In a quest to see how much further they can descend into the bowels of utter absurdity, students at Pitzer College in Claremont, California have decided to fight the good fight against racism by telling white students what they can and can’t wear. On March 7th, The Claremont Independent reported that a group of Latino students painted a message directed towards white students:
A wall on the side of a dormitory at Pitzer College devoted to unmoderated free speech through art (colloquially named “the free wall”), was recently painted by a group of Latino students who wrote the message, “White Girl, take off your [hoop earrings]!!!”
Naturally, this caused some confusion. A white student asked about the purpose of the message. Alegria Martinez, the student who participated in creating the message responded in an email sent to the entire student body. She wrote:
“The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.”
It makes perfect sense, right? These students have adopted hooped earrings and other fashion accessories as a way to resist whatever oppression they have invented for themselves. White girls should not be allowed to wear the same type of earrings because somehow, it means white girls are stealing Latino girls’ only method of protest. It is an act of “cultural appropriation.”
So what exactly is cultural appropriation? Unsettling American gives another definition:
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.
Originally, this term applied to more powerful countries that colonized weaker countries. During those times, they would oppress the people they had colonized. Instead of treating the original culture with respect, they turned their clothing and icons into something used for entertainment.
However, this term is now being used as yet another way to claim victim status. It is a method the left uses to label their opponents as bigots. By using accusations of cultural appropriation, people on the left attempt to shame others — mainly whites — into allowing themselves to be told what they can wear, do, or say.
This manifests in different ways. At Pitzer, they don’t want white girls wearing hoop earrings. In other cases, Americans are told that they shouldn’t practice yoga unless they somehow exhibit some form of respect for the culture from which it came. People shouldn’t eat food from other cultures unless of course, they somehow acknowledge the oppression of that culture.
That’s right. The next time you go to your favorite Indian restaurant, you have to stop and acknowledge the oppression the Indians suffered at the hands of the British. These are just a few examples of how this incongruous mentality is being foisted upon others.
Jenni Avins, a writer for left-leaning publication The Atlantic tackles this issue:
Sometime during the early 2000s, big, gold, “door-knocker” hoop earrings started to appeal to me, after I’d admired them on girls at school. It didn’t faze me that most of the girls who wore these earrings at my high school in St. Louis were black, unlike me. And while it certainly may have occurred to me that I—a semi-preppy dresser—couldn’t pull them off, it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t.
In the article, Avins describes how the term “cultural appropriation” was only used in the realm of academia. It was used to teach students about the plight of the people who lived in colonies. Now, the term is being used to malign other people with false accusations of racism and insensitivity. She goes on to write:
Self-appointed guardians of culture have proclaimed that Miley Cyrus shouldn’t twerk, white girls shouldn’t wear cornrows, and Selena Gomez should take off that bindi. Personally, I could happily live without ever seeing Cyrus twerk again, but I still find many of these accusations alarming.
Avins is correct. Miley Cyrus should never, ever, twerk again. Avins is also correct in her assertion that the left is going too far in their approach to cultural appropriation. They have taken a serious issue and turned it into a revolting parody of itself.
The idea that cultures should not be able to borrow from one another is ridiculous. Societies have always grown by learning from different cultures. A person who wants to practice yoga is not disrespecting Indians. She is just trying to become healthier. A white person who listens to rap music is not demeaning black people. He just enjoys hearing Kendrick Lamar on his way to work. Avins notes:
Such borrowing is how we got treasures such as New York pizza and Japanese denim—not to mention how the West got democratic discourse, mathematics, and the calendar. Yet as wave upon wave of shrill accusations of cultural appropriation make their way through the Internet outrage cycle, the rhetoric ranges from earnest indignation to patronizing disrespect.
And as we watch artists and celebrities being pilloried and called racist, it’s hard not to fear the reach of the cultural-appropriation police, who jealously track who “owns” what and instantly jump on transgressors.
Cultural appropriation is a serious issue in its proper context: people actually being oppressed. Accusing people of this type of oppression when they choose to wear an article of clothing or eat a particular kind of food is unproductive. Instead of looking for reasons to call people racist, maybe the left should try a less divisive approach. They are, after all, the “tolerant” ones, aren’t they?
Using terms like “cultural appropriation” as a weapon against whites or others who disagree with people on the left only causes more frustration and tension. It makes rational conversation more difficult. If the left truly wants to be heard, they need to get rid of the “cultural appropriation police” and engage in real discourse. Crying racism is no longer a winning strategy.