Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation

Of all the stupidities coming out of modern college Progressivism, perhaps one of the dumbest is the opposition to cultural appropriation.  Progress comes from cultural mixing -- a good way to think of this is to imagine the opposite of "cultural appropriation" which would likely be something like "cultural apartheid".  That doesn't sound good.

Take just one example -- popular music over the last century.  For a variety of reasons (including their outsider status for much of American history), African Americans have been a font of musical innovation unmatched in the entire world.  Jazz, blues, rock, Motown-style pop, funk, disco, and hip hop all owe much or all of their origins and power to American black music.   Go ask even famous white groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin who their inspirations were, and they will rattle off mostly black names from Howlin Wolf to Chuck Berry to George Clinton.   Seriously, what Renaissance Italians were to painting, American blacks have been to music.

Being of German decent, I am not going to spend my life listening to just Wagner and polka music. Which reminds me of a story -- not to go all Godwin on you, but the Nazis were a great example of that "cultural apartheid" term I made up earlier. They didn't want pure Germanic culture to be tainted by other (they felt inferior) cultural influences. I have seen the Germans interviewed after the war joking that they were sick of "der fledermaus" because it seemed to be the only opera that could get past the Nazi cultural appropriation police and get played in the years just before the war.

I refuse to inflict this on myself.  I am going to appropriate music from African Americans and anywhere else I feel like.

Postscript:  By the way, Black music in America is in some sense a story of the improvement of the fortunes of African Americans.  In the 1950's and 60's, Black blues musicians couldn't reach white audiences, and bands like the Rolling Stones made a fortune because they played blues music but with safely (for the time) white faces.   White performers ended up with most of the financial rewards from black music.   In the 70's-80's, black musicians started to reach white audiences directly, and enjoy some of the financial rewards, but still were mainly controlled by white producers and record labels.  Today, innovative black musicians (often from the rap / hi hop world) are not just performers but have staked out powerful positions in the industry itself.

  • ErikTheRed

    You realize that by bringing logic and reason into this you're culturally appropriating from the ancient Greeks, you asshole. 😉

  • ErikTheRed

    When Canadians culturally appropriate Polka and other styles...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXKoZxi1cUU

  • mlhouse

    Sports are the other cultural driver. In a world were black athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan and TV personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby became entertainment billionairs, very little "racism" exists.

  • tmitsss

    My religion, stolen from the Jews, my beliefs in civic responsibility stolen from the Romans, Geometry stolen from the Greeks, ... It's a long list none of it genetic

  • marque2

    Yes, more culture, so lets bring in Syrians with Medieval beliefs and their ISIS brand. Of course it will make America better much like those blacks did. What a serious bunch of tripe.

  • SethRoentgen

    The four bands you should have mentioned are The Stones, The Beatles, The Animals and Them. All originated from port cities (London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast respectively) in the UK. British sailors travelled to the USA, listened to the music being played in bars and clubs, liked the music, bought the records and sold them to music shops in the UK. The Black/White thing is American. White UK sailors didn't care about colour.

    British musicians picked up on this fantastic music, covered the black blues and R&B, and sold it to white Americans.FWIW, on the British Invasion stuff, the song writers were all credited and the royalties paid. Howlin Wolf and Chuck Berry did very well from their music selling millions.

  • Craig

    Motown in the 60s (Supremes, Temptations, 4 Tops, Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye) was huge with White audiences and was founded and owned by Barry Gordy, a black man.

  • obloodyhell

    }}} Go ask even famous white groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin who their inspirations were, and they will rattle off mostly black names from Howlin Wolf to Chuck Berry to George Clinton.

    Seriously? You made that statement, in that context, and missed Robert Johnson? LOLZ.

    EVERY SINGLE SIGNIFICANT guitar wizard of the 60s and 70s (and that also includes both McCartney AND Lennon) cites Johnson as doing it all first, and they were just riffing off of stuff he came up with.

  • obloodyhell

    Might be mistaken, but I don't think that is his point.

  • Daublin

    Speaking of music and opera, the Royal Opera House had some language-specific phases in its history. These did not go well.

    I already knew that they went through a period of English-only singing. They would perform foreign operas, but only after translation into English. From the few accounts I have gathered, the results were dorky, and everyone involved seems to want to speak little of it. Which makes it irresistable not to poke fun back at them.

    What I didn't know until today was that they had an earlier language-specific period as well, but for a different language. From around 1850-1890, they sang everything in Italian, regardless of the original language the opera was composed in!

  • MB

    At least read a Wikipedia article before forming an opinion. This seems like a strawman or willful misunderstanding of the "cultural appropriation" being complained about. Nobody (serious) is complaining that only black people should listen to rap, and you should stick with Wagner and polka.

  • morganovich

    and yet another self righteous commenter misses the idea of analogy.

    it also appears that you should take your own advice:

    straight from wikipedia:

    Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.

    this is precisely what warren is speaking about, albeit through analogy. the straw man here is yours.

    at least get a basic grasp of the idea of abstract thought before forming an opinion.

  • morganovich

    marque-

    i think you have really missed the point here.

    saying that it is ok to enjoy and adopt aspects of other cultures is not the same as saying that all aspects of all cultures are worthy of emulation.

    you seem to be making a huge and unfounded jump here.

  • marque2

    No I didn't miss the point. Whenever someone is for flooding the country with immigrants without any controls, their argument is alway how much culture and wonderful stuff all these great mixes of people have brought to the US. And therefore, and I agree it is more implicit in this post, but it is still there just the same. Since all these people in the past gave us great culture, we shouldn't shynaway from letting ISIs, or Syrians, or Central Americans I to the country because it is implied their presence will be equally good.

    What is completely ignore is 100'years ago in the Ellis island era, folks had a great opportunity cost to come to the USA and had favorable views, which is why they paid a lifes earnings to get here, and they wanted to make it. Now it is cheap to come by plane, and easy to get on welfare and complain or even actively plan to.subvert this nation, on our welfare dime.

    Don't be fooled, this wasn't just a cute article on culture, and Warren has written this stuff in regard to immigration before.

  • Dan Wendlick

    There seems to be some missing of the point about what makes cultural appropriation bad. Remember your Critical Race theory: All members of a group have a commonality of interests by virtue of their membership in the group. Thus the son of a millionaire railroad executive and the son of a Nigerian immigrant cab driver are forever linked in common interest by the color of their skin, despite having completely different experiences, aptitudes, attitudes, and upbringing. The danger of cultural appropriation is that it leads to assimilation, which then tends to blur, and even remove the barriers between these groups. When the source of your power is exploiting the differences between groups, this is dangerous. If poor Latinos and African-Americans believe that they have more in common with each other than they do with their intellectual "leaders", that power base goes away.

  • MB

    First off, Warren didn't post an "analogy" - it's an "example", as evidenced by the words "take just one example".

    Second, there's a distinction between appropriation and "acculturation" or "assimilation" (as stated in Wikipedia) - just like appropriating property is different than borrowing or looking at (see - that's an analogy: I'm comparing two *different* things, culture and property).

    The key difference is "elements are copied from a minority culture by members of the dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context – sometimes even against the expressed, stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture".

    So, you see, listening to "black" music isn't outside of the "original cultural context" nor am I aware of any significant objections to it. In fact, it almost seems like black musicians *want* you to listen to it, seeing as how they went through all the trouble of making an album and everything. You're also appropriately crediting the artist and the culture that they represent, as well as expressing an appreciation of the culture. Music isn't an especially sensitive subject (outside of credit and royalties), so I don't think there's really any other pitfalls here. Are there serious objections to white people listening to Beyonce that I'm not aware of?

    Contrast Warren's intent to "appropriate music from African Americans" (presumably meaning he's going to listen to it and it's spiritual descendants) with his postscript on white artists re-recording black songs so that it would be palatable to mainstream audiences, thereby robbing the artist of royalties and credit (presumably, that'd be against their wishes) and removing any link to the original culture (which would be the copying and using outside of the original cultural context). I think it's fairly easy to see that one is likely to cause offense, and the other not.

    Wikipedia's examples are a little more illuminating:
    - sports teams using Native American tribal names, images, or human beings as mascots
    - jewelry or fashion with religious symbols...without any belief in those religions
    - mimicking iconography from another culture's history...by people who have no interest in, or understanding of, their original cultural significance.
    - costumes such as "Vato Loco", "Pocahottie", "Indian Warrior", or "Kung Fool"
    - wearing of a bindi dot as a decorative item, by a non-Hindu

    Now, you may not agree those are offenses or offenses worthy of indignation - but I hope you can agree that "listening to music by and inspired by African Americans" isn't even the same sport.

    If you've read this far - presuming you're Christian, an easy flip of the examples would look something like:
    - sports teams named the Saudi Arabian Catholics, the Beijing Saints with the Pope as their mascot, the Tehran Disciples who trot out Jesus at halftime and crucify him when they win
    - Crucifixion crosses sold in bubble gum machines
    - Costumes such as "annoying evangelist", "nailing Jesus", "pedo-Pope" or "Father Money Grubber"

    Contrast that with something closer to Warren's example:
    - Muslims listen to and like some Christian rock

    Rank in order of likely offense, and I think you'll get the point.

  • Adriana

    folks had a great opportunity cost to come to the USA

    If this is your proof that an immigrant really wants to be here, then you should love illegal immigrants from Central and South America who spend years and years of their meager earnings to hire a coyote, risking life and limb crossing into the United States with no promise of being able to find work, let alone remain in this country. That's a tremendous opportunity cost, one that most of the people at Ellis Island never faced. If they could afford the passage, the odds were excellent that they'd be admitted to the United States. Now people pay a fortune and face considerable danger without anywhere near that sort of guarantee. There's also no doubt that they "want to make it."

    For what it's worth, in 1905 - thirteen years after Ellis Island opened - a transatlantic passage dropped to around $12 and took only ten to twelve days. Many European immigrants would receive prepaid passages from their relatives already living in the US. In 1900, the average American wage was about $37 a month, so $12 would hardly be their life savings. A large amount, yes, but not life savings, nor proof of a real commitment on the part of the immigrants.

    I imagine an immigrant paying for his own passage would have to save for longer, but that's why many would send an able-bodied male relative first who would earn higher wages in the US and he would pay for his family to immigrate. Seeing as how many people managed to do in this in a matter of years, not a lifetime, I think you're overstating your argument.

    Immigrating today is a lot harder in some important ways. You reduce it down to a "plane ticket," but the plane ticket is the easiest part of an extensive, time consuming, cumbersome, frustrating, and often fruitless process.

    You're suffering from ahistorical immigration nostalgia.

  • NL7

    Got it, so you want open borders for poor people (who pay their lifetime earnings), but closed borders for rich people (who can afford the ticket easily). Of course, if that's such a concern, you could just open the borders to everybody who pays an income-adjusted bond that extracts the appropriate amount of pain. I bet plenty of families and villages would pool their money to send a young man to the US to work and send back more money - more or less what happened to help many young men make it to Ellis Island.

  • Adriana

    I can't tell what your argument is.

    Are you saying black people did make America better, but Syrians won't? Or that black people were terrible for America, as too will Syrians be?

    I'm just trying to figure out how disgusted I should be with your post.

  • NL7

    If it cost your life savings to get from England to New York, how did my ancestors pay for their journeys from Europe to England, or their travels from New York to the Midwest? My patrilineal ancestor in the 1860s went from central Germany to Bremen to England to New York to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi into the Midwest in one long trip, in his early 20s. I guess that was a couple life's savings.

    If it were really ruinous to travel and people would pay any price to get to America, then we'd first see way fewer immigrants getting out of their original port (NYC, PHI, etc.). Then, because of free markets and the laws of supply & demand, we'd see way more people offering passage to America.

  • Adriana

    There were so many transatlantic voyages and a wide range of accommodations on board, so it simply doesn't make sense - even without doing research into the costs - that a passage would be a lifetime's earnings.

    My 3rd great-grandfather immigrated in 1883. I'm sure he did save a while for that initial journey. He worked in the US for a few years and his family followed him (wife and two children) in 1886. That was three years to not only earn enough to pay for three passages for his wife and two kids, but to return to Italy at least once to impregnate his wife and then immigrate again to the US.

    So, that's two passages for him and three for his family between 1883 and 1886, not to mention the money paid to travel from their town to the port.

    So, like with your ancestor, it'd appear that they were able to scrounge up the money in much, much less than a lifetime.

  • Adriana

    There were so many transatlantic voyages and a wide range of accommodations on board, so it simply doesn't make sense - even without doing research into the costs - that a passage would be a lifetime's earnings.

    My 3rd great-grandfather immigrated in 1883. I'm sure he did save a while for that initial journey. He worked in the US for a few years and his family followed him (wife and two children) in 1886. That was three years to not only earn enough to pay for three passages for his wife and two kids, but to return to Italy at least once to impregnate his wife and then immigrate again to the US.

    So, that's two passages for him and three for his family between 1883 and 1886, not to mention the money paid to travel from their town to the port.

    So, like with your ancestor, it'd appear that they were able to scrounge up the money in much, much less than a lifetime.

  • NL7

    First, I agree with the others that Warren was not making a covert argument for open borders. I think cultural infusion is a good argument for open borders, but I think this is more focused on college political correctness, which Warren frequently lampoons. But since many of the people who want much lower levels of immigration tout the "melting pot" theory, I don't think this is about immigration. Opponents of immigration typically want the immigrants to share US practices and are willing to adopt at least some of the immigrants' practices (typically food is a safe choice).

    Sidenote: but it's weird to conflate IS with the people fleeing IS. I guess not that weird considering many people accused Jewish refugees in the 1930s of being susceptible as Fifth Column spies for the Nazis - i.e., that the Jews were the biggest Nazi threat to America.

  • NL7

    It's worded so coyly that I can't tell if this is a white supremacy argument or merely an anti-Islamist argument.

  • Adriana

    Not that they're mutually exclusive, right? 😀

  • NL7

    I think these are reasonable data points and other prominent black people could be added to the list. But it only tells us about one aspect of racism.

    The lack of a ceiling for the most successful black people gives us only limited information about the larger situation with regard to all black people. You can look at the top of the iceberg and see that it's sunny and floating above the water, but that doesn't necessarily imply those those qualities will carry over to the rest of the iceberg, much of which is poorly lit and below the water line. What's true of one part of the whole is not necessarily true about the whole.

    So it's reasonable to say that, whatever level of racism there is, it doesn't stop black people from sometimes becoming fabulously rich and influential. But the wealth of Oprah or Jay-Z doesn't tell us whether police regularly stop black people, whether black people are frequently sidelined by realtors into less desirable areas, or whether stereotypically black names cause employers and customers to react negatively. Those things may or may not be true, and the truth or falsity of those things is independent from whether some black people are able to achieve enormous wealth.

    I think what we can say is that sometimes black people are able to have significant success and fantastic wealth, and they are not simply robbed of their assets or killed for their success. Just like we can say that Jewish people can have a lot of success in a country, yet still experience prejudice and discrimination.

  • mlhouse

    Prejuidice? Please. Affirmative Action puts non-Asian minority students into colleges and universities, graduate and medical schools with much lower test scores and academic achievments.

    Businesses needing minority candidates hunt the world over for black graduates and prospects.

    When business needs to promote or look at who they retain, being a minority gives them a huge advantate.

    THe problem is that the minority communities in the urban areas fail to practice behaviours that help with success. These problems are obvious: high drop out, illegitimacy, drug and alchohol usage rates. If you drop out of high school and/or have a child (or a few) while unmarried, abuse drugs or booze, you have little chance of success no matter what the color of your skin.

    And those are HUGE problems of the minority community.

    And who is to blame?

    It is also obvious. It isn't white, conservative "racists".

    Instead, it is the liberals who have run the inner cities for decades. THEY RUN THEM. THey control city hall. The police departments. The fire departments. The schools. All of the city services. The mayor, city council, police chief, fire chief, the school superintendents and principals, the head of sanitation, the head of every section of city administration, the head of social work, the teachers, the administrative staff. They are all liberal Democrats. Most of them unionized.

    The "racists" Republicans have not controlled most of the inner cities for multiple generations. They do not control the media. They do not control academe. They do not even really control "Wall Street".

    So lets stop pretending "racism" has anything to do with anything in this country.

  • fotini901

    Thank you. This post makes clear that Warren doesn't quite know what cultural appropriation means.

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