Cultural Appropriation: Who Cares and Why is This an Issue?

With Halloween officially over, the constant virtue signaling by some of the more fanatically-inclined on the political spectrum is dying down, at least until next year. At this point in America, it almost seems like an annual cyclone of ridiculousness sweeps by every holiday.

Whether it be talking heads spouting off about how it’s inappropriate to recognize Columbus Day as an actual holiday, or those who state that it’s “cultural appropriation” for a 5-year-old girl to wear a Moana costume for trick-or-treating. The concept of “cultural appropriation” is completely and utterly nonsensical.

For those who don’t know what cultural appropriation is, the term comes from the field of sociology and refers to when a member of a certain culture adopts and/or uses aspects of a different culture. For instance, a sizable number of cultural appropriation critics claim that white children wearing Moana or Jasmine Disney costumes for Halloween is “offensive” and “insensitive” to those cultures (as if a second grader understands or cares about cultural diversity).

Now to some, the belief that cultures shouldn’t be exploited or mocked sounds like a kind thing to do. But the questions that arise are thus: what constitutes appropriation and just what can’t people “steal” from other cultures?

This question ignores the fact that the loons that rail against cultural appropriation seem to solely focus on white Westerners adopting other cultures instead of say Hispanics wearing dreadlocks or black girls dressing up as Pocahontas, but that will take this article down a whole other path of idiocy. So instead, I’ll focus solely on why the concept and practice of cultural appropriation is one of the most half-baked and trivial “issues” facing the Western world.

The first half of my question written above is one that I’ve never heard any cultural appropriation critics actually answer: what constitutes appropriation? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, appropriation is defined as follows: “the act of taking exclusive possession of.” In layman’s terms, it’s a synonym of theft.

Seeing as how a culture is not a tangible thing, how actually can you steal it? What constitutes stealing a piece of a culture? Is a white American having cornrows considered theft of black culture? What about cultural aspects that have been adopted from other cultures throughout history, such as gunpowder or horseback riding?

After all, Native Americans never rode horses until they were introduced to them via European immigrants. Dreadlocks are speculated to have been invented in ancient Egypt, according to an article from The Spectator. The same article reveals that even ancient Hindus had similar dreadlocks. The Hindu Vedic scriptures, according to the article, date back to 1700 BC and describe the Hindu god Shiva as having “matted” dreadlocks.

So who gets to lay claim to dreadlocks? Are the Egyptians appropriating an Indian hairstyle? Are modern-day blacks in America appropriating dreadlocks from Egyptian culture? Who gets to claim ownership of this cultural style?

The concept of cultural appropriation completely ignores basic human history. Various cultures have been absorbed and conquered by other, more powerful cultures. The Romans conquered the tribes of Gaul, Genghis Khan conquered most of Northeast Asia, the Normans conquered the British Isles, etc.

There has been so much intermixture of cultures across the globe that asserting ownership of a particular clothing style or food dish is asinine. Many Slavic cities are built using German architectural designs. The paper people across the world use daily was invented by a Chinaman. Who gets what invention? What specific things can only be used by the people that invented them?

This leads us to the second question that I asked toward the beginning of this article: what can’t people steal from other cultures? Allow me to clarify this question. It is a well-known fact that Orville and Wilbur Wright invented what we know today as the airplane. Since both Wright brothers were white Americans, does that mean that black people cannot use airplanes? After all, the invention of the airplane at Kitty Hawk is a historic piece of American history and culture.

The Wright brothers aren’t the only white people who have created incredible scientific and technological advancements either. Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, was white. Louis Pasteur is the chemist responsible for the process of pasteurization and the vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Does this mean Asians aren’t allowed to vaccinate their children for rabies since the vaccine was invented by a white man from a different culture?

What about Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, Johannes Gutenberg, Isaac Newton, or Guglielmo Marconi? All of these remarkable inventors were white. Does this mean that all of their contributions to the world cannot be used by other cultures? Can Mexicans not use the radio anymore because it was invented by an Italian? Can Jews not use assembly lines since Henry Ford was a white, Christian American? Can Native Americans not recognize the three laws of motion since Isaac Newton was a white, British man?

Even if these fantastic technologies and achievements don’t fall under cultural appropriation for some illogical justification or another, what about clothes and food? Are blacks not allowed to enjoy corn tortillas? Are Italians banned from wearing Nike shoes? After all, Nike is an American brand. Come to think of it, which culture has claim to Nike clothing? The company and brand are American, but the products are mostly created in Southern Asia. Do the Vietnamese or the Americans get to wear Nike T-shirts? Which culture owns sandals? Or the bow and arrow? Or cooked meat? Or the hat? Dozens of tribes and cultures throughout Earth’s history have used footwear for thousands of years. Do the Aboriginals or the Native Americans own the spear?

Nobody knows who invented the hat first or pioneered the art of sharpening a rock to a point with another rock. Trying to bar people from “appropriating” certain cultures is virtually impossible given how many conquests and sharing has occurred across cultures throughout human history. A black man can certainly enjoy the music of a white musician. A Jew can enjoy a plate of tacos. A white person has every right to wear a Rasta-style hat if he or she (I’m not big on the extra pronouns) wants to.

If I want to smoke a Cuban cigar while eating a plate of chow mein while sitting on a Turkish Ottoman, I damn sure will. I’m not Cuban, Asian or Turkish, but who’s it going to hurt? Next time you see a toddler dressed up as Aladdin for Halloween, instead of running crying to university administration, how about you act like a mature, sensible adult and get over it. And if someone tells you that you having cornrows is offensive, remind them that if they get that worked up over a hairstyle, they’re going to entirely fail at living as an adult in the outside world.

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