Appropriation

Appropriation use to only come up in government budget meetings, but now it’s far more common to hear it in terms of cultural appropriation. What one culture is stealing from another. The first time I heard it was in an article about some college kids who wore sombreros at a party they had. This was cultural appropriation and it was wrong and I as a progressive and liberal human should instantly see that.

But it’s not an easy thing to see.

Where do you draw the line? Do we rename geographic landmarks that bear the names of other cultures? What about the whole city of Los Angeles… is it ok to call it that? If you have curly hair and when you grow it out it grows straight out from your head in a style commonly referred to as an Afro… can you only do that if you’re of African descent? only if you’re any one of the many darker skinned people with thick curly hair? or can anyone with thick curly hair do it?

At what point are we appropriating culture?

America is called the melting pot. And the only food that’s really FROM here is Native American food and I don’t honestly know what that consists of.  Which brings us to the most recent time I heard the phrase cultural appropriation. It was an article about the closing of a Portland burrito shop because the owners had stolen the recipes from Mexican women. The women went to Mexico and talked to the women there who told them what ingredients they used and let them watch them cooking. Then they went back to Portland and opened a burrito shop and sold burritos they made using what they had learned. And then the shop shut down because it go hammered on the internet by people accusing them of cultural appropriation.

So is it? And how do you tell? And why is it so bad?

I think you’d have to agree that it was cultural appropriation. The women are white and not Hispanic. So the only culture they can lay claim to is the ones they’re descended from and American culture. For instance I could make Irish food, and German food and eastern European food. I think you’d be hard pressed to point out specifically american food other than maybe soda? So I can’t make crepes, or sushi, or stir-fry or tacos.

But are we really going to argue that it’s wrong for me to make those things? Or is it only wrong if I profit from those things? I did the labor and bought the ingredients. I produced a product. Is it wrong for me to sell that product and profit from my labor? What makes it wrong?

People make a big deal about cultural appropriation. About how it’s wrong. But most of the people I see doing the complaining are white. There have been burritos in America for as long as there has been an “America”

There’s this article from Everday Feminism that puts it more explicitly, but doesn’t reallie answer the question.

These are my personal feelings. White people have CERTAINLY appropriated culture from others in wrong and oppressive ways. Does it fix the problem to stop? Do I only eat burritos made by people of Latin (this may also be the wrong word) descent? Maybe that’s a solution, but it’s a hard one and prettie impractical.

The real solution is just as hard, but a lot more practical. Make friends. Build a community. There is always ALWAYS going to be unfairness in the world, but forcing white women to close their burrito shop doesn’t promote the authentic burrito shop around the corner. If you think it matters, don’t get on your high horse and ride it all the way to Liberal Headquarters.

Stop down the street at the burrito shop people SHOULD be eating at. Take your friends. Make some new ones. And don’t get all holier than thou when people question your opinions. Opinions should be questioned. You are not going to save the world by acting like your yard is never messy. You can only save it by getting down in the dirt and working.

Author’s note:

I think a lot of complaints about cultural appropriation are too much and too far. Most of the people complaining are just appropriating outrage. But I do believe it is real and it is a problem. We should be open to other cultures and other people and conversations about those things.

P.S. I’ve been recommended this podcast as a solution to my questions. The Sporkful.

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About SleepieBear

Opinions are my own. Facts are poorly checked. (Unless cited.) Use your brains.
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