Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cultural Appropriation
Yes, this writer gets to say this. Just as people of a culture who are offended by appropriation that trivializes or distorts something they personally live and breathe, get to say. What this writer doesn't get to do is have the last word as an OBJECTIVE VIEW because in this article, the writer's lens reveals itself. The title "cultural cops" gives the lens away also. This article is bias just as the so-called culture cops. The writer's relationship to "culture" is the same as the artists who pick and choose from other cultures to make their art and all are very different from those who live and breathe their culture and call it life. As a Nikkei, I found the writer's pronouncements of what is Geisha as if she knew something was off-putting. I can't help it. That cultural knowledge is part of me as any other part of my life. The writer does understand that cultural appropriation hurts diversity. I think she says more than she realizes. If you live in a society with a white supremacist world view, diversity is just a word rather than an integral part of everyone's experience. So when that WORD pops up in art and entertainment, it seems to be out of place. It's not. It is very much expected to be there. Where there is white supremacy there will be push back -- the push back of those who live a separate reality from white supremacy. How could there not be. It's an oppositional world view. 
I do yearn for a reality in this society because it is possible in my opinion, which is not white supremacy but rather . . diversity and it is possible to live in that world. Wouldn't it be refreshing if white supremacy was just a word and could be isolated from any experience if we choose. I've lived in Eugene a few decades, and carved out a place for myself which is very diverse. And I know many who also have. I remember when Jim Garcia, a good friend, got a job in New Mexico. We were happy for him, to be teaching Chicano studies! But he came back because he missed the rest of us. That's what he said. I know exactly what he meant because the mix of cultures he and I and many others grew up in here in the 70's on the UO campus is what we lived and made together with our cultures and ancestors, our stories, songs poetry, our shared beliefs, our uniqueness and raised our children in. With this, together, we changed the campus from white to diverse and as we went into the work places, we had that same passion. We also supported one another's endeavors, celebrations, and stood side by side in the battles. That is how you mix with each other -- a respectful integrating into each of our individual lives what it is to be familia with many peoples of intact cultures.  In the context of art, wouldn't that kind of sense of diversity create beautiful and exciting art just as one can say it created a school? A spirit. Not a thing. Something that reached the world, not just an audience of white people or those who don't live culture (except as a word) in the audience, but reach them all.  How can people get so defensive protecting a poor copy of a people passing for art.
So expect pushback. It's as constant part of our reality just as cultural appropriation is money in the bank. When culture or diversity is just a word, not a shared experience, you can pick and choose bits and pieces and interpret and cheapen, and commodify. It becomes a catchy phrase for advertising, a new hairdo, a Halloween costume, Miley Cyrus.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.