≡ Menu

Online Bullying Series: Part 2 – Cultural Appropriation, Racism And Your Neighborhood Sphere

When I was a child I attended an elementary school in my neighborhood.   It was a typical Baby Boomer generation community where nearly every house had at least one child but usually an entire family of kids in a range of ages.   We grew up from age 5 or 6 knowing each other and playing group games in a playing field that spanned 6 to 10 backyards. 

Junior High was the game changer as the children of a half dozen elementary schools were gathered into one larger facility for the continuation of their education. This was the age at which bullying by kids outside of your local group, strangers, reached its zenith.    My own experience of being bullied did not occur until the first day of 8th grade.  My sin?  From stress I had cried quietly in 4th period and by 7th period it was all over the school.   I walked into my 7th period class to hear someone yell,  “Hey everybody, Jeanne cried in 4th period!”   I was now marked as an easy target for kids desperate to not be known as easy targets themselves.  The worst bullying came from a group of girls from a different elementary school who did not know me, had not grown up with me.  My “neighborhood sphere” saw nothing in me worth bullying.  A group of 5 total strangers did.

In this social media saturated age and the Internet ubiquitously woven into daily life, we are exposed to a much wider number of total strangers, some of whom are malicious bullies.   A common means by which total strangers try to gain power and control over individuals is to harass, intimidate and embarrass people into silence by accusing them of racism or cultural appropriation.  The news seems to routinely report on a celebrity who crossed someone’s line, the groupthink goes viral and that celebrity feels compelled to apologize to appease complete strangers.

Your family,  circle of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors … these are the people in your “neighborhood sphere” that give you immediate feedback.   Assuming you are not isolated in an echo chamber, your “neighborhood sphere” of people who actually know you are the only sounding board one needs to ascertain if your actions and behaviors are truly offensive to THEM, the real people you interact with.   So why are  we giving power and control to absolute strangers on social media to define people as being racist in order to intimidate and harass people?   Let’s examine three recent cases that made the news of people who refused to bow to the tyranny of the perpetually offended.

Case 1:  The Cheongsam Prom Dress

“Kezia Daum, a teenager in Utah, tweeted photos of herself in her prom dress, with the comment “PROM”, a seemingly normal thing for a high-school student to do.  Not in these times.  Daum had unwittingly committed the crime of “cultural appropriation” by wearing traditional Chinese-style dress without being of Chinese descent, so she was subjected to an outpouring of fury and denunciation.  “My culture is NOT your goddam prom dress”, one young man tweeted in response, a sentiment that received more than 150,000 “likes”. Daum, to her credit, refused to apologize or remove her post, saying that she had meant no disrespect to Chinese culture and had worn the dress because she thought it was beautiful. If only more adults showed as much backbone in the face of unreasoning malice.”  National Review May 28, 2018

The “one young man” was Jeremy Lam whose tweet was “liked” by 150,000 people thus building into a group feeding frenzy to intimidate and humiliate Ms. Daum into groveling in apology.   It’s all about the power to control people you don’t agree with.

“At first, I felt bullied, but my mom helped toughen me up, and I began to realize how many people there were who were supporting me in my decision and encouraging me,” Daum says. “I learned that there’s always people who are going to hate and I can’t control that.”

And what did people living in China and Asia think about the issue once it went viral internationally?

  In an outstanding article in the New York Times  (well worth reading in its entirety),  Chinese views were considerably different:

When the furor reached Asia, though, many seemed to be scratching their heads. Far from being critical of Ms. Daum, who is not Chinese, many people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaimed her choice of the traditional high-necked dress as a victory for Chinese culture.

“I am very proud to have our culture recognized by people in other countries,” said someone called Snail Trail, commenting on a post of the Utah episode by a popular account on WeChat, the messaging and social media platform, that had been read more than 100,000 times.

“It’s ridiculous to criticize this as cultural appropriation,” Zhou Yijun, a Hong Kong-based cultural commentator, said in a telephone interview. “From the perspective of a Chinese person, if a foreign woman wears a qipao and thinks she looks pretty, then why shouldn’t she wear it?”

If anything, the uproar surrounding Ms. Daum’s dress prompted many Chinese to reflect on examples of cultural appropriation in their own country. “So does that mean when we celebrate Christmas and Halloween it’s also cultural appropriation?” asked one WeChat user, Larissa.

Recall how Miss Manners warns about who you choose to bully since they could be more powerful than you?  Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson  applied the literary equivalent of a hard spanking to Jeremy Lam by exposing his hypocrisy:

Some guy on Twitter, Jeremy Lam, is of Asian descent and was triggered when he saw Kezia’s dress, promptly telling her that “My culture is not your G-D prom dress.” His profile picture shows him wearing a T-shirt and an Adidas baseball cap. So let me restate it this way. An Asian man, with the Hebrew-originated name Jeremy, wearing an American baseball cap manufactured by a German sportswear company, bullies a teenage girl for crossing a cultural boundary.

While I didn’t previously know that some dude in the United States with a Twitter account was the guardian of Asian culture, it was rather unfortunate that in earlier tweets he dropped the N-word in a “thug life” kinda way. That seemed to diminish his status as the cultural appropriation appropriator.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s just stop prosecuting people who praise a culture by partaking in it. 

Case 2: Jeremy Lin and his dreadlocks

NBA player Jeremy Lin likes his hair and has explained that his sometimes extravagant hairstyles were a source of fun for him and a challenge to not care what people think. The NBA even created a web page of his “many hairstyles”. This worked for him until he sported a head of dreadlocks.

Former NBA forward Kenyon Martin criticized Lin for growing dreadlocks. In an Instagram video that now appears to have been deleted, Martin, a former member of the New Jersey Nets, addressed Lin’s dreadlocks, saying, “Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?”

Martin continued, saying: “Come on, man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘All right, bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin.”

What ensued has been described as “Linsanity” as social media weighed in.
But here’s the point…Jeremy Lin sought input from friends, fellow players , his “neighborhood sphere” regarding the appropriateness of having dreadlocks. One of those was fellow player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who spent 8 hours getting his hair dreadlocked along with Lin. Another person was a Nets staffer:

I still wasn’t sure. A recent conversation I had with Savannah Hart, a Nets staff member who’s African-American, really resonated with me. I told her about my thought process — how I was really unsure about getting dreads because I was worried I’d be appropriating black culture. She said that if it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of another culture, then maybe it could be an opportunity to learn about that culture.

Lin concluded saying,

“This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me … It’s easy to take things that we enjoy from other cultures — that’s one of the coolest things about a melting-pot society like ours.

Jeremy Lin was respectful to ask friends and co-workers their opinion on his hairstyle choice and in his “neighborhood sphere” there is no bullying or offense taken. Strangers who have no real life connection tried to bully him from doing something his closest associates had no issue with.

Case 3: Avril Lavigne with Hello Kitty outfit

From Wikipedia: Avril Lavigne has been cited as appropriating Japanese culture in her song “Hello Kitty“. The song and music video depict Asian women dressed up in matching outfits and Lavigne eating Asian food while dressed in a pink tutu.[140] Its depiction of Japanese culture was met with widespread criticism, which has included suggestions of racism. Lavigne responded by stating “I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video … specifically for my Japanese fans, with my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers and a Japanese director in Japan.”[141] A lot of the feedback Lavigne received on Twitter was favorable, and those who blamed her for racism were non-Japanese.[142]

This is a rather amusing case of online bullying because while Lavigne’s “neighborhood sphere” had no issues whatsoever with the music video, “non-Japanese” bullies applied their westernized neocolonialism with the belief that the Japanese are not sufficiently “woke” enough to recognize that they should be offended so white people need to be offended for them.

Dress and hair are not the only things deemed to be culturally appropriated or racist:

Only the deaf can teach sign language
Dressing in traditional Japanese clothing (ignoring the fact that millions of Japanese wear Westernized clothing)
Saying “y’all” if you are not Southern
Neck chokers
Hoop earrings
Cinco De Mayo parties
Westerners eating sushi, studying yoga, wearing toe rings
Selling burritos if you happen to be white
Farmers Markets are racist

The list of things people can choose to be offended by grows bigger and more ridiculous by the day. It’s a bully’s dream come true….how many ways can I gain power over you, let me count the ways.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • licoricepencil March 11, 2019, 10:06 am

    I personally disagree with using reactions from China/Japan to “defend” appropriation vs. appreciation for traditional dress for one specific reason. For China’s quipao and Japan’s kimono/yukata, they are traditional dress for Han Chinese (the largest/dominant cultural group in China) and the Japanese people (as opposed to the Ainu, the indigenous group of Hokkaido who have been subject to persecution by the Japanese government). Of course for ethnic Han Chinese and Japanese living in China and Japan respectively, they’re totally cool with their dress being worn outside of their home countries. It’s an example of their soft power and influence growing in the world. Contrast this to an Asian-American growing up in the US, where they are not part of the dominant culture. They grew up having their traditional food and clothing made fun of for being “smelly” or generally different. Then, they see someone who is white wearing the same clothing they were made fun of for having. This in no way justifies a witch-hunt against a teenager who found a pretty dress in a thrift shop and wanted to wear it for a formal occasion (which is what a qipao is made for), but I think it’s worth it to think of it from that perspective.

    The best example I’ve seen for thinking of cultural appropriation is Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was great when he was discovering Christmas town and the celebrations (the What’s This? song), but when he took over Christmas and divorced the Christmas celebrations from what made them Christmas is when they became twisted and “horrible.”

    • admin March 11, 2019, 10:57 am

      I don’t personally wear Asian clothing but I do own 2 saris and I wear them on occasion to the delight of my Indian friends. They actively encourage the wearing of saris because they see it as their traditional dress gaining wider acceptance so they are NOT singled out as being different. Saris becoming ubiquitous clothing would be the equivalent of blue jeans and a polo shirt supplanting traditional dress in non-western countries.

      • licoricepencil March 11, 2019, 1:03 pm

        Different people in different cultures come down on different stances on this sort of thing. I think it’s neat that you have saris and your friends encourage you to wear them!

        • licoricepencil March 11, 2019, 1:14 pm

          To add, I also think it’s different when people from one culture are actively encouraging others to participate, e.g. your friends trying to make saris popular among Westerners. In my opinion, that’s appreciation rather than appropriation.
          I practice a form of karate, which some particularly militant anti-appropriation people would see as culturally approprative. However, this form karate was deliberately brought outside of Japan by its practitioners to encourage others to study it. The dojo I train at is led by the nephew of the man who travelled to the US after WW2 to promote the practice of the martial art throughout the world. IMHO, this is another example of cultural appreciation rather than appropriation, but others may not agree.

        • admin March 11, 2019, 3:09 pm

          I drool going into a sari shop. My best sari is deep purple and fuschia pink.

          • JD March 12, 2019, 9:49 am

            My OB-GYN was from India and she sometimes saw office patients while dressed in a sari. Of all those beautiful saris, I remember a coral one and a turquoise and gold one which took my breath away and almost made me want to start wearing a sari, if only I could look as good as she did, which I would not have.
            A dear Guatemalan lady gave me a lovely embroidered huipil that she made. I wear it on occasion to remind me of her and her delightful family, not to appropriate her culture or make fun of it.

    • AM March 11, 2019, 12:11 pm

      This is a great analogy; I may use it in the future!

    • Kat March 11, 2019, 3:48 pm

      Yes, the history of the Chinese-living-in-China and of Chinese-Americans (and Asian-Americans in general) is vastly different — cf. the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Japanese-American internment camps of WWII, among other historical and present context.

      They key point of cultural appropriation is not that no one is “allowed” to appreciate or share from other cultures. It’s that there has been a history of the majority culture baldly saying that X cultural item is trashy/ghetto/insert-pejorative-here when worn/used by those of the originating culture, but this same item is cool and trendy as soon as someone from the majority culture wears/uses it. For a really concrete example, if you Google image search “professional hair styles,” you will get thousands of photos of *white/European hairstyles* — which don’t work very well with kinky hair. (I counted roughly 20 black hairstyle images in the first page of 425 results, which is actually an improvement over a couple years ago.) Yet it’s extremely common for black Americans to be called on the carpet by bosses/teachers/authority figures for “unprofessional hair” or “inappropriate hair” because they wear it in dreadlocks, cornrows, other protective styles, or even just their natural hair the way it grows from their head. This causes real professional and economic harm, so there is a problem with the unspoken attitude that cornrows are trendy and cool, but only if you’re not black.

      This context makes navigating cultural sharing something of a minefield, yes. But it’s both kind and important to keep it as part of the conversation.

      • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 3:39 am

        “It’s that there has been a history of the majority culture baldly saying that X cultural item is trashy/ghetto/insert-pejorative-here when worn/used by those of the originating culture, but this same item is cool and trendy as soon as someone from the majority culture wears/uses it. ”

        I find it hard to believe that an item becomes cool and trendy as soon as someone from the majority culture wears/uses it: cultural changes generally take time. Consider say women wearing trousers in the West, that took generations to become commonly accepted, even though Marlene Dietrich did things like be photographed wearing a tuxedo in 1932. Do you have some examples of this sudden change happening?

        “so there is a problem with the unspoken attitude that cornrows are trendy and cool, but only if you’re not black”.

        I agree totally, that’s racist as. However how many people have that attitude? Isn’t it more likely that people are a mix of:

        1. My favourite rockstar/youtuber/politican is wearing them so they must be cool! Or

        2. They suck, but I’m not going to say so because I want something from this privileged person.

    • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 2:51 am

      In the Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, as part of taking over Christmas, had Santa abducted. And his Christmas presents attacked people. I think that that’s on a totally different level to someone wearing a Santa suit and handing out some nice presents.

      And I don’t follow the logic of getting upset because you see someone else wearing the same clothing you were made fun of for wearing. The Roman sandals I wore to intermediate school were desperately unfashionable at the time, and came into fashion 5 years later, I thought it was funny.

  • Miss-E March 11, 2019, 10:11 am

    Cultura appropriation is a very complex issue with a long sordid history. I don’t think that is coming across here. Yes, there are some absurd examples but there are also some very legitimate ones.

    The dreadlocks for example, this athlete is celebrated for his crazy hairstyles…meanwhile only weeks ago a black athlete was forced to shave his dreadlocks in front of a crowd before a wrestling match. So a black athlete was shamed for his hair, a style that is not only culturally significant to the black community but also practical for their hair, whereas an Asian athlete was celebrated on his teams site.

    You have to try to imagine how you would feel if you were a marginalized minority under great pressure to conform to white cultural standards and then you see a white person borrowing from your own culture.

    Cultural appropriation is a thing, think of all the music that was taken from black people with little or no credit and used to rocket white people to fame (hound dog).

    While I don’t disagree that people lean into the “your racist” trope very easily to bully people I would have liked to see you acknowledge that cultural appropriation is a problem and has been done for basically all of American history.

    • admin March 11, 2019, 3:28 pm

      I think you are missing the point of the blog post. The black athlete was, in effect, bullied by the referee who abused his authority by demanding action that was not based on the published rules of the sport. The athlete’s “neighborhood sphere” of family, friends, team mates and coaches (who appear to be white) rallied around him with the coaches attempting to change the referee’s ultimatum. A moment of bullying in a high school gym has gone viral, but remember the point made earlier….be careful who you bully because that person may be stronger than you…

      Elliott Hopkins, a director with the National Federation of State High School Associations, which writes the rules for competitions, told NJ Advance Media that the hair shown in the images would not require a covering despite what a state athletics association official had indicated. In general, if a wrestler’s hair “in its natural state” extends past the earlobe or touches the top of a shirt, a “legal hair cover” must be worn, the rules say. So Elliott Hopkins has developed a whopping smack down to referee Alan Maloney. Further, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced it was also opening an investigation alongside the state to determine whether national rules in regard to hairstyle had been properly enforced. Something tells me it isn’t over yet for Mr. Maloney.

      • DancerDiva March 11, 2019, 10:19 pm

        I mean this respectfully, but I think that you missed the point of this comment. It’s very easy to dismiss commentary on cultural appropriation as “bullying”, but Miss-E is exactly right that while someone like Jeremy Lin is celebrated for discovering dreadlocks, laws had to be passed (recently in NYC) to keep employers from discriminating against African Americans for wearing their hair in its natural state and calling it “unprofessional”. I’m glad that Jeremy Lin is “having fun” with new hairstyles, but it’s a much more fraught issue for those who aren’t trying it on as a trend.

        • admin March 12, 2019, 1:30 am

          Jeremy Lin did not discover dreadlocks and to say that having dreadlocks is solely an African American cultural identification is to be ignorant of the world and history. In India, the “sadhu” sect of Hinduism wears matted locks in tribute to the long-haired deity Shiva. “Rasta-Buddhists” in Japan, members of the black Muslim Baye Fall sect of Senegal, Maori in New Zealand, indigenous Australians all wear dreadlocks. Much like Hindus, Buddhists also shun the material world. They frown heavily upon vanity, which they believe drains one’s ability to become enlightened. While some Buddhists shave their heads to illustrate this, others (namely the Ngagpas of Tibet) wear dreadlocks. Even some men and women in the Pinsk region and the Masovia region of Poland wore dreadlocks as a hair style at the beginning of the 19th century. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreadlocks)

          “While dreadlocks are frequently affiliated with African culture, the hairstyle’s origin can be traced to numerous cultures,” as Chimere Faulk, an Atlanta-based natural hair stylist and owner of Dr. Locs explained. “Dreadlocks can be traced to just about every civilisation in history,” she told Ebony magazine. “No matter the race, you will find a connection to having dreadlocks for spiritual reasons.”

          Here is the Ebony magazine the above quote appears in: https://www.ebony.com/style/history-dreadlocks/

          In regards to the NYC ban on discrimination based on hairstyle, it is unfortunate that the Human Rights Commission guidelines explicitly spells out that it protects black people’s right to maintain natural hair. “Bans or restrictions on natural hair or hairstyles associated with black people are often rooted in white standards of appearance and perpetuate racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional,” the commission guidelines state. “There is a widespread and fundamentally racist belief that black hairstyles are not suited for formal settings, and may be unhygienic, messy, disruptive, or unkempt.”

          In essence,it associates specific hairstyles as being solely black hairstyles and protects only black people from discrimination. As recently as 2018 US courts have upheld hiring bans on employees wearing dreadlocks based on the legal standard that dreadlocks are not an immutable characteristic of being black. White people wearing dreadlocks (and Buddhists, Maori like Jason Momoa) are not protected from discrimination by employers.

          • Elizabeth March 14, 2019, 1:03 am

            Jason Momoa is of Native Hawaiian descent, not Maori.

        • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 4:03 am

          Is it not possible that the people celebrating Jeremy Lin for wearing dreadlocks are different people to the ones discriminating against African Americans for wearing their hair in its natural state?

          People within cultures disagree all the time, it strikes me as entirely plausible that the people who hate African Americans wearing dreadlocks also hate Jeremy Lin wearing dreadlocks.

          Bullying people for cultural appropriation seems to me like going after people who are anti-racist while leaving the actual racists alone.

          • PJ March 14, 2019, 4:56 pm

            I was thinking the same thing. There’s so much holding “people” responsible for a mindset that they don’t actually hold. Nothing good comes out of that, apart from a moment of self-righteous satisfaction from whoever’s pointing their finger and calling everyone else small-minded.

    • LizaJane March 11, 2019, 8:28 pm

      Miss E. Did Jerry Stoller and Mike Abell get ripped off for “Hound Dog “?!?!?

    • Mary-Anne Lahusen March 12, 2019, 1:12 am

      “You have to try to imagine how you would feel if you were a marginalized minority under great pressure to conform to white cultural standards and then you see a white person borrowing from your own culture.” I’d be delighted. The more my culture was “out there” the more accepted it would be so I’d be all for it. I certainly wouldn’t use it as another measure of my victim status.

  • Aje March 11, 2019, 10:48 am

    This has always been a true annoyance for me. I work with languages and cultures and people getting offended on behalf of others is truly annoying. Most of my friends from other cultures love it when I celebrate their culture and encourage me. But if I do anything to celebrate other cultures like set or pictures of my family on dia De Los muertos or wear a Ferria dress in the spring I do it privately or tell just my mexican friends because the Americans will get upset…. It feels so backward.

    • Ulla March 11, 2019, 2:51 pm

      I think the trouble is that when you are not from the culture, or don’t have close people nearby, it might be hard to really understand the meaning of some garments or other aspects. Something that might just look pretty for untrained eye, might have meanings, such as telling which family you belong.
      If one has close friends from said culture, it’s of course likely that one has learned enough to know what is appropriate and what is not so that the culture is actually being celebrated, not appropriated. I think the main difference comes: Is the person trying to benefit from the other culture somehow?

      We had example from here some years ago: A beauty contestant irritated Sami people because she wore a cheap gag/knock off Sami suit to the beauty contest. That kind of thing does not sound like somebody is trying to celebrate the other culture. It just looks like they are trying to get some exoticism points. I’d even say it would have been possible that had the contestant approached some real Sami people, they might have agreed to provide real suit to showcase the beautiful craftsmanship and traditions they have. But, the contestant chose poorly made fake suit from gag store (and by that I mean the kind of thing you would buy for your Halloween party). Not much celebrating the culture in that choice.

      • Margo Agatha April 13, 2019, 4:01 am

        I think this is a very good point. If the contestant had worn a genuine outfit or one in better taste it would have been different.
        I think the young lady who was attacked for her choice in prom dress wasn’t fair. She chose to because she thought it was a beautiful dress which it is. She chose it for her prom night: something which is a special occasion for her so naturally she would want something special.

        It is important to have balance. As its been mentioned before with dreadlocks being banned from certain workplaces I do think there is some racial bias still about black people wearing them. I note that it’s been mentioned that they are worn in different cultures. I think natural afro hair, dreadlocks and cornrows are fine and am disturbed at how people are discriminated based on their hair.

        I remember watching a news story about a black lady who had been sent home from work because of her braids. Both me and my mum thought she had a very smart stylish hair style.

  • JD March 11, 2019, 11:32 am

    I read some of the linked articles. Quite interesting.
    People might need to be careful about saying who can and can’t use cultural references. A friend of mine is the daughter of a Japanese mother who emigrated to the States as an adult, and white American father, but people who don’t know her background don’t realize that she is mixed heritage; they see what they think is just a white American Southerner. She was not given a Japanese name, so no clue there. When my friend dressed her own daughter in traditional Japanese dress (a gift from family in Japan) for her 1st birthday party, we didn’t have Facebook, but what if we’d had, and she’d posted that? Would she have been slammed and bullied?
    It’s never appropriate to bully, even when the offense is truly offensive. When attacking on social media, the bully gathers a “mob”, making the bullying escalate quickly, while the attacker is hiding safely behind a screen. It’s a terrible thing to do.

    • rindlrad March 19, 2019, 6:40 pm

      I really like your point here. This is what is so annoying to me about cultural appropriation and, frankly, most political correctness. Why should your friend need to explain the details of her daughter’s heritage to a bunch of strangers in order to justify her choice of dressing her daughter in a traditional Japanese dress? It’s nobody else’s business! It’s like some demented trial where guilt is assumed until the Committee of National Virtue takes it upon itself to decide if your friend’s daughter has “enough” Japanese blood to allow her to escape the awful sin of wearing traditional clothing while appearing to be white. Your friend owes no explanations.

  • BMS2000 March 11, 2019, 11:42 am

    I’m looking around my work office right now. I have a beautiful Chinese fan that a student brought me from his hometown. I have an Indonesian pocketbook, a Sri Lankan elephant figurine, a wood box from Columbia, a doll from India and a lovely hanging of my name written in Arabic – all gifts from students. Should I ditch them all because I’m ‘appropriating someone’s culture’? Seems to me that would be rather offensive. These gifts were given in appreciation for my help, and I find them all beautiful, and a conversation point for new students.

    I have two adopted Guatemalan sons, my husband is German/Scotch/Dutch/English and I am Irish/Polish/German. What music should we be listening to? Personally, I like everything except country, with a strong emphasis on rock. The two Guatemalans are string players who prefer classical music (clearly, I failed as a parent). Husband loves all sorts of stuff, particularly Reggae in the car. I’m not going to sit in silence because I might offend someone by playing music that isn’t “mine”.

    People have wayyy too much free time if they get worked up over this stuff. People ask me why I’m not on facebook or twitter. This is why.

    • LizaJane March 12, 2019, 7:17 pm

      I’m laughing at your musical failures. I would feel the same.

  • Rebecca M. March 11, 2019, 11:48 am

    People getting offended in advance of and on behalf of others can be irritating, it’s true.


    If somebody is part of that culture and they feel offended by your actions, their feelings are valid. It doesn’t matter if they’re not part of some polled majority of their people. If you hurt their feelings, you at least owe them a second thought and some discourse. Maybe once you explain your intentions it will open their worldview a little. Maybe once they explain their position your worldview will expand. Maybe nobody learns anything. But it’s hardly “bullying” to say “this hurts my feelings” when your feelings have been hurt.

    • admin March 12, 2019, 6:29 pm

      I believe what we are talking about are people who are not interested in a rational discussion but instead target, bully, harass, intimidate to gain some level of power over those they disagree with. If feelings initiate a knee-jerk bullying response, those feelings are not valid.

      • A Person March 14, 2019, 4:35 pm

        All feelings are valid. The reasons behind them may not be.

        • admin March 16, 2019, 5:10 am

          NO, if your feelings spring forth from a reaction to what turns out to be a lie or a hoax, your feelings of offense, anger, etc are not valid because they are not based on factual data. If you react in anger to a situation that turns out to not be as you originally presumed, your initial feelings are not valid. If you sob in depression believing your boyfriend forgot you on Valentine’s Day, your feelings of being rejected would be invalid if the truth was he was in an auto accident that landed him in hospital. A lot of feelings are not valid which means we do a lot of apologizing for our bad reactions that were not based in a factual truth.

          • Angela Allen March 17, 2019, 10:01 am

            I’d say that the original reaction was completely valid if you had reason to believe that the situation was real (thinking that a person had insulted you and it turns out you misunderstood). Continuing the reaction when the situation is corrected would not be reasonable.

  • AM March 11, 2019, 11:53 am

    I think you missed the mark on this.

    You shared some relatively benign examples of cultural appropriation, but didn’t address the ways it can be hurtful. If you haven’t already, go back and watch Katy Perry’s performance of “Unconditionally” at the 2014 VMAs. She takes a song that has no Asian influences whatsoever and performs it in something that looks like a cross between a kimono and a cheongsam under falling cherry blossoms because… why, exactly? Maybe she just liked the aesthetic. But it’s noteworthy that she chose that song, in which she declares unconditional love for her partner, to celebrate that aesthetic. We love our children unconditionally, but our romantic partners? That’s kind of a toxic idea, and it’s the kind of idea that’s tied up with Western ideas about Asian women– the silent, subservient, tea-serving Geisha fantasy. This is not just an old colonialist idea. This is something actual Asian women have to deal with in the dating world. Some white men specifically seek out Asian women and write creepy stuff on their profiles about what they’re hoping to get out of it. Putting on an outfit that suggests Asian influences to perform adoring subservience reinforces this stereotype and harms actual Asian women.
    You didn’t write about Katy Perry, I realize, but nothing happens in a vacuum. The picture you show of Kezia Daum wasn’t the only one she shared online. She also shared a photo of herself and her friends, also in Chinese-inspired dresses, pressing their hands together as if to bow in traditional Eastern greetings. Yes, she’s still a high school student, she probably meant no harm, but she put on the internet evidence of literal mockery of another culture. It says something that you are brimming with sympathy for her being called out in a frankly mild way on the same forum she chose to share that photo, but that you show no compassion for the children who grew up hearing racial epithets directed at them, whose culture and identity was a source of amusement for their classmates (didn’t you ever see a kid pull up the corners of his eyes pretending to be Chinese? I sure did, and I’m a lot younger than you). These children may be the ones who grew up to “like” Jeremy Lam’s tweet, but you only see them as bullies, not as victims of bullying themselves.

    • admin March 11, 2019, 3:59 pm

      I knew someone would mention the “bow” photo which Daum describes as, “It was in reference to a YouTube channel called h3h3Productions with Ethan Kline. … It was nothing to do with race.” Daum has said that the gesture was actually a reference to a pose done by a popular YouTube comedian named Ethan Klein (who has since spoken up in support of Daum), and had nothing to do with her dress.

      Melissa Dawes, mother of Keziah Daum, told All the Moms that the group of friends’ poses come from a meme created and popularized by YouTuber Ethan Klein of the channel H3H3 Productions.

      In November 2014, Klein uploaded a video making fun of a new Papa John’s advertisement. The video grew in popularity among his viewers, and he would return to the jokes in many more videos to come.

      Over time, the phrase “Papa Bless” became embraced by Klein’s fanbase as a reference to and praise of his various comedic videos. The clasped hands soon became a visual symbol for the “Papa Bless” phrase. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/news/2018/05/01/chinese-dress-cheongsam-to-prom-teen-controversy/34929395/

      The “Papa Bless” gif: https://tenor.com/view/papa-bless-h3h3-g3-hila-gif-9717120

      Even if this was a Thai greeting bow, precisely how is this racist if done by white people?

      As for Katy Perry, ever see a Japanese blue grass band? There are quite a few of them in Japan and as you can see in this video of the Yatsugatake Mountain Boys, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heXJvQ9xy-E, they are culturally misappropriating blue grass music, Appalachian mountain culture complete with dress and twanged accents. One could argue that they are perpetuating the stereotype of rednecks. The difference is that Redbull, the Yatsugatake Mountain Boys and other Japanese blue grass bands are generously embraced by American blue grass fans who see the expansion of bluegrass into other cultures as a good thing.

      • AM March 11, 2019, 11:07 pm

        Even if you believe the “Papa Bless” defense (you’re not in the market for a bridge, are you?) does it not strike you as inappropriate to pair that with the outfits they chose? Plenty of people enjoy watermelon and/ or fried chicken, but if KFC advertised a bucket of wings and side of watermelon for MLK Day and someone criticized this move, would you call that person a bully?

        As for your response about Katy Perry… even if white people were persecuted in Japan, your example would not show that appropriation isn’t harmful, just that it goes both ways. “But they do it too!” is hardly a moral defense.

        • admin March 12, 2019, 2:26 am

          The “outfits they chose”? You stated this: “She also shared a photo of herself and her friends, also in Chinese-inspired dresses.”
          Here is the photo: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*zki7gTQrUF3MheTZg5myww.jpeg

          In the photo of 10 people, the guys are in very western business suits and 4 of the 5 females are in very western prom dresses. Only Keziah Daum is in a Chinese qipao. What you have done is present false evidence in order to mislead people into believing an accusation of racism.

          The males are notdoing the Papa Bless sign at all whereas the females are.

    • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 4:17 am

      Don’t we already have words for the harmful things you describe, like racism and stereotyping? Why lump together nice stuff like wearing some clothes from a different culture in with stuff that is clearly bad? I think people are trying a guilt-by-association argument with this “cultural appropriation”.

      “Some white men specifically seek out Asian women and write creepy stuff on their profiles about what they’re hoping to get out of it”

      So why not call those men out? And leave the teenager wearing a Chinese-inspired prom dress alone? What’s the causal link here? Why are you attributing these men’s behaviour to the influence of women? Isn’t that rather sexist?

      “but she put on the internet evidence of literal mockery of another culture”

      I don’t see how copying another cultural gesture is inherently mockery of it. I suspect you have muddled up the words “literally” and “figuratively”.

  • kingsrings March 11, 2019, 12:17 pm

    I completely agree with Admin. For one, I don’t depend on the opinions of Internet strangers to dictate what my choices should be. Why should I? Secondly, cultural appropriation has a very broad definition, so it’s impossible to make final judgments on what it should be and what the rules are. I believe that people that call out others on this topic are at heart passive-aggressive bullies. Make up your own mind on what’s acceptable and what’s not, because you will never please the masses!

    • rindlrad March 11, 2019, 2:20 pm


  • LizaJane March 11, 2019, 12:44 pm

    Oh my. I got into a “discussion ” about this. It was about Americans loving K-Pop being cultural appropriation. Who knew?

    First, I have no interest in that music, but I found it frustrating that listening to foreign music could be so offensive. I get the point that fangirls taking it to the extreme and pretending to be Korean is ridiculous. But there’s always the lunatic fringe…best to ignore them.

    Some went so far as to say wearing a dress with a mandarin collar or a “Hawaiian ” print shirt was an insult.

    My last comment was that no more Levi’s should be sold out of the US and nobody should wear a plaid flannel shirt unless it was their clan tartan.

    I was informed that the US has no culture.

    • Julie March 12, 2019, 9:07 am

      The US certainly has culture, but US mainstream culture has never been the target of institutionalised oppression and attempts at extinction. It’s great to admire other cultures, but if minorities still face discrimination when they are not actively trying to assimilate to mainstream culture, it’s not ok for us as a society to admire those same expressions of culture in people who are already privileged.

      Black hair is a good example. It doesn’t matter whether it’s dreadlocks or Afros, this battle has been fought since the 60s and yet you still hear about school children being sent home to “tame” their natural hair, you still hear about black athletes being forced to shave their heads (see above) etc. Yet, when Kylie Jenner gets dreadlocks, hers aren’t ‘unhygienic’, ‘smelly’ or ‘unkempt’. It’s a fallacy to believe that, because people of privilege ‘celebrate’ those cultural expressions, black dreadlocks suddenly become more accepted. This is not the case. I know admin has pointed out above that other cultures wear dreadlocks. While this is true, in the US, historically, Afro-Americans are the ones who have been bullied, if we must use that word, for their hair for centuries. There are lots of interesting books, documentaries and articles written on the subject of black hair. For white Americans, it may not be a big deal. It’s just hair. You may have been bullied as a child for having curly or ginger hair, etc. That is fundamentally different from being the victim of institutional racism. An entire culture has been built around making hair ‘less black’ and therefore ‘prettier’. Generations upon generations of people who have been taught to despise the way they look, the way their parents, siblings, children and neighbours look, only for the privileged to turn around and use those hairstyles to make themselves look ‘edgier’. Suddenly you’ve got fashion magazines talking about how amazing Kylie Jenner looks with her dreadlocks while simultaneously ridiculing a black child (Blue Ivy) for her ‘unkempt’ hair, proving that it’s NOT a matter of society finally becoming more accepting.

      To summarise: Cultural appropriation isn’t just liking another culture. It’s valuing expressions of that culture while simultaneously maintaining a cultural hierarchy in which it is a disadvantage to actually belong to the ‘admired’ culture, but an advantage to be ‘cultured’ and educated. Picking aspects of it to enrich yourself, such as a pretty dress, tattoo, religious symbols for decorations, etc. is not celebrating that culture. And it’s a whole lot worse when these things are appropriated to be sold by an outsider, because it often means that people who produce traditional garments or pieces of art lose out on revenue.

      For the most part, this is not something an individual can tackle. A white person who wears dreadlocks probably isn’t personally responsible for a black person wearing the same style being discriminated against. The scale of it is no enormous that it will not go away anytime soon. My suggestion would be to really think about why you want dreadlocks/an Afro/a sacred tattoo. Of course context is important. If you are invited to an Indian wedding, for example, where you are in the minority, and you wish to wear Indian dress to celebrate the culture, it is unlikely that your hosts would be offended by you partaking (although I would ask beforehand).

      So, your example of K-Pop doesn’t really work. K-Pop is an export product. The whole point is to sell it to foreigners and have them partake in the culture. There is no historical element of discrimination (that I’m aware of). K-Pop is Koreans being in control of how they present themselves and their own cultures and they are admired for it.

      • LizaJane March 12, 2019, 6:56 pm

        Actually, it does work because that discussion actually happened and I related what was said. I didn’t bring up K-Pop in the discussion, and I read every single post before I commented.

        I was told that we have no culture. Your detailed explanation of persecution and privilege doesn’t change that being said. You make a case for why it doesn’t count. Or at least why non-black culture doesn’t.

        Everything you wrote was true. You wrote it well and have a very up-to-date vocabulary. I still experienced that conversation.

        • Julie March 20, 2019, 7:14 am

          I do apologise, I didn’t mean to be dismissive of your experience, but I did come across that way, in retrospect.

          If there was any confusion, I also do not actually think American culture doesn’t count. I used Black culture as one example, because it’s an easy one.

      • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 3:14 am

        Hold on, how do you get from bigots harassing people to “it’s not ok for us as a society to admire those same expressions of culture in people who are already privileged”?

        How do you think we can change our culture if we can’t admire expressions of other cultures by people who are already privileged? Do you think bigots are suddenly going to start admiring dreadlocks if they only ever see them on people who the bigots bully?

        And the rest of what you say is equally confusing:
        “It’s valuing expressions of that culture while simultaneously maintaining a cultural hierarchy in which it is a disadvantage to actually belong to the ‘admired’ culture, but an advantage to be ‘cultured’ and educated.”

        Surely the problem here is maintaining said cultural hierarchy at all? (And how is it not an advantage to be educated? Virtually every culture in the world admires education of one sort or another.)

        And “Yet, when Kylie Jenner gets dreadlocks, hers aren’t ‘unhygienic’, ‘smelly’ or ‘unkempt’. ” Well, yes, dreadlocks aren’t unhygenic, or smelly.

        You then say: “It’s a fallacy to believe that, because people of privilege ‘celebrate’ those cultural expressions, black dreadlocks suddenly become more accepted. ”

        Sure, cultural change is seldom immediate. But it’s quite logical that those cultural expressions will *slowly* become more accepted: it’s what happened when upper class fashionable women started wearing trousers.

        I mean what’s your alternative here? We can’t change bigots suddenly, so we just give up?

        And then you say: “Picking aspects of it to enrich yourself, such as a pretty dress, tattoo, religious symbols for decorations, etc. is not celebrating that culture. ”
        But it’s not clear what relevance this has to your argument. Presumably not picking aspects of that culture also is not celebrating said culture.

        You are criticising cross-cultural borrowing by a combination of guilt-by-association (,e.g. lumping it in with “maintaining cultural hierarchies”) and ridiculously high standards (e.g. it doesn’t change bigotry immediately so you imply that’s a reason to dismiss it).

        • LizaJane March 14, 2019, 5:17 pm

          You waded through all those words like a boss!

        • Julie March 20, 2019, 7:58 am

          You cut off half of that sentence you quoted in the beginning. It’s not ok to simultaneously call black people who wear dread locks dirty, smelly, unkempt etc., and at the same time coo over a celebrity wearing that same style, who also conveniently happens to be white. If you don’t think black people get called these things, then I suggest you do some research on the matter. Again, I am talking about discrimination on a larger scale. I’m not attacking you personally and an individual wearing dread locks or ethnic dress is not at the core of the problem. Of course, we can just go the easy route and pretend it’s just bigots (who are supposedly few and far?) who cause all the awfulness, but then we’d have to go against basically any research ever done in the field of sociology and cultural anthropology and we also have to ignore everything a massive group of people is telling us about their experience, right now.

          You asked what we should be doing instead. I you want to show your support, why not support the people who are an authentic part of that culture, rather than just picking whichever aspect you admire and putting it on a person of privilege? Why admire the way a white person wears dread locks when you can put a black person with dreadlocks on the cover? There are “upper class, fashionable“ black women.
          Buy authentic, ethnic art, rather than cheap copies from massive cooperations. If you’re an artist, work WITH ethnic artists rather than stealing their style for your owngain. If you want to remove the race element, it’s generally not ok to take someone’s work and pretend it’s your own. Why would it be ok if it’s ripping off an entire culture, rather than an individual?
          Go to authentic ethnic restaurants instead of upmarket “fusion“ places.
          Accept invitations from minority groups to join their celebrations as a guest, rather than hosting your own insert-ethnicity-here party.
          Read the thousands of books that minority writers have put work and tears into, detailing their experience, rather than expecting them to explain it to you personally over and over again.
          LISTEN to minority groups when they do speak and become an ally if you agree with their cause.

          These are just a few examples of the things that can be done to change the status quo. By no means do you just have to give up.

          There can be no equal sharing of culture when things are essentially taken off one culture for another culture to profit off instead. And, yes, social status, admiration, respect etc. are all forms of profit.

      • Kirsten March 14, 2019, 6:20 pm

        Well said. I’m astonished by the number of people who are struggling to understand this concept.

  • Devin March 11, 2019, 12:48 pm

    I would use some caution in relying solely on your neighborhood sphere for feedback on what is and isn’t cultural appropriation. In some parts of the US socialcircles/neighborhood/towns have very little diversity and almost no factual knowledge of other cultures or social norms, and still consider otherness as scary, something to mock, or weird. Actions of cultural appropriation or outright racism are mirrored by their peers, and considered acceptable. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out why something is problematic, but having one person make a reasonable, factual statement is different than 100k comments with personal attacks.
    The small town I grew up in had a ‘sleepy mexican’ as an official city mascot for much of the early 90s, when I was in elementary school. Only in hindsight and with an outside perspective do I see how offensive that is. Locally people still wonder why the city did away with the logos.

    • licoricepencil March 11, 2019, 1:07 pm

      I agree with this.

      Hopefully people in that small town will eventually see the issues with the old mascot!

      • Gina tonic March 15, 2019, 4:51 pm

        Thing is – they won’t see the problem unless people point it out and they finally “get it”. But this is apparently bullying?!?!?!

        If you do something racist, you deserve to be called out for it.

        • admin March 18, 2019, 9:30 am

          In the words of Ben Shapiro, “If you call me a racist without evidence, you are a dumbass.” And you deserve to be called out as a dumbass.

          If you claim to have evidence of racism that you use to fuel your calling out someone, this now raises the claim from mere opinion that you can be mocked as being a dumbass to potentially libel you can get sued if your “evidence” is shown to be “provably false”. Attributing a racist quote to the wrong person would be an example of provably false evidence of racism.

          Decades ago, in the Usenet era, a not-so-uncommon tactic to silence people with opposing opinions was to accuse someone of child abuse. The courts had not yet caught up with this new media platform and there was little legal precedent on the issue. That changed as more cases came to court. Call someone a child abuser now and you will get legally crucified if you have no evidence such as court records, police records, registration on a Sexual Offender list, etc. On other words, calling someone a child abuser was legally deemed to be libel per (so damaging on its face that no damages need to be proved). I think claims of racism are moving in the same direction of being legally viewed as “libel per se” precisely because people are pushing for harsh consequences for being labeled a racist such as mass public humiliation, termination from jobs, etc. If we make racism a crime so heinous that anyone accused of it must suffer severe ramifications, what will follow are those who are falsely accused will not be required to prove damages because the damages are presumed inherently in being accused. Courts have shown a willingness to entertain defamation suits against people that irresponsibly misrepresent provable facts and, in doing so, portray people as racist. We’ll see how the Sandmann defamation lawsuits against the Washington Post and CNN (among others) plays out.

    • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 4:25 am

      “Actions of cultural appropriation … are mirrored by their peers, and considered acceptable”

      I think you’ll find that many people living in diverse, neighbourhoods with significant knowledge of other cultures find cultural appropriation acceptable, even, in many cases, good. I find the people who talk about cultural appropriation as a bad thing to be quite ignorant of the history of cultural change (it’s generally slow), and diversity (e.g. different people within the same culture can have diverse views, e.g. some people can like dreadlocks on the privileged and the oppressed, while some other people in the same culture at the same time can dislike dreadlocks on both the privileged and the oppressed).

  • LizaJane March 11, 2019, 12:50 pm

    Hooo earrings? Seriously? Because black and brown people invented the circle?
    Nope. Any ancient person seeing the sun or full moon could see it in nature.

    Try again.

    • Marozia March 11, 2019, 7:01 pm

      I wear hoop earrings all the time, and not because of my Romani heritage either. I like them, I wear them. Big deal.

      • LizaJane March 12, 2019, 9:04 am


        • Pep March 13, 2019, 6:23 am

          My mom had these green hoop earrings back in the early 1970s that she wore because that’s what the drugstore in our town sold, and they went with a dress she had. Never thought that someday, somewhere, this could possibly offend someone.

          • LizaJane March 13, 2019, 12:16 pm

            I knooooooow. People are so uptight now.

      • Melissa March 13, 2019, 1:18 pm

        Hoop earrings are my go-to earrings, because they “go” with everything: they can be casual or dressy. I had no idea they were cultural in any way, especially just plain silver hoops. Same with toe rings (I thought I was the only person who actually still wears a toe ring anyway lol, at this point it’s been there for about 15 years and I don’t really even think about it, but I didn’t think they were “in” anymore)

        I’m just glad I’m Southern so I can still say y’all 🙂

  • Erin T. Aardvark March 11, 2019, 2:45 pm

    I attribute bullying to be the underlying cause of my low self-esteem. No matter what I did, I was bullied for it. When I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade (1992-1993), I had admitted to still considering “Care Bears” one of my favorite cartoons (my guess is these kids considered 10 years old was too old for things like Care Bears, My Little Pony, and Strawberry Shortcake). I was also made fun of because I liked cartoons in general. When I was in high school, I was bullied because I liked The Monkees (this was in 1997). But the worst form of bullying came when I was in the 8th grade (1995-1996). My family had just moved, and I started 8th grade as “The New Kid” in a school where I didn’t know anybody, and I didn’t make friends easily because I was (as one guidance counselor told my parents) “socially immature” (I wasn’t dressing like the other kids, I wasn’t listening to the same music as the other kids, and I wasn’t watching the same TV shows as the other kids, I wasn’t doing the same thing the other kids were doing, you get the idea). Because of my interests, I felt I couldn’t really be myself. Well, I ended up being “grilled” by several classmates over some things I don’t really remember, except one thing. One asked if I ever had a boyfriend before. I said no. Then someone asked if I ever had a girlfriend before, and I said, “a few.” This is because I wasn’t aware they meant girlfriend as in romantic girlfriend. I thought they meant girls who were friends, because I have heard girls refer to each other as girlfriends before. Naturally, they ran with it, and all of a sudden, I was labeled a lesbian. Please keep in mind, this was in between 1995 and 1996, and I’m not too sure if it was still a controversial subject back then (plus, I was only 13). I have nothing against homosexuals, it’s just that I hated being labeled as something I was not.

  • Catherine St Clair March 11, 2019, 2:49 pm

    I admit I love ethnic dress. I once went to the UN and it looked like a convention of Wall Street bankers with everyone in business suits, ties and the standard executive hair cut. I don’t expect you to wear a dashiki with a kilt because an dad was from Africa and mom is a Scot, but I love to see a man with a keffiyeh, even if he is in a suit. I like yarmulkes, hijabs, and kimonos too. I look very German and I have a cousin from Jamaica who has dreadlocks. We are related through Scottish ancestors and we go to Scottish festivals wearing our clan tartan and badges.

    • admin March 11, 2019, 3:06 pm

      Clan tartans are one of those items that people wear having no idea what it is,the history or the clan name.

      • LizaJane March 11, 2019, 8:17 pm

        Yup. Imagine if the Scots went into a snit every time someone did THAT. But we don’t.
        You can even wear a kilt as far as I’m concerned. Just don’t do it ceremonially if you haven’t a clan.

      • Catherine St Clair March 13, 2019, 4:41 pm

        That’s true. My cousin and I had worked together for years and were friends until we started talking about DNA and family histories. She told me that her family had white ancestry from her several times great grandmother whose father’s surname was Campbell. That’s a Scottish surname, not English. My six times great grandmother was Susan Campbell from Inveraray, Scotland. Work was dead that night so I got on my computer and went to a genealogy website and found her Campbell ancestor. He was also born in Inveraray and went to Jamaica to make his fortune as he was a younger son of the Duke of Argyll. (I have Alexander MacVicar in my family line; and he was gamekeeper for the Duke of Argyll some generations later.) We were able to get her ancestry back to the first known of her ancestors, Mor Og (Mor the Great). We never found out what he is great at doing, but he must have has a gift. We figure we must be related as Inveraray is a small village and would have been even smaller back then. History is fascinating once you get into it and start tracing things back in time.

  • rindlrad March 11, 2019, 3:12 pm

    Admin – Thanks for the topic. I suppose I feel my Dad’s advice about bullies from when I was in elementary school holds true to bullies on the internet today. Bullies are cowards – stand up to them and, eventually, they will lose interest and leave you alone.

    I’ve always thought that cultural appropriation was just one more politically correct piece of nonsense. That’s how civilizations are built and have always been built – we borrow from others and they borrow from us. However, if you’re going to get upset because I, as a person of pallor, am enjoying sushi, wearing pajamas, listening to New Orleans jazz, and trying to decide if I’m going to wear a dirndl for Halloween (Surprise! Not all white people are from the same place – wearing traditional clothing from Germany would definitely make me an appropriating appropriator.) – well, you be you. Enjoy your outrage. Just, you know, do it waaaaaay over there. You’re harshing my jazz-and-sushi-induced mellow.

    • LizaJane March 11, 2019, 8:18 pm

      This right here.

  • Dragonfly March 12, 2019, 8:44 am

    I was proud of Keziah Daum for standing up for herself, because more people need to have a spine when bullies come shrieking. She’s a great role model. More, it was lovely of Neal Larson to point out how utterly stupid her would-be bully was — she gave him no power to bully her, so I say “would-be.” Back when Michelle Kwan was ice skating, an Olympics commentator observed that her name is very American, because it’s French and Chinese, an exemplar of our melting pot ideal … before balkanizers decided to force everyone into narrow lanes and pit them against each other. You’d think someone named “Jeremy Lam” would embrace the melting pot ideal, not spit on it.

    People who carry on about cultural appropriation do so out of a combination of ignorance and wanting to have unearned power over others. There is no virtue whatsoever in their signaling. Not knowing that dreadlocks and cornrows never have been, and never will be specific to black people is ignorant (hello, Jason Mamoa, as our hostess points out). Wanting to police the “wrong” people for sporting those styles is about power, which is a trait of bullies.

    And, I love that these people think you should ask permission from a member of a culture before doing the “appropriation,” because that particular insanity hinges on the extremely bigoted assumption that ALL members of a group think EXACTLY alike. So, if you get “permission” from one member, then you have permission from all of them.

    And of course, the cultural appropriation bullies, in addition to their ignorance, are also intellectually dishonest. I asked one wanna-be bully point blank if she condemned the Japanese anime industry. She has to, if her opposition to appropriation is principled:

    1) The medium was invented in the West,
    2) Its trademark style, “big eyes, small mouths,” came straight from Disney’s “Bambi,” as the godfather of anime shamelessly explained;
    3) Plot points, characters, even language “appropriate” Western culture: the boombox-playing rappers in the deliberately anachronistic “Samurai Champloo,” the Christian cross weirdly used in “Go Lion,” the story in “Full Metal Alchemist” takes place in a fantasy-counterpart Germany, etc. If you watch subtitled anime, you’ll notice how often English words are interspersed with Japanese.

    Oddly, I received no response from her, and I’d bet it’s partly because it never occurred to her that cultural influences could travel in two opposite directions. See “Seven Samurai” —> “Magnificent Seven” and “Macbeth —> “Throne of Blood.” She was of the mentality that “Magnificent Seven” is racist appropriation, and is shallow enough to not suppose a “Throne of Blood” could exist. I also suspect she’s one of those people who believe in “power hierarchies,” and if she designates the Japanese as powerless compared to Westerners then it’s okay for Akira Kurosawa to appropriate, but not John Sturges.

    “I am very proud to have our culture recognized by people in other countries,” said someone called Snail Trail.

    Yes. I’m old enough to remember when not borrowing from other cultures was considered racist, a cultural form of a haijin ban where the underlying assumption is that other cultures are inferior, and have nothing we’d want. But nowadays the balkanizers declare that people from India or Pakistan who wear jeans and T-shirts are “mentally colonized,” and if non-Asians wear a half-blouse or sari then they’re racist and appropriating. Normal people do not think that way. Normal people think of clothes as pretty and/or practical, and wear what they like.

    It’s interesting that failure to embrace the good form of multiculturalism — “those people have a great idea, let’s borrow it” — was once racist, but now the exact opposite is racist. I’m willing to bet money that as soon as people board the cultural-appropriation-is-bad bandwagon, that a failure to culturally appropriate will be racist again. All that is consistent is the scolds will still seek to label you as the bad guy, and control what you do. Don’t let them.

    • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 4:30 am

      I agree. Note how a commentator here says that there are white men with dating profiles who are openly racistly looking for Asian girlfriends, but who does the mob call out? A teenage girl. Who has the more power? It’s dangerous to criticise those who are truly powerful, much safer to go after someone you think is a weak victim.

      • LizaJane March 15, 2019, 6:03 pm

        Very insightful post.

    • admin March 18, 2019, 7:28 am

      Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” is better than “The Magnificent Seven”. My favorite Kurosawa movie is “Ikiru” (To Live), a movie Roger Ebert said was one of the few films that can actually change the way you look at life after watching it.

  • chigrrl March 12, 2019, 9:49 am

    What an odd collection of examples of “bullying”. While some of the appropriation accusations are silly, there are FAR more instances of the cultural appropriators disrespecting other cultures. This reads more as a bone to pick with the very concept of appropriation. Are we gonna say that people who get called out for wearing blackface victims of bullying next?

    This is the second post by admin that reeks of subversive racism (ex. the blog about Chinese tourists). Maybe stick to actual etiquette issues, bullying is WAY out of your area of expertise based on your dated hot takes on popular culture and issues.

    • admin March 18, 2019, 10:27 am

      Whoopi Goldberg defended boyfriend Ted Danson for his black face routine at a Friars CLub roast of Goldberg in 1993. Per the Slate:

      Danson might not have recovered from the disastrous performance were it not for the fact that Goldberg stood by him so unreservedly. When she appeared onstage after his performance, she fumed at the audience’s obvious disgust. “It takes a lot of courage to come out in blackface in front of 3,000,” she said. “I don’t care if you don’t like it. I do!” She later said that she herself had written much of Danson’s material, and called the backlash “insane.” She accused his critics of not understanding comedy. “Whoopi has never been about political correctness,” she told the Times. https://slate.com/culture/2019/02/ted-danson-blackface-whoopi-goldberg-political-correctness.html

      And at the press conference she held a few days later, Whoopi Goldberg vehemently defended Danson against all criticism stating, it “has caused great hurt to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” She said she resented the reactions of thousands of people who “don’t even know me.” Ms. Goldberg and Mr. Danson have said that they received hate mail about their relationship and that it had been a factor in their decision to do a comic routine that would bring racial stereotypes into the open. Ms. Goldberg said: “Ted prefaced his remarks by saying to me, ‘I love you, I’m proud of you, and I love being with you.’ That’s all being left out by people.”

