families, the disabled. Use your voice to speak out for fairness, equality, and peace. Ignoring your privilege only contributes to the problem. Recognize it. Stand up for others. People are not born with equal footing on American soil, but we can help change that. Play your part. 🙂

xoxo

abby

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