From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion
I haven’t watched MTV’s annual Video Music Awards since Bill Clinton was president. I was wearing a plastic choker and Alanis Morissette won for “Ironic.” But I wish I had tuned in this Sunday night. The award show was a veritable orgy — not of sex, but of cultural appropriation.
First up was Kendrick Lamar, whose backup dancers wore ninja outfits as they scaled a wall of fire. While the popular rapper went home with an armload of trophies, he was criticized for borrowing Asian dress. Later, Katy Perry, who just recently finished an apology tour for her previous sins of cornrows and kimonos, “snatched” off her long blond wig — a bit that was torn apart for caricaturing African-American women. Luckily for Ms. Perry, the floodlights lingered longer on her nemesis, Taylor Swift, who unveiled a new video that was immediately blasted for appropriating Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Speaking of Queen B, I’m just waiting for the charge that she’s exploited Persian culture by naming her new daughter Rumi after the 13th-century Sufi poet.
And that’s just the rap sheet from a single night in pop music. Charges of cultural appropriation are being hurled at every corner of American life: the art museum, the restaurant, the movie theater, the fashion show, the novel and, especially, the college campus. If there’s a safe space left, I’m not aware of it.
The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”
Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered some of the most sublime speeches of the 20th century. In them he used a mostly Latinate language to evoke the trials of the Israelites while quoting the writings of a slave-owning founding father. Irving Berlin, the songwriter who wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” was a Jew born in a Russian shtetl in a home with a dirt floor. Jessye Norman, one of the greatest opera singers of our time, is a black Southerner who is famous for her Wagner repertoire. Hamdi Ulukaya is a Kurd born in Turkey who now runs the most popular Greek yogurt company in America.
The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion