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Is cultural 'appropriation' really always disrespectful?

Submitted by Silas_wind in Whiteness

I don't understand the issue with sharing culture. Why should culture be exclusive? I feel like people mis-direct anger at whites when they shame superficial differences like this, and that the notion is mainly rooted in arrogance and exclusion. There are plenty of valid reasons to shame whites I just don't think this is one of them. Appropriation may be indicative of ignorance in certain cases but I don't think people intentionally disrespect each other in this way. It's unfair and counter-productive to assume otherwise, or to claim that culture is exclusive. Generally speaking I think it's just shared enjoyment of certain styles, or even shared respect for culture.

On a personal note: I'm white and dreaded my hair last year. I don't think dreads are exclusive to POC. The only POC that ever commented on my dreads told me he liked them. I like them. There was zero consideration of race when I made the decision. I just like dreads. They look cool. This past summer I had a white person engage me and argue that my dreads are racist. They had zero evidence for this just vague notions. I told them I didn't agree. I'm not terribly concerned with this one encounter because it was a heated environment already and I don't know what they were experiencing emotionally. I was not in a good head-space for confrontation though and the experience has stuck with me. Especially because my partner is adamantly sympathetic to POC's in this regard.

I'm not here to argue, but I feel pretty strongly about this. I'd just like some other perspectives. Preferably from POC's. Thanks.

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15

ziq wrote (edited )

When the dominant group in a society uses the minority's culture to be trendy, that's not 'sharing'. Colonizers insist that when they take culture from the people they've colonized, it's an equal transfer of ideas, but it's not because the relationship isn't equal at all.

One party has far more power than the other, and they use that power to claim ownership of the culture and then warp it to fit their (boring) sensibilities. From that moment on, the appropriated culture has been forever changed and is now associated with the appropriator rather than the originator (because the appropriator is more powerful/dominant), and the originator has now lost the right to their own (now thoroughly whitewashed and warped) culture.

When you say there's nothing wrong with you taking someone's culture because you think it 'looks cool', you readily demonstrate everything that's wrong with cultural appropriation. You're appropriating and watering down their culture so you can be trendy and have fun. Their centuries-old culture doesn't deserve to be treated like your yuppie fad fashion choice.

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existential1 wrote

I think I'm the only person here (in this thread) who's a PoC who's had hair like this (I had cornrows for 8 uears and a fro sometimes). Personally, this is a non-issue to me.

There are arguments for/against a white person wearing the hair, but it is a deeply personal decision. My best friend is white, he had my mom braid his his hair once (we literally grew up next door to each other since 3yrs. This man is family to me.) when we were in high school. I had cornrows, my cousins had em, my mom had dreads, he IS a part of MY family, he wanted cornrows too. No problem at all for my family pr our group of friends.

However, he got absolutely bullied by other white people at our school. The other PoC thought it was funny, but cool. Honestly, in my experience when I see these conversations...I feel like I see that scenario play out over and over.

Yes there are intersectionalities that play out differently when wearing certain hairstyles, but its not as though this white person wearing the hair is directly harming someone. If anything, it makes the hypocrisy of the system that provides false justification for oppression of PoC all the more visible.

All the comments in here "taking this person down", i feel have a point. But honestly, I think they miss "the" point even more. Wearing your hair in dreads or cornrows as a white person because you like it is not a Rachel Dolezol situation, and if it is a style you wear and take pride in and makes you happy day in and day out as opposes to "wearing a culture" for a day cuz it's funny or some bullshit, are different things with different levels of "problematic"ness.

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JayGrym wrote

This is the comment I was hoping for. Someone that has a unique perspective involving both sides of the appropriation of culture. I do hope my comments so far were not misunderstood as racist or disregarding racism. I actually want to move past the issue, not because I want it to be forgotten or anything. Quite the opposite. We need to learn from it. We need to unite but will never be able to if the racism persists in any form.

4

mofongo wrote

Why do I need a visa to go your country when you do not need one to come to mine?

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TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote (edited )

I see two main differences between cultural appropriation and culture sharing:

  • people "pick and choose" what they want from the host culture, miss-representing and distilling it

  • "visitor" can leave "host culture" when they want, while the "hosts" are often stuck in it: you'll be able to shave your dreads and wear a suit when you decide to become a banker; while black people will still be black.

that's why those tasteless haloween costumes always get labeled as cultural appropriation.

I've never had discussions about dreads and racism in my circles*, idk if it's because I only hang out with non-radical mayos or because this issue is specific to UK/US (because of the higher jamaican population).

* thought whiteys dressing up as rastafari because they smoke weed are obviously appropriating culture

3

Freux wrote

Not all people of colour mind but you have to think of the privilege you have by wearing dreads when black people can't go to school, work, or are considered dirty for wearing dreads.

Sharing a culture is done with permission, get invited somewhere and dress in traditional clothes for some event, that's sharing (some people that don't know you were invited to do so might judge you anyway since they don't know of the situation and only see a white person using their traditional clothes). Using those traditional clothes for whatever else, that's appropriation.

Dreads appears in many cultures, which none are white. It has a certain signification while for whites it's only synonym with fashion. A "special" haircut we all share, braids, have fun with them.

-9

subtext wrote

Dreadlocks are a natural occurrence that result from lack of hair washing. So what you're saying is black culture is one of bad hygiene. Never thought I'd find someone I agree with in this forum.

3

Freux wrote

First of all, that is what you say. Second, there is more than one kind of dreadlocks, most of them need some work done, freeform happen naturally and guess what, you can wash your hair without losing your dreads!

Third, you're a disgusting pile of shit.

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bloodrose wrote

I'm not here to argue, but I feel pretty strongly about this.

Sooo...you're here to argue then? Because even though your title is a question, your approach seems to be making arguments, not actually asking a question. A less argumentative approach would have been to say:

"Last year, I dreaded my hair and got some feedback that it was racist. I had never considered that. What do people of color think? Is there any way I can dread my hair while still being respectful? Is there an alternative style that is comfortable that I can wear?"

-2

JayGrym wrote

"Analysis of whiteness, white supremacy, and white people for the purpose of destroying the racial divisions they hold up." That is the description of this forum but the thread here only seems to be about dividing everyone. Division works out only for those in power. The sad part is that even after I pointed it out others proceeded to push division.

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TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

That sounds like the people who want antifa to stop shuting down facists "because we're all working class".

Whiteness is divisive: it's a power relation and needs to be destroyed.

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JayGrym wrote

Can you help me to change my "whiteness"? I'm being serious. I really don't understand what the point of this forum is if it isn't to get beyond racism. Every argument so far has basically been "you're white." No one's giving solutions.

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TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote (edited )

ok so first you need to know that if you're from EU/US, racism against white people doesn't exist. at worse you'll see isolated instances of racial prejudice. Racism is systematic and (most of the time) wields the whole power and authority of the state (prisons, police, judges, TV, etc...).

So speaking about racism/discrimination against white people is ridiculous, and only something a white person clueless about their privileges would do.

probably you should lurk more, and read stuff from the wiki page. If you have legit questions raddle's usually friendly and can direct you to more ressources.

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JayGrym wrote (edited )

Thank you for the suggestion. I'll be doing that. I have been reading article after article since things blew up in this thread lol this is the first friendly response I have gotten in here but I'll take your word for it. I was raised to avoid hatred but with the white supremacy movement gaining so much power recently hatred seems to be everywhere. One can only hope a second civil war arrives so that the low ass bar for white allies can be raised. We can then go die for the cause and hopefully it shows that not all white allies are okay with the the past of our race or the current trash being spewed by the modern KKK. Again, thank you for your help.

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JayGrym wrote

I would also like to address your previous comment about AntiFa. I support them and their tactics. We need more of them. They are truly the Anarchist Military. They are not terrorists. They're fighting the system the same way the turncoat fought the redcoats; Guerrilla Warfare. Its the only way to dominate an enemy with unlimited resources and power. I just didn't want any misunderstanding about my stance on AntiFa. I want to solve problems, not propel them further.

-6

JayGrym wrote

Dreads are not a cultural thing, Tbh. That's what hair does naturally when it gets dirt in it. As for cultural appropriation, you'll see varying opinions. My opinion is one should always enjoy the many cultures in the world. People leave their countries to explore other cultures all the time. And often take part in the culture themselves while they are in foreign places. But that's okay because they are considered to be tourists or assimilating. IMO, don't worry about other people getting pissy over the style you choose. If they're getting upset it's because you didn't let their fascist expectations control you.

And Sorry, I'm white.

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martasultan wrote

That's what hair does naturally when it gets dirt in it.

Clean your fucking hair.

But that's okay because they are considered to be tourists

People here really don't like tourists. I assume others can explain it better.

If they're getting upset it's because you didn't let their fascist expectations control you.

Sorry, I'm white.

the first sentence was white enough, you didnt need to clarify at the end

-1

JayGrym wrote

Lol I don't have dreads. Quit attacking people.

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martasultan wrote

I hate the 'dirty hair' response because people should wash their hair regardless. Nasty.

-1

JayGrym wrote

Some people live outside. It happens. But it's THEIR hair. None of my business lol I appreciate the point you make. But there really is no use projecting my expectations onto others. I was merely pointing out the OP was not appropriating another culture or at least not the culture most people think. According to wiki, "The