Monday, March 14, 2016

Consider Me Culturally Confused...

My grandmother and I shared a love of Asian art. Not 'inspired' but genuine Asian art. Here's my living room with several pieces:

Even though friends and guests of Asian ancestry have been to my house and admired (or at least haven't said anything negative) about it, does this make me a criminal? Or at the very least a racist?

In today's ever divisive world, probably yes.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. (Wikipedia)

I see more and more angry tweets, blogs, rants about one culture 'stealing' from another. Looking past the "America is a melting pot of peoples, cultures and religions," theme for now, let me state that I would never wear a Native American headdress because of its religious significance, the same as I would never wear the Pope's mitre. It's not right, the same way I wouldn't consider wearing a holocaust uniform as a Halloween costume because it's insensitive, possibly demeaning. 

Yet the Urban Dictionary says of cultural appropriation: 

"The ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures. This does nothing but support segregation and hinder progress in the world. All it serves to do is to promote segregation and racism."

That's kind of how I feel. I believe that sharing the best of our cultures with people who show an interest in them is the way to bridge gaps. I wouldn't wear a geisha's outfit, but my husband has a silk tie he bought in Japan. Is he a criminal? Or not because the Japanese didn't invent ties, so maybe they are the criminals? 

See what I mean?

It's confusing and exhausting, and no matter how you discuss this, a lot of people get incensed and we have yet another thing to argue about and take sides over. While I think it's ridiculous for young white men to dress like they're from a ghetto, I don't think they are committing a crime or 'cultural appropriation' because I don't concede that rapper-style is a cultural element- it's fashion, which evolves. 

We need to celebrate diversity- in books, people, thinking, religion, culture- but I believe we can't use it as a wall to keep one group separate from the others. A 'this is only mine and you can't touch it' attitude will turn people away, leaving you alone just as you requested and then you become alienated and to use a word I hate- 'disenfranchised.' 

Look at St. Patrick's Day coming up this Thursday. First of all, the man never made it to our shores let alone drove out any snakes so it's purely an Irish-from-Ireland cultural thing. But, have you noticed that on that day, almost everyone wears green, shouts Irish sayings, drinks green beer and hangs out in a party mood?

Everyone's Irish for the day. I never hear of anyone complaining that others are taking away their culture. I see no harm coming to them- they delight in seeing everyone sharing in. Kinda nice, if you ask me. 

So, now I'm even more confused. It's okay in this instance, but not that instance. 

Someone draw me up a list of rules because I can't understand it.

Hoping all eyes, Irish and everything else, smile on you-


(image courtesy of Bing/Microsoft)