Cultural Appropriation or Racism

While on another blog (tumblr.com) I read a post by blogger whitepeoplesaidwhat that really interested me. It reads as follows:

“My culture brings all the Whites to the yard.

And they’re like, “I’m taking what’s yours,

Damn right, it’s mine and not yours!

Want it back now? K fine but we’ll have to charge”

There are many things I like about it. I like that it is blatantly saying that White people have knowingly taken minority cultures (our essences in many ways)  and are only willing to give that culture back to those people for monetary gains. Even more than that, I like the fact that with even such a heavy message it is meant to be delivered it in a way that those who know something about Black culture can understand it’s lighter side (as it is supposed to be read to the beat of Kelis’ “Milkshake” song). It seems to be one of those harsh truths wrapped up neatly that I have seen before in any different sources. It made me think of things that I know to be a part of my culture that I feel have been stolen such as things like hip hop or certain words, fashions, and the Black body in general that have been taken by force and out of context by the larger White society and then sold back to Black people and everyone else in the world for money that Black people don’t really see.

I originally thought of this selling of culture, in a sense, as cultural appropriation and, more so than anything, capitalism. I looked up the definition of racism and it is defined as having prejudice and power and being the beneficiary of that combination. And if that is the definition we are using, is this a form of racism. There is clearly a level of power, prejudice, and a beneficiary here, so is it pure racism or cultural appropriation? Or is cultural appropriation essentially another category of racism, which would broaden how real racism is and how much deeper it goes into our society and into what we listen to, say, and wear?

2 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation or Racism

  1. I think that at its core, cultural appropriation is picking out specific parts of a nonwhite, minority culture and adapting them to fit into the dominant, white culture. And I think this is often done because Black culture has a lot of cultural capital that is absent in White culture. Therefore, White culture is just finding another way in which to oppress and diminish a culture that White have historically (and consequentially, continue to do so today) pushed down. The amount of power given to White culture here is so problematic on so many levels, but I think it also most importantly qualifies cultural appropriation as racist.

  2. I wouldn’t say that cultural appropriation is racism, if done well. When you take another culture and use it for yourself with no acknowledgment of where it came from, or you spin it in a way that belittles it origins there is a problem. I don’t find anything wrong with using parts of another culture. I believe that things that have been adopted cross culture can be a good thing as long as we never forget the origin. However the way that cultural appropriation has been done most often it is cause for concern.

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