      Clearly Goldberg viewed Danson as a victim of bullying for wearing blackface.

      As to the accusation of “subversive racism” as evidenced by the “Chinese Tourists – Is the Cultural Revolution Really To Blame For The Current State of Ill-Manners?” blog post (http://www.etiquettehell.com/?p=5488)….

      There are 64 blog posts in the “Travel” subcategory. Sixty-two of them discuss specific US tourists’ bad behavior or don’t mention any nationality whatsoever. There is one post about a Chinese Canadian’s bizarre behavior (his bad behavior defined by his own identification) but that is not the post you are referring. What you have an issue with is that “Chinese Tourists” blog post had 3 videos embedded in it that were produced and published by either the Chinese government, Chinese media, Chinese organization or Chinese nationals addressing the issue of mainland Chinese tourists. Chinese behavior discussed by Chinese people. Horrors! Apparently you’ve lowered the bar as to what defines racism to include reporting on information about Chinese tourists by Chinese people.

      Your follow-on comment was deemed to be bullying and threatening enough to initiate a look into who you really are. And it wasn’t hard to do given the data the blog collects and you freely choose to submit. Given that you are a white woman, you lack any credibility to be offended by that post.

  • staceyizme March 12, 2019, 3:49 pm

    I guess what it comes down to is that “shame on you!” is toxic whether it’s heaped upon minorities who’ve been marginalized or whether it’s heaped on a teen who found a dress and wore it to prom without gaining UN level clearance or having the appropriate “bona fides” for the outfit. Don’t shame people and don’t support the shaming of them. Honestly, it doesn’t work in politics, faith or social intercourse of any kind. Each of us can make our own choices and should be permitted to do so with relative immunity from the inference of harm. If you dislike something, you may be right. But you don’t have the right to be an asshole about it. (And to be clear, being an asshole about it generally has to do with setting yourself up as judge and jury in a public sphere, heaping scorn on whoever you disagree with an egging on others to do the same.) Someone said above that the evils of cultural appropriation won’t be corrected (or expiated) by ganging up on someone who made what you consider a questionable choice. Because while cultural appropriation and robbery of culturally specific music, art and intellectual property by the privileged is real, it isn’t likely to be rectified by an endless train of outrage spewing from whoever styles themselves as the keepers of some metaphorical sacred flame of a culture’s content or its privilege of expression. For many offenses, an eye roll will do. For more egregious ones, there is social ostracism, social commentary and the courts. But these corrective measures should be used somewhat sparingly, or they themselves become trivialized.

  • InTheEther March 12, 2019, 8:03 pm

    And the expected wave of “but what about this one example of hurtful appropriation” examples came up. Clearly we must carefully segregate all cultures. Because if one person misused it clearly all uses are wrong. There is no middle ground.

    Of course, you know, there is. I’m not saying you don’t have to be a little careful when using aspects of another culture, but you don’t have to treat it like its leprosy either. There’s ALWAYS been a certain amount of cultural trade and its only going to increase as the internet and other methods of global communication become more common. ((And I really don’t get the “this culture has been mocked for this aspect so white people/other races aren’t allowed to touch it” argument. It really feels like that’s going to perpetuate the issue more than anything else.))

    Handy Dandy Cheat sheet on appropriation no-no’s with examples
    Don’t Misrepresent the culture- There’s been a real issue with new age pot heads basically selling these purification camps. It’s all vaguely based native American steam houses and coming of age ceremonies, except that they have no clue what they’re talking about and its actually really dangerous because they don’t know what they’re doing and you can’t just steam people like dumplings. The first nation has actually put out statements condemning this. In general don’t speak with authority on something when you don’t actually know anything about it. Doubly so if you’re using X culture as a selling point.
    Stay away from anything that was historically used to marginalize said culture- No black face, yellow face, whatever color face. There is a long history in cinema of white actors getting the lead roles and shellacking themselves the right color while actors of the actual race were only allowed to play villains. This was an active thing. Ditto with the sexy savage trope.
    No brainer but stay away from actual mocking- no Asians can’t drive or Mexicans have 20 kids caricatures. This should be plenty obvious.
    Be SUPER careful with religion- Its religion, its always touchy. If you don’t practice it you probably don’t know enough to not be insulting. And its not great to casually treat something that has significant importance to other people. Though if ‘Piss Christ’ has arguments for why its okay then there’s an argument for anything.
    If that culture has said no then NO- Aborigine stories hold significance to the people and there is a short list that the people themselves have said can be shared. Respect their wishes.

    Otherwise, there’s no reason why it should be bad to take part in some small part of another culture. I bet restaurant owners wouldn’t appreciate if we took this to the extreme and white people no longer ate egg rolls or curry or jerk chicken or the list goes on. It feels like a slippery slope between ‘You’re not [race], you can’t wear that’ and ‘that’s purely an Asian thing only for Asians and only in their own fenced off area away from everyone else’.

    There’s a really good video essay from Lindsey Ellis on Moana that’s all about cultural appropriation, if anyone wants to check that out.

  • Molly March 12, 2019, 9:05 pm

    I remember reading a wise saying here on Etiquette Hell: “If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one who yelps is the one who got hit.” I feel like this post and many comments are yelps from folks who didn’t like being hit with the cultural appropriation rock.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here. I’m a white lady and I’ve used stuff from other cultures. I’ve worn Asian clothing, had a braid put in my hair while visiting the Bahamas, and I belly dance. I’m sure I’ve done a lot of other borrowing from other cultures. Was this cultural appropriation? Was it disrespectful? I don’t know. What I do know is that I did these things because I wanted to, not because I had researched the historical background, or because I think we are all part of a huge global humanity in which no culture can claim ownership of ideas, yadda yadda yadda.

    Looking at the post and comments, I see lots of the same rationalizations I’ve used to myself. That people use plaid without considering the historical significance, that lots of cultures use dreadlocks, that wearing ethnic clothing helps it become mainstream, etc. If I’m honest with myself, these rationalizations are all just crap. I say then to avoid feeling guilty or feeling like I need to stop doing things I enjoy.

    I plan to keep experiencing aspects of other cultures, even if sometimes others might call them appropriation. However, I will also try to question myself about my motives and reflect on the impact of my use of cultural items. I know that is a tiny response, but maybe it will be a foot in the door for future growth. I just urge you all to keep an open mind to the damage appropriation can do. Don’t act like it is just bullying. Don’t get so blinded by you need to defend yourself that you refuse to consider that idea that you might be in the wrong. Live life without bowing to bullies, but, like, don’t be a pigheaded jerk.

    • Tracy W March 14, 2019, 3:25 am

      “from folks who didn’t like being hit with the cultural appropriation rock.”

      I think you will find that most people don’t like being hit by rocks.

      “I just urge you all to keep an open mind to the damage appropriation can do. Don’t act like it is just bullying. ”

      Sure, and I’m also going to keep an open mind to the good cultural appropriation can do. At the moment, the arguments for the good strike me as more plausible than the arguments for the harm.

      But I’m going to continue to regard being hit by rocks as bullying. It may not be “just bullying” but the key word is “bullying”.

  • InTheEther March 13, 2019, 1:50 am

    How dare this American girl wear a cheongsam/zansae. That’s Chinese … … and less than a hundred years old … … and originally made to mimic western dress as opposed to the more traditional manchuran qípáo and has almost nothing design wise in common with more traditional Chinese dress other than the collar and buttons … …
    Wait, what?

    • Jamie March 13, 2019, 9:49 pm

      I know, that’s the part that makes me laugh. When researching a novel, I discovered that the “traditional” Vietnamese dress, the ao dai, is fairly new, dating from the 20s or 30s, and was a reaction to French fashions. Which meant having my character wear it would be an anachronism. Oh well!

      Also discovered: the dragon fruit popular in Southeast Asian cuisine isn’t even from there. The French brought it to their Asian colonies from Mexico, and the Thai and Vietnamese “culturally appropriated” it. And in America, I know at least one Chinese restaurant that uses jalapenos in some of their spicier dishes. It’s almost as if normal people will just grab whatever they like and adapt it for their own use or something.

  • Princess Buttercup March 13, 2019, 5:06 am

    I really dislike the love for being offended. So eager to be offended people get offended for others who aren’t necessarily offended. As if being offended is some sort of high ground or badge of honor. Quite the opposite. It signals a weakness. An inability to handle the world.

    Many of these testing things from other cultures is not disrespectful. In fact it often means the person has learned something about a different set of people. Also that they found something in that culture that they liked enough to give it a try. This can create an affection for that culture and its people. That means the person is more likely to support and defend that culture. It is never a bad thing to gain more knowledge of a culture and people. Knowledge destroys ignorance and hate.

    Along the same lines, I really dislike when people pull up some ancient bad decision and try to ruin a person for it now. “Black face” is not a good idea. However, if the person did it thirty years ago, don’t you think they might have grown and learned from their mistakes? Who hasn’t done or said something that years or decades later they learn was inappropriate and now are ashamed of? I see all these news reporting that some political figure wore “black face” or Confederate clothing thirty/fourty years ago and trying to get everyone to hate and boycott that politician. Have you not grown and learned new things in the last few decades? Because you attacking them for something they haven’t done in many years tells us more about your inability to mature and learn, than it does about the person you are attacking.

    • admin March 13, 2019, 11:09 am

      No one seems to think blacks in white face might be hypocritical. https://theurbandaily.cassiuslife.com/playlist/black-people-in-white-face/item/1 They left out Nick Cannon.

      • admin March 13, 2019, 5:44 pm

        Black face is a historical shame. Watching “Holiday Inn” with Bing Crosby and Virginia Dale in black face for the “Abraham” song/dance sequence is awkward. Virginia Dale was particularly embarrassing in those pigtails sticking out of her head. To be principled is to be systematic about ethical living with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for everyone. It should not be that we culturally condemn one skin color for donning make-up while applauding a difference race for entertaining us in opposing make-up. A principled approach condemns equally regardless of differences therefore I cannot give a “thumbs up” to the contemporary entertainment of applying whiteface by black entertainers in order to mock. If it’s wrong to impersonate another race through the use of make-up, and it is , it’s wrong for everyone.

        • NicoleK March 14, 2019, 4:51 am

          I wouldn’t have counted the Chris Rock one, he looks like he’s going more for Baron Samedi than pretending to be a white dude.

          • admin March 14, 2019, 10:51 am

            A few of the white faces are examples of very talented make-up artists rather than examples of obvious mockery with sloppy make-up.

            A fascinating article (https://www.politico.eu/article/the-case-for-blackface-theatre-african-heritage-offensive/) about white actors donning black make-up to play black roles….Sir Lawrence Olivier in Othello for example. The author makes the case that white actors playing black roles can use black make-up just as black actors playing a white role (Julius Caesar for example) should be able play the role in white makeup without anyone getting their knickers in a twist.

        • Amanda March 14, 2019, 8:06 am

          I have found when taking about culture, the best example to use in the US is the American Flag. How would you feel if a Chinese girl wore an American Flag prom dress, just because it “looked pretty?”

          And yes, some example of appropriation are absurd. However, a particularly egregious, and harmful, example is Order of the Arrow ceremonies for Boy Scouts. While the tradition is changing, now, for many decades mostly white children were lead through a mockery of what was thought to be Native American culture, with no input from Native Americans. Native Americans today STILL must fight to be fairly represented in the media (just look at reviews of the Ballad of Buster Skruggs), partially because stereotypes are being reinforced without consequence (The Redskins, anyone?). Obviously, bullying is not okay. But when you outage hundreds of people, it might be time to reflect on your actions.

          • admin March 14, 2019, 10:18 am

            People have been wearing the American flag as clothing since the 1960’s. Abbie Hoffman immediately comes to mind. And google “American Flag prom dress”. There are many styles available. So what if a Chinese girl wants to wear one?

            As for the Redskins team name, whether native Americans are universally offended by this is a complex and debatable issue. When 2 polls of Native Americans consistently result in a high percentage of Native Americans not being offended, it’s a little hard to keep up the mantra that ALL of them are offended. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Redskins_name_opinion_polls

          • at work March 15, 2019, 9:13 am

            Wow, a lot of what my son’s Boy Scout troop did was connected in some way to my state’s Native Americans. I learned tons about the people who had lived here. The boys were always respectful of the ways and things they learned. One ceremony I witnessed was based very heavily on Shawnee culture and it gave me chills and filled me with respect. To read that some may have found this offensive is bewildering.

          • LizaJane March 15, 2019, 5:11 pm

            Re: Order of the Arrow— The ordeal itself is meant to be about solitude, fasting and introspection–none of which should be offensive to anyone. The problems arise when some well-meaning leaders start planning the ceremony and basically get it all wrong.

            When my boys were inducted, I got in front of it and asked an indigenous friend if she’d be willing to give some guidance and then cleared it with the organizers. My friend recruited another NA and they planned a ceremony that was meaningful without crossing boundaries.

            They did a little extra with my sons because they know their lineage, which is from the same nation as the other friend. All the boys were involved in a sage burning/blessing and some other rituals suitable for anyone to participate in.

            Our local Order was thrilled to have guidance and asked permission to use the “generic” parts in the future. It was given with grace and explanation . Hopefully they’re still using it.

          • PJ March 22, 2019, 12:46 pm

            My former church hosted a Boy Scout troop that erected a totem pole on the property. They engaged a representative of a First Nations group in our community, because they wanted to be sure that it was OK to do. They worked with the representative to design a pole that was meaningful and appropriate. The Native American men said they were pleased that the boys wanted to engage in their heritage, the boys learned a lot about cultures unfamiliar to them, and we (the church) were honored to be part of the process and host to the pole (we got to learn a lot, too).

            It seems to me that this sharing and learning can be done well, and I hate to see when someone cites a bad example of cultural appropriation, and then concludes that all sharing must be bad because of that, even going to the point of dissecting the situation to find the bad in it– like some weird sort of witch hunt because they are hell-bent on finding hate however they can.

            It is a big ask– for someone who has been hurt in the past– to keep a mind open to the idea that everyone else isn’t all out to hurt them. But that willingness of everyone to meet halfway is really needed now.

  • jessiebird March 13, 2019, 11:36 am

    In Japan, “western-style” wedding are popular. (Brides change three times, in fact: white western dress, traditional dress, party gown). The appropriation of the 200-year old Queen-Victoria-inspired western white wedding dress never bothered me. But hiring Caucasian men to dress as priests to officiate gave me the heebie-jeebies. That felt like it crossed a line toward disrespect (because religious meanings probably). But to the Japanese, it is merely romantic and beautiful and they love it. Doing that has become their culture. Oh well. That’s what culture does…

    My husband and I met in Japan. We studied our entire adult lives to doctoral level on topics related to Japan. We speak Japanese. We have lived there for over 10 years. One child was born there and both her life and mine were saved by Japanese obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians. We have deep connections to the society. We are both white (American and European), with no blood connection to the society. We wanted some Japanese touches for our wedding to show this love and personal history and connection. While researching ideas, I came across people complaining that white people were appropriating Asian/Japanese culture for weddings and how dare they and only people with genetic ties had the right. One poster said,”I call my grandmother ‘ba-chan,’ don’t know why….” I could have told her why….

    I did my graduate work in Hawaii. I’m from Chicago of German-Swedish-Irish descent. Are Hawaiian prints off limits to me? There are lots of Asian and Polynesian cultures stuck together on those islands. They have to get along. They do, by ribbing each other good-naturedly. The Japanese and Chinese and Koreans have some serious historical conflicts that still cause discord today, but in the islands, those descendants have got to find a way. So the different cultures in the islands figure out ways to get along, teasing each other for cultural traits, and ultimately blending into an island culture.

    Anthropology 101:
    1. Culture is not monolithic.
    2. Culture is contested.
    3. Culture is not static.

    And as a poster above noted, culture goes back and forth. Japanese are even more into green tea because we are very into green tea because Japanese drink green tea and live a long time. Their gaze is as much on us as ours is on them.

    Does anyone doubt that any society in the world with access to any form of media is not adopting from what they see and learn?

    It is what humans do. Culture is the solutions to problems ALL humans have. It’s amazing and inspiring we have so many good and beautiful and delicious solutions to our problems.

    A culture becomes a “culture” because of social learning, something we humans excel at. What else is happening when practices and traits are borrowed across “cultures?”

    However, the issues of marginalization and oppression and hegemony are very important. It’s probably what a lot of the complainers feel but can’t articulate. But ceasing to borrow from each other’s ideas and solutions is not, well, a solution. Probably borrowing from cultures is the best way to mitigate marginalization in many ways. We just have to add some consciousness and sensitivity to the act, rather than mere consumption.

    And here’s the trick: Japanese-Americans may be a marginalized group in the US with a history of violationa and oppression, but in Japan the nation was an imperial oppressor that colonized Korea and was very brutal to the Chinese, and is pretty racist to its ethnic minorities and immigrants today. Which Japanese culture gets privileged?

    I send my kids to school with Japanese riceballs (onigiri) and Korean seaweed sometimes, having inventing my own kind of jessiebird-Asian fusion (which my kids will carry on and voila, a tiny cultural shift has begun), knowing the other kids where we currently live (small rural mostly-white town) will make fun of them. I use it as an opportunity to teach them how rude it is turn your nose up at other people’s food. To be grateful for food at all and that people somewhere in the world came up with this delicious stuff. And how they are the lucky ones to have been able to live in Japan and taste the real deal, and to use the opportunity to teach their friends how delicious rice balls are (now my son’s best friend loves rice balls). It guess it’s one good use we can put our white banality to: the unthreatening education of isolated peers on otherness. 🙂 Step One: deexoticize rice balls. Step Two: world peace.

    I wish.

    • admin March 13, 2019, 3:29 pm

      Have you ever tried bento boxes?

      • jessiebird March 14, 2019, 10:01 am

        Bento boxes are great! Very organized and efficient.

        Doing it the Japanese way takes a tremendous amount of time, so I don’t, though they are beautiful. But mothers will cut seaweed into tiny strips to make cat whiskers on a rice balls, and slice hot dogs into octopuses…amazing, gorgeous and too much time!

        But for my kids, yes, they work great. Though honestly, I love the Sistema boxes. They are like
        deconstructed bento boxes. 🙂

  • Kim March 13, 2019, 4:12 pm

    I think a lot of cultural appropriation is the intent behind it. As a woman of Polynesian descent, I have seen “costume” versions of some traditional aspects of Native Hawai’ian and other Pacific Islander cultures basically being made into tacky costumes and caricatures at party stores and to me that is not okay because at times I feel it is being made to poke fun at it (there was a recent outcry about Mexican culture being treated the same way). But there is a hula/Polynesian dance troupe here in town and a good number of them are white. That, to me, is different because they are taking time to learn of the culture and are appreciating it in that way, similarly to the cheongsam/qipao prom dress. She wore it because she thought it was beautiful, not to poke fun. Personally, I have belly danced for years, which has its origin in the Middle East. Yes, I wear the costumes. But I have taken the time to learn about the culture as a whole and appreciate it that way.

    • admin March 13, 2019, 5:21 pm

      Don’t you think that the Hawaiian tourist industry caters to a stereotype of Hawai’i? You are not going to get a true native Hawai’ian experience at a resort luau or concert. I do find it amusing that the Cazimero Brothers sing “Ka Mamakakaua” to tourist audiences who have no idea the lyrics are actually about “loyal, patriotic warriors” defending Iolani Palace and the King. It’s a Hawaiian nationalism song sung to a jaunty tune. https://www.huapala.org/Ka/Ka_Mamakakaua.html

  • NicoleK March 14, 2019, 4:44 am

    I think the chokers one is satire…

    • Yellow Rose March 18, 2019, 11:37 am

      I thought so, too. Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII wore them to conceal a neck scar. Hers were actually more than a choker, though. She’s credited with starting the ‘dog collar’ fashion, although hers were fabulous creations of diamonds and precious metals.

  • jessiebird March 14, 2019, 10:17 am

    While in grad school in Hawaii, I saw a free public performance for tourists in Waikiki (with dancers from local tradi?ional dance schools) who did basically a revue of different kinds of hula dancing from around Polynesia. It was fascinating to see how Tahitian dancing differs from early Hawaiian, and then they showed what Hawaiian hula dancing turned into later, probably around WWII: coconut shell bras, hypersexualized, come hither sexiness…just sexy!. The difference was radical and striking and certainly made a point, when the other truly tradi?ional ways are basically a form of cultural storytelling.

    Colonizers always have done this to ethnic others, though. Primitized and sexualized them. The locals in Hawaii completely get it but are kind of stuck because they must sell their “culture” even as it is being bastardized because the tourist industry is so critical to the economy. I think there is more conscious rising, though, like in the hula performance, and I think more tourists might be open to other, more authentic ways of engaging with foreign cultural traditions

    (in my opinion, some of the most beautiful hula dancers are the older women. The way they move and carry the themselves is heartbreaking. Exquisite.)

    • admin March 14, 2019, 10:31 am

      Years ago I took hula lessons at the only halua in the area. If I told someone I was learning hula,there was this assumption that I was learning to wiggle my hips seductively. Hmmm… While an ami does rotate the pelvis, and in kahiko hula there are royalty procreation hulas, those don’t define the dance as being “sexy”.

      And hula isn’t just for the skinny. Snowbird Bento proved that in 2001 by being 1st runner up in the Miss Aloha Hula.

  • ANON March 14, 2019, 6:38 pm

    I’m wondering about the dame’s view on white privilege. Yes, I’m aware these are two different topics but are somewhat related. I ask because I think, frankly, that white privilege is much more deleterious to our society than cultural appropriation, mainly because of the damage it does. Perhaps those who object to the word “privilege” because that word has so many connotations, how about “advantage”? Though truth be told it’s semantics only because it’s privilege, like/accept it or not.

    • admin March 18, 2019, 8:24 am

      I think wealth privilege is real and far more deleterious, as you put it, than privilege based on race. Wealth privilege is based on measurable data. If you are profoundly wealthy, regardless of your gender or race, you have a very definitive advantage over others in your ability to afford the best health care, the best food, the best of everything. Privilege based on race carries far too much assumption and speculation in that it assumes that because your skin is white, you must therefore be privileged. The data does not support that stereotype:

      A fact sheet released today by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) shows that, contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, at least one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white.

      “Poverty affects children of all colors, contrary to stereotypes. The notion held by many Americans that poverty is not a white problem is simply false,” says Jane Knitzer, EdD, director of NCCP, a research center at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “The sooner all Americans realize these facts about poverty, the better chance we have of eradicating it.” http://www.nccp.org/media/releases/release_34.html

      Clearly, being white afforded absolutely no advantage or privilege to the 4.6 million Caucasian children living in poverty in the US.

      Because I do view being rich as a privilege, I also believe, quite strongly, that the rich have obligations and the best way I can summarize that duty is to quote this:

      “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth…Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18

      White people who accuse white people of white privilege are typically not walking the talk and projecting their own guilt and inadequacies at having done little to nothing with their own resources.

      P.S. I do know who you are and you are as white as me.

  • FunkyMunky March 14, 2019, 10:33 pm

    There is a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

    If your “neighbourhood sphere” is packed-full of casual racists, they’ll obviously be defending you. Looking outside our own sphere is also important.

    • admin March 16, 2019, 4:58 am

      The only way you would know if someone’s “neighborhood sphere” is “packed full of casual racists” would be for you to actually meet them in person. It would be presumptuous to assume you know who are in that sphere, who are the people they work with, go to church, marry, have social interactions with without having any idea who is in that sphere. Your presumption would be speculation based entirely on your own prejudices and stereotypes.

      And it works both ways. Your sphere could be packed-full of white social justice warriors whose standard of measurement as to what defines “racism” is so absurd that they believe the use of the word “niggardly” is racist.

      Back in 2012 you wrote this comment on the “Manufactured Offenses” post: “You may not be right in your reasons for being offended, and you don’t have THE right to accuse someone else of racism or any other perceived crimes without evidence.” Unless you had evidence that someone’s neighborhood sphere was “packed with casual racists” you don’t have the right to accuse someone of racism without evidence.

    • Tracy W March 18, 2019, 3:42 am

      “There is a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.”

      Yes, cultural appropriation is lumping together cultural appreciation with some actually racist/stereotyping stuff and then asserting it’s all bad, because, if I follow the argument correctly, a privileged person wearing something of another culture doesn’t immediately change the minds of all the bigots who hate that thing.

  • LizaJane March 15, 2019, 9:47 pm

    Very insightful post.

  • Kry March 16, 2019, 6:40 pm

    In primary school my daughter (half white Australian/half Chinese) wore a lovely Chinese inspired dress with a corked hat to celebrate Heritage Day at the school.
    Out of all the parents and students there was only one objection. A grown man demanded my daughter remove her hat as she ‘had no right’ to wear it and to ‘go back where you came from’.
    My daughter (then 6) looked at him and asked ‘name of suburb she was born in?’- less than 30min drive away.
    I then asked the man if he belonged to Clan McKenzie as he was wearing patches of their tartan on his coat (he wasn’t, I am). I then raised an eyebrow and led my daughter away.

  • Kimstu March 19, 2019, 1:05 pm

    An aspect of this issue that I think often gets overlooked is that when you advertise information about your appearance or activities in an unrestricted way on social media, you are making the choice to let the entire world see this information. Even if you don’t actually want the opinions of strangers but are just using universally accessible social media as a shortcut for communicating with people who know you, your post is a choice to “go out in public” in the view of strangers.

    I agree in general that people should be more thoughtful how they criticize others about things that are ultimately none of their business. But I also think that anything you deliberately draw attention to in full view of the general public is open to reactions from the general public. Too many people are thoughtlessly soliciting admiration and appreciation from their social circle via public social-media posts, and then crying “bully” when their solicitations draw some criticisms from strangers as well as (or instead of) the admiration they were expecting.

  • ANON March 19, 2019, 2:52 pm

    Good. I’m glad you know who I am. Your comment about how I am as white as you, along with your other links, demonstrate you have no clue what white privilege means. It’s not about socioeconomic status, but about the mere fact that one is born white. (I could give so many examples and hypotheticals but it’s not worth my time because it’s like trying to convince a 45 supporter he’s a criminal.) It’s sad that so many people don’t get this, because it is so obvious. Yes, I’m white, but I’m also aware that I’m lucky as hell to be born this way. Have a nice day.



    • admin March 20, 2019, 8:04 am

      While we disagree on what defines “white privilege”, one thing I am sure of.

      We were united in our mutual disgust of bullies. You were invested in battling bullies, in particular a specific group of bullies.

      I spent some time last night reminiscing about your bully fighting days and enjoying your contributions to the discussion of defending Ehellions from being bullied:

      “They sure do have something up their behinds when it comes to SXXXX. I know she’s weird, but who cares? I don’t understand why people have such blind hatred for someone they don’t even know other than what she posts on the internet.”

      “Frankly, I think a lot of this is from the FB group and I’m sick of them harassing people here. I think they’re trolling and the sooner we can weed them out, the better.”

      “Probably the cyber form of a mob mentality. IRL the mob eventually tires and goes home, but online you can be (relatively) anonymous, I say relatively because it’s FB and people have to use their real names, but beyond that, they can get as bitchy as they want to and just feed off each other. They go to bed and come back the next day for another victim. “

      “I think it’s rather sad, as long as they’re not harassing anybody not in the group. Kind of pathetic to get your jollies by maligning other people.”

      “I would think they would have something better to do that read the forum, post on FB about it, and so on.”

      Blind hatred, obsessed, harassing, trolling, mob mentality, bitchy, pathetic, maligning. That pretty much summed up that group of bullies.

      Your greatest achievement in the war on bullies occurred on December 27, 2011, 02:11:42 PM, when you notified us that you had received a “PM via FB” from a woman whose real name you knew but you had “no idea who she is on ehell.” The content of that PM warned of impending trolling and HACKING:

      “I’m writing to you to tell you about a group on facebook that seems to be dedicated to throwing down etiquette hell. Some of the topics are normal, like what did you get for Christmas but most of them are vicious. I finally decided to report them to you because there talking about trolling and the latest thing hacking.”

      You were asked to get evidence from this informant and by 07:14:08 PM you provided it. It was the real name of a woman we knew on the Ehell forum as ‘hot_shaker”. Within hours she was banned and now had a large target on her back as a person of interest should the Ehell server get hacked. Your service to outing bullies and trolls and potential hackers was invaluable.

    • LizaJane March 26, 2019, 9:59 am

      ANON, I don’t think polite people discuss politics in public

  • Lanes March 19, 2019, 9:12 pm

    Cultural Appropriation is… #firstworldproblems
    We are now so far advanced that we’re not fighting each other over food, land, or any kind of survival resource – we’re fighting about who ‘owns’ what intangible property.

    Cultural Appropriation is… for minorities only
    If, for example, an African were to dye their hair ginger, would it be considered Irish/Scandinavian Cultural Appropriation? No, of course not. But if an Asian wears his hair in dreadlocks, it is?

    Cultural Appropriation is… hypocrisy
    The world today is a melting pot of what came before us, not one modern culture can claim that theirs has the exclusive right to anything, as their culture will have ‘appropriated’ it from another many years ago.

    Cultural Appropriation is… evolution
    Far from being a negative action, the way we learn is by observing what others do and improving ourselves upon it. From Neanderthals and their hand-tools to the Romans and their expanding empires, to using Swiss Technology in our watches today. We all utilise the best we see from other cultures, and as a species we grow, we evolve.

    The term Cultural Appropriation has deliberate negative undertones, and sure there are the few who take it to the extreme degradation end of the spectrum, but on the whole we should be encouraging it, maybe by using terms like Cultural Appreciation, Cultural Expansion, and Cultural Evolution.

  • Astrid March 21, 2019, 3:14 pm

    I just wear what I want . If you don’t like im dressed don’t look at me

  • sjr April 1, 2019, 12:10 am

    The kind of cultural appropriation that would offend me is something like wearing a ceremonial or religious garment at the wrong time, on the wrong person, especially in ignorance of the sacred symbolism.

    The hairstyle and the cheongsam style dress don’t seem disrespectful to me.

    I can imagine the possibility of a Japanese person not liking how they’re culture was represented by Avril Lavigne’s video. But I am not Japanese, and I have not seen the video, so that is only theoretical. And, of course, sources indicate that the Japanese people she made it with found it appreciative and not appropriating.

    However, my perspective may be limited in ways I do not yet understand.

  • Rebecca April 16, 2019, 11:25 pm

    I agree with most of what you say, but then I go click on a link and find it takes me to Fox “News” and its sensationalist writing designed to manufacture outrage. Giving us links to Fox “News” detracts from your argument. I immediately know that the “Farmers markets are racist” info did not actually happen the way it’s described, google it for myself, find out what the prof in question actually was saying (instead of snippets and out of context quotes), and confirm that what Fox is “reporting” is total garbage. I was agreeing with your well-written opinion piece…until you linked us to that kind of drivel.

    • admin April 17, 2019, 6:47 am

      So, you reject the entire premise of the post based on one link out of 12 being from a news source you disagree with? I googled as well and I found the quotes from the 2 professors to be accurately stated. Or would this news link be better? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5219137/Farmers-markets-environmental-gentrification.html

      The San Diego State University Professors Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Fernando J Bosco contributed a study as part of an anthology titled “Just Green Enough.” The work, published by Routledge, claims there is a correlation between the “whiteness of farmers’ markets” and gentrification.

      “Farmers’ markets are often white spaces where the food consumption habits of white people are normalized,” the SDSU professors wrote.

      The geology professors claim that 44 percent of San Diego’s farmers’ markets cater to “households from higher socio-economic backgrounds,” which raises property values and “[displaces] low-income residents and people of color.”

      “The most insidious part of this gentrification process is that alternative food initiatives work against the community activists and residents who first mobilized to fight environmental injustices and provide these amenities but have significantly less political and economic clout than developers and real estate professionals,” the academics write.

      The authors claim that negative externalities of “white habitus” formed at farmers’ markets can be managed through “inclusive steps that balance new initiatives and neighborhood stability to make cities ‘just green enough.’”