Why Cultural Appropriation Should Be Encouraged

One popular social justice cause today is the movement to stop cultural appropriation: “the adoption of elements or practices of one cultural group by members of another.”1 However, cultural appropriation should be encouraged, not discouraged, because the blending and merging of cultures can improve an existing culture and bring unity to a nation. The movement against cultural appropriation is rooted in envy. It is an unjustified grievance, an attempt to control another person’s actions and restrict their right to freedom of expression.

 

Except in instances where a minority culture is being mocked or misrepresented, cultural appropriation is a demonstration of respect and admiration for a minority culture. Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, merged “the sounds of gospel, country and what was then called “race music — music by Southern blacks — to make something new.”Elvis showed his respect and admiration for black people by writing and performing songs that were directly influenced by their music. When musicians are influenced by other cultures, they can create new forms of music. Cultural appropriation is one way to make an existing culture more vibrant.

 

In a nation with the right to freedom of speech, the argument against cultural appropriation has no legal standing. Stopping someone from creating works influenced by another culture is a direct violation of their right to freedom of expression. Another reason cultural appropriation cannot be stopped legally is no individual has legal ownership of their culture. Culture appropriation is not copyright infringement because culture is part of the public domain. Because no single individual created their culture, it belongs to everyone, including those who are from a different ethnic group.

 

Unfortunately, despite having no legal standing, people have been punished for supporting cultural appropriation. In 2017, Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write, resigned from his job after complaints about an editorial he wrote in favor of cultural appropriation.3 His right to freedom of speech was not tolerated or respected by the readers of the magazine, and he could not continue in his position. Punishing someone for supporting or practicing cultural appropriation is bully behavior. In a tolerant society, citizens should be free to speak and act according to their own beliefs.

 

Indignation against cultural appropriation is rooted in envy: “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”4 When members of a minority culture see that someone has created a product that is influenced by their culture, it gives them cause for complaint. They believe they are victims who have been robbed. In reality, such complaints have nothing to do with social justice. It is envy: resenting another person’s financial success, and wanting it to be taken away from them.

 

The social justice movement against cultural appropriation is based on a double standard: “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people.”Anyone is free to borrow from white culture, while minority cultures are considered “proprietary.”6 One of the unintended consequences of stopping cultural appropriation is white culture remains the dominant culture on the planet. The more that artists and creators are publicly shamed for appropriating minority cultures, the more likely white culture will continue to be dominant because it is the only culture that remains “open source.”7

 

The movement to stop cultural appropriation is regressive. Its goal is cultural segregation, to prevent the different cultures in a nation from influencing each other. In previous generations, there were people who wanted to maintain racial purity, to stop inter-racial marriages, which invariably result in the merging and blending of two different cultures. Today, social justice warriors want to maintain cultural purity, to stop cultures from merging and blending through appropriation. Fortunately, cultural appropriation is unstoppable. As people marry and make friends from different cultures, they will naturally adopt some of each other’s beliefs and practices.

 

Every culture on Earth has something valuable to teach us. Throughout history, nations have appropriated elements of foreign cultures, which often resulted in the advancement of civilization. Culture has the power to unite a nation, to bring people together though a shared enjoyment of books, music, film, theater, art, etc. Culture appropriation can unite people because creative works influenced by two cultures are more likely to appeal to people from both cultures. As long as cultural values or practices are not forced upon someone, the cross-pollination of cultures can be a positive thing. When people adopt the “best practices” of another culture, they improve their lives.

 

Notes

  1. Sebastian Leck, “Magazine editor quits after outrage over column saying he doesn’t believe in cultural appropriation,” National Post, May 11, 2017, http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/magazine-editor-quits-after-writing-that-he-doesnt-believe-in-cultural-appropriation
  2. George F. Will, “The left’s misguided obsession with cultural appropriation,” Washington Post, May 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-lefts-misguided-obsession-with-cultural-appropriation/2017/05/12/59e518bc-3672-11e7-b4ee-434b6d506b37_story.html
  3. Leck, “Magazine editor quits,” http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/magazine-editor-quits-after-writing-that-he-doesnt-believe-in-cultural-appropriation
  4. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “envy,” accessed June 8, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/envy
  5. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “double standard,” accessed June 14, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard
  6. David Marcus, “All Cultures Are Mine,” The Federalist, October 26, 2015, http://thefederalist.com/2015/10/26/all-cultures-are-mine/
  7. Ibid.

