Cultural Appropriation – Really?

by | Aug 3, 2017 | My Life | 0 comments

I was reading a piece in the Washington Post concerning “Cultural Appropriation.” The whole thing struck me as absurd, so my next step is to research this term and what it means to folks. From Wikipedia (via Google):

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another cultureCultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture.

I’ve really stepped in it now because I’ve stepped not only into culture, but intellectual property, and that will lead me down the road to the negative effects of all out capitalism and a culture of “me.” This might take a while.

In this story from the Washington Post, I found a couple of ideas that rang true. I can agree with this:

Calling “cultural appropriation” is an easy way to call attention to an infraction, real or imagined. But the overuse of the term obscures offenses that might actually deserve more censure, exaggerates some that don’t deserve much at all and weakens the power of the concept in general. It’s “the boy who cried burrito.”

The more I read, the more I question. The Cambridge Dictionary (British English) uses this definition:

cultural appropriation
noun [ U ]

/?k?l.t??r.?l ??pr??.pri?e?.??n/ /?k?l.t??.?l ??pro?.pri?e?.??n/ disapproving
the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture:

Some see his use of African music as cultural appropriation.
Ah — the not-understanding or not-respecting part might hold a bit of weight.
As I react — and my reaction to this phrase is almost unanimously “this is dumb” — I do find I must step back and examine my own views just as I would when trying to understand “white privilege.” I do think that the unrecognized white privilege attitude is destructive.
“Cultural Appropriation” is how culture works. Throughout it’s 2000 year history, Christianity has been a master at cultural appropriation. So many of our Holy Days are appropriation of holidays and festivals from the surrounding culture: Christmas, in the darkest time of the year sits nicely in the spot for any number of non-Christian celebrations such as Saturnalia. An advent wreath and Christmas trees were appropriated from various pagan practices. Was this done without respect? Or was it done to speak using ideas and symbols already understood by the culture being appropriated? I’m not sure. But I am sure that these feasts and holy days are now definitely part of modern Christian culture.
I do find it frustrating that people are accused of cultural [mis]appropriation when they find something exciting and inviting in another culture and try to incorporate it into their own culture. Like the Taco truck that was shut down.
Some days I think I’ll just give up trying to understand.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 73 other subscribers

RSS Journey to myself

  • Perennial Wisdom
    As I press on my journey, I find myself caught between not fitting comfortably into a given tradition and feeling connected to many traditions. My path seems to be as a Christian, carrying the backpack with a brand name of  Roman Catholic. The road is a winding one with hills and valleys, paved road and […]
  • Lessons from odd places
    I know I have a problem — I like to play versions of Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Words with Friends. I can get absorbed. I can use it to back off from the world (I’m a bit of an introvert and sometimes I do need to retreat). That said, there are lessons to be […]
  • Connections
    Today’s “aha!”comes from a January reflection from CAC …One of the most familiar of Jesus’ teachings is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39). But we almost always hear that wrong: “Love your neighbor as much as yourself.” (And of course, the next logical question then becomes, “But I have to love me first, don’t […]

RSS Year of Mercy

%d bloggers like this: