War of the words: Cultural Appropriation
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
I don’t believe that things like music, clothing, food, or anything should be put in a box to only be accessible for one group to possess.
This month, word came out that Bruno Mars is being accused of cultural appropriation for his use of black music and themes when he himself does not have any black ancestry. Despite listening to Bruno Mars for many years, this was the first time I am hearing of this issue with him. However, hearing the case against him, I have to say that I don’t agree with it. I don’t believe that things like music, clothing, food, or anything should be put in a box to only be accessible for one group to possess.
One of the bigger sticking points of cultural appropriation in this country is the use of First Nations imagery. For First Nations people, the reduction and elimination of their culture by the white majority has been a scourge that Canada has tried to correct for years. The use of First Nations imagery by other people could be seen as cultural appropriation, but I think to limit these looks to just First Nations people make us suffer the same problem we did before. It leaves us ignorant to a group of people that have fought for so long for their rights, land, and recognition. If companies that use this imagery do their research and use it to teach people about the culture, then why not let them use the imagery? Is it really hurting people? After all, there is proof that we learn better from stories than we do from just plain old research, and things like clothes and products can tell great stories.
Some who read this may think that there is no “maybe” answer to this question. They may have the idea that if you use any kind of culture that is not your own then it’s cultural appropriation, and it’s bad. However, I think to not fall into the trappings of cultural appropriation would be impossible. For example, I am sure many people have made tacos with Old El Paso spiced ground beef or attempted to rap like their favourite rap artist. We may not think these are cultural appropriation, but traditions like music and food are not only important, they are some of the strongest links to one’s culture. So, when someone goes and eats at Taco Bell, or finds joy in how funny it is that they can’t sing every line to the classic P. Diddy song at karaoke, that should be considered just as inappropriate as a white person donning dreadlocks because it has an important place in a group’s culture. As these are the logical conclusions of the ideology, I think it does not make sense; there are many positives to sharing culture—and I don’t want to give up the delicious spices in my meat other cultures have taught me about.
My sparring opponent in this war of the words equates Google labeling prominent black hairstyles as “unprofessional in the workplace,” women having big butts, and Kim Kardashian as being examples of cultural appropriation abundant in our world, but I would say that these have nothing to do with cultural appropriation.
I think labelling black hairstyles as “unprofessional in the workplace” is racist for sure, but I don’t believe it is cultural appropriation that others enjoy a hairstyle just because some have regarded the style in a racist way.
As for Kim Kardashian, I don’t pay that much attention to the family but from what I know about them, I feel like their Armenian heritage is well known. If they have surgery to get bigger butts and other augmented body parts I don’t think that can be chalked up to an idea that they want to look black as women of all ethnicities (including Armenian) naturally have this body type.
Maybe making yourself look black, or “blackfishing” as Matthew mentioned, is a form of cultural appropriation. But in today’s world where anyone can just come up with a term and have it catch on like wildfire, it’s hard to know if people are offended by the use their culture by another group, if they have no feelings about it whatsoever, or if they are just going along out of fear of being labelled a certain kind of phobic.
READ THE ARGUMENT AGAINST THIS PIECE HERE!