While I was watching the last lecture, I was kind of rolling my eyes at the video clips that talked about cultural appropriation. Because in my opinion the ‘appropriation’ taking place is on a surface level, i.e. hair, at best. All I can see is people creating more divisions between themselves over something that is not even their identity. I say this because I believe that we are not our body, it is not something to be identified with, so how can one person truly take your culture and appropriate it, if it is just on the level of an image?
I think that the true issues of cultural appropriation have been trivialised by people getting offended about a white guy wearing a Native American Headdress on Halloween for example, or indeed an ‘image’. The true issue when it comes to cultural appropriation is using an image of a Native American chief, that was murdered in Columbus’ time, for the logo of a football team.
Music is something that should be open to all, what gives a particular group the right to own a music genre? Yes, they can be the original creators, but I feel that if you want to get angry that a ‘white’ artist copied the aesthetics of your culture, it is more a problem with yourself, because you could choose to be proud of the people keeping it to the roots of the culture. I argue that it just furthers divisions to care weather ‘Riff-raff’ wears grills or not.
I have done some research and I will provide links to Tom MacDonald, a hip hop artist who explains what I am trying to say in a much more efficient way:
This song addressed cultural appropriation, more so in the second verse, he states “On Halloween, for one evening only you wear what you want, unless it’s a poncho, headdress or afro, you’ll piss someone off.” Tom echo’s my sentiments, I do think that our issues with supposed cultural appropriation has become trivial, especially in hip-hop, we have a culture of having to be politically correct and as such anything can be deemed offensive.
A line in this song stands out to me, “We all bleed the same, Martin Luther King or Kennedy. They’re angry I’m reciting the facts, he’s white and he raps, he stole the culture right from the blacks… You’re letting history perpetuate the hatred within, then you paint me with the same brush you painted slave owners with!”
This just accentuates what I mentioned earlier, how we allow ourselves to get angry at superficial copying of culture when the real culture still exists, we are not our body, so why does it matter if a white person braids his or her hair? What should matter is that person’s intentions with what they are doing, what is their message? Do they stand with the oppressed? Do they try to be a character they are not on the inside, while purporting to be someone else? On the level of the physical body, we shouldn’t care.
Just watch this sarcastic/satirical music video and hopefully you will understand what the true problems are. “Black Power says I’m the problem, Girl Power says I’m the issue,
Gay rights think I’m tryna stop ’em, all of y’all trippin’ I’ll get you some tissues.” He is judged based on his skin colour as the problem and cultural appropriator.
“If I was black I’d hate America, appropriate my character and sell it to Caucasian men who wish they were from our area!” Here Tom highlights the actual issue with cultural appropriation, the systematic oppression of black culture by way of ‘white washing.’ It isn’t the individual artist (clearly) as Tom is standing with the oppressed, rapping and wearing braids, he is genuine is his music and views, his appearance is to pay homage to the culture he is a part of. He is saying that he isn’t the problem because his heart is in the right place, his intention is not to oppress or ‘steal’ a culture, he supports it wholeheartedly.