This semester I went to the White Privilege Conference in Madison, WI for my honors seminar about examining privilege. I made a poster about the behaviors of particular white female musicians who appropriate other cultures as a means of identity and sexualize/objectify WOC as a means of displaying sexual agency and social power. All under the guise of “empowerment”.
This is my take on the knowledge I found through seminar and readings, (esp. online articles) so in no way do I claim these ideas or concepts as my own.
So I’m not allowed to twerk because I’m white?
…is that really what you got out of this?
I understand that some things are meant to be sacred to other cultures and should be sacred to them but they are basically saying Miley can’t do these things because they are part of African American culture. The hijabs I get. Using African American women as props and overly sezualizing them I get. But god forbid a white girl “act ratchet” or twerk. I feel like if I went and got a grill all of tumblr would start getting onto me for cultural appropriation. Gold teeth aren’t sacred to these people. Twerking isn’t. Being ratchet isn’t. Hijabs are sacred. Bindis were sacred but most women even within the culture don’t know why they wear them anymore. This whole cultural appropriation thing is stupid just leave serious religious symbols & other important, meaningful things within the culture they belong to but small, unimportant things that are not important to the culture shouldn’t be considered cultural appropriation. But that’s just me. I don’t think that many African Americans are angry about Miley twerking or “being ratchet”. It’s her use of African American women as props.
This isn’t just about cultural appropriation, it’s also about members of a privileged class (white women) trying on the appearance/aspects of of other cultures/races as costume, often without understanding and in a demeaning, mocking way.
It isn’t as simple as what’s sacred.
It’s about what is commonly identified with one culture or race, and white people deciding to pick that up for a lark, carry it around like a fashion accessory, put it on like it’s make up, and then they put it down when they get tired of it or it’s no longer “fashionable” or it becomes inconvenient.
And it becomes inconvenient because it is tied up in the trappings of that marginalized culture/race. Including the negative stereotypes and assumptions that those of that culture/race cannot easily escape or discard, but white people can just change their clothes, change their hair, whatever, and they’re privileged again, safe from the negative trappings of that “fun” trend they put on for a little while to feel more “unique” or “edgy” than plain ol’ white.
It’s also about how turning aspects of a people’s race or culture into wearable accessories or mannerism exoticises them. It marks those non-white people as “other”, as alien and strange and mystical, as impossible to understand, as completely unrelatable to whiteness.
People of color, non-white cultures cannot do the same thing with “white culture”, because white culture is considered the mainstream, it’s the default, it’s “normal.” When POC/other cultures put on whiteness, they are simply considered to be “assimilating”, normalizing.
For white people, the markers, traditions, and appearance of other races and cultures is a trend, a fashion, a joke; it’s a kitschy little thing of the moment to make them feel special or to let them feel like they’re doing something daring and fun because they’re deviating from the “norm”—the accepted standard of whiteness, white culture, and white behavior.
For people color and other cultures, those are aspects of their identities, good or bad, positive or negative, tradition or stereotype. And yes, it’s highly offensive and outrageous, humiliating and degrading to see white people just go ahead and take those things for themselves, to decide the negative stereotypes for a while make them edgy or cool—when these stereotypes, perpetuated by white people hold actual people of color/other cultures back due to bias and prejudice of the indisputable white power structure—to decide those traditions and religious sacraments, things sacred to them, are now also being taken from them and degraded by white people, without understanding, without respect, for white pleasure, to prop up the entitlement and self-styled worldliness of white people.
It’s the repetition of a hideous pattern woven through the history of interaction between white people and people of color/non-white cultures. We take what’s theirs, we don’t listen, we don’t respect it, we mock it, we warp it, we change it to suit our desires so that it is almost unrecognizable—and then we get tired of it and throw it away, and use it to demean and narrowly define the people we took it from.
You have to keep in mind the intersection of privilege and power, here.
People who are not like you, who do not look like you, are not a fashion or style to try on, a mask to wear because you want to be different or feel special.
They are people. Their culture belongs to them. Their stereotypes that we perpetuated on them do not get to be “cool” just because we have chosen to inhabit them.
It’s about respect.