Comments

Dino Manalis Added Jul 10, 2017 - 11:08am
We should try to assimilate, not differentiate, we ought to come together as a nation!
Jeff Jackson Added Jul 10, 2017 - 11:30am
From what I have seen, political correctness has no appreciation or even respect for the cultures that were prevalent in the founding of the U.S. Even though it was the American culture that took in more refugees than any other country and allowed them to practice their cultures and religions without any fuss. The immigrants gradually assimilated into what is called American culture, which seems to differ from region to region, and that is fine, as well as a demonstration of our cultural tolerance and diversity. It is the rejection of the traditional values that the politically correct seem to think is so abhorrent, when in fact it is the intolerance that the politically correct demonstrate that is abhorrent. As a county, America is one of the most tolerant nations on the earth, and the diversity of our population is the proof of that. Yet, diversity is not the abandonment or disparagement of the culture that built America, no matter what the politically correct think.
If we viewed other cultures in the manner of the politically correct and only saw cultures in whatever negative light we could view them in, many cultures would be considered unworthy of even being considered acceptable to America. The politically correct wish to dispose of what has been American culture because of a few flaws, or many flaws, depending on who you want to believe. But reality is in the eye of the beholder, and the politically correct wish to emphasize only the bad aspects of American culture and rationalize that as justification for rejection of the culture at large.
Tamara Wilhite Added Jul 10, 2017 - 3:32pm
Modern liberal political correctness comes down to "Everyone has to live out their assigned stereotype down to clothing, hairstyles, political beliefs and word choice. Violate it either way and we will bully you."
Patrick Writes Added Jul 10, 2017 - 8:23pm
It's worth noting that until about 500 years ago, Western Europe was a cultural backwater. Cultures in the Middle East, around the Mediterranean, India, and China were wealthier, had better diets, better trade, and people probably lived longer. 
 
So...our Western diets still could be argued to be behind that of more ancient and wealthier cultures. There are more seasonings that exist than salt, pepper, mustard, and ketchup. The active ingredient in mustard is turmeric. Cooking with garlic is good for you (and tasty). 
 
Yucca root / cassava is an interesting potato cousin (that shares some characters with bananas). And it grows all over the Western hemisphere. You can make chips out of it or boil it like potatoes. 
 
Indian food is awesome (from India, not Native American). 
 
There are lots of herbal remedies from China and India for things that we just don't know about in the West. 
 
The implication that 'white people' are the dominate culture in all ways is beyond stupid. China and India probably had the two most advanced cultures on the planet from 500 A.D. until 1500 A.D. 

There's nothing we can learn from there? 
Billy Roper Added Jul 11, 2017 - 1:05pm
Black people using a written alphabet is cultural appropriation.
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 11, 2017 - 6:43pm
Hi Dino Manalis, I don't think immigrants should abandon their culture and simply adopt "white culture."

However, claiming proprietary rights over a minority culture has no legal standing. Because no own owns it, it can only be protected by publicly shaming those who appropriate it.

Legally, culture is public domain. Therefore, it belongs to all of humanity, not just one particular group.

The cultural appropriation warriors are basically saying, "What's mine is mine (my minority culture), and what's yours is mine too (white culture)." It's a double-standard.
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 11, 2017 - 6:46pm
Hi Dannl Yoder, you are hilarious. I have no idea how your post relates to my post, but you made me smile. 
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 11, 2017 - 6:54pm
Hi Patrick,
My essay doesn't say white culture has always been the most dominant culture on Earth. However, it is certainly the most dominant today, in that it has impacted the largest number of nations.

White culture is the only culture you can borrow from without being accused of cultural appropriation. 

White people invented hockey, basketball, baseball, football, and theater, to name a few of our cultural practices. 


Chris Lindsay Added Jul 11, 2017 - 7:05pm
Hi Dannl, I like your point about the horse drawn buggy. I think your post is saying that people are going crazy from overindulging on various substances, losing their minds. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 12:02pm
This is a well presented essay Chris. Enjoyed readin it and the comments that follow. A couple of thoughts...
 
Could it be that part of the objection to cultural appropriation would somehow diminish or discredit the victim status of that culture? There seems a to be a sizable number of people out there whose agenda is heavily invested in perpetuating victim status.
 
Recommended reading for any who care to explore any disparities in cultures is Dr. Jared Diamonds Guns, Germs and Steel
 
The dominance of a western culture has absolutely nothing to do with the superiority of one race or culture over another, nor is it the result of one exploiting other cultures to their advantage. It is primarily the result of a simple accident of geography.
Ric Wells Added Jul 12, 2017 - 2:16pm
Question. How can humanity progress if we don't learn from each other and attempt to take the best from each other to incorporate it into ourselves?
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 12, 2017 - 5:41pm
Thank you, Burghal. The left today is intent on creating a grievance culture to gain votes. The more minority groups that they can convinced are victims of some type of oppression or injustice, the larger the voting collation they can build to win elections. 
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 12, 2017 - 5:42pm
Thank you, Ric. Civilization advances when we are all free to adopt the best practices and inventions of other cultures.


Ric Wells Added Jul 12, 2017 - 7:31pm
Agr
Ric Wells Added Jul 12, 2017 - 7:31pm
Agreed.
Phil Greenough Added Jul 14, 2017 - 8:27am
Much like there is no such thing as black culture, there is no such thing as white culture.  For example, there is African culture, with most Africans obviously having black skin color.  There is also Gaelic with most Gaelics obviously having white skin, they also talk kind of funny.  I have no idea who invented hockey, basketball, football and theater, but I’m confident you could look each individual up and find out what culture they ascribe to and it wouldn’t be white.  Furthermore, assuming a white person invented basketball, when a black person plays it, they aren’t at the same time practicing cultural appropriation. 
Chris Lindsay Added Jul 14, 2017 - 10:33am
Hello Phil,
Basketball was invented by a white man. Therefore, it is an aspect of white culture. If a non-white person plays it, they are guilty of cultural appropriation. Personally, I have no problem with that. But there is a huge double standard on part of the radical left. They are outraged if a white person appropriates anything from a non-white culture.  
 
James Naismith (November 6, 1861 – November 28, 1939) was a Canadian-American physical educator, physician, chaplain, sports coach and innovator.[1] He invented the game of basketball at age 30 in 1891. James Naismith was the second child of Margaret and John Naismith, two Scottish immigrants. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Naismith
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 14, 2017 - 3:41pm
I'm still waiting to hear / read of The Politically Correct Thought Police demanding that people in Africa, Asia and South America give up television and radio, washing machines, refrigerators,  cars, computers, printed material, football (aka soccer in some backwaters), heating or air conditioning and the many other things appropriated from European - American industrial era culture. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 14, 2017 - 6:42pm
Ian -
 
The PC warriors need to try the Holiday in Cambodia tour
MJ Added Jul 15, 2017 - 2:39pm
Chris I do not want to burst your bubble.
With the influx of refugees all over the world, there won`t be a cultural heritage to identify with any society any longer.
The NWO order planned this long ago because without a definite cultural bonding there won`t be unity among people of a certain culture and they won`t resist en masse any foreign beliefs they are forced to accept.
The old 'unity is strength " is long gone.
 
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 16, 2017 - 1:18pm
Brughal, great song and sums up the hypocrisy perfectly. Never heard Jello sing it live, but my son did a good version when he was singer / bass in a Kennedys tribute band The Ted Kennedys.
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 16, 2017 - 2:02pm
Jeff, large population nations (over 30 million say,) are seldom culturally homogenous. Even a state with a small area like Britain, apart from having distinct English, Welsh and Scottish cultures. Beyond that the component nations can still point to various regional variations that have survived from before the various kingdoms were united by King Aethelstan. Even politicians admit there are still two distinct England's - the north (The Danelaw) and the Saxon south. And then ther is Cornwall in the extreme south west, (but we try to forget about them, they're all weird, what is it about the south west?) 
With all this diversity one wonders why some people think we need to import more.
But as you said, the politically correct left has no respect for this diversity, they reduce diversity to a matter of skin colour and aim to impose a synthetic global culture on all.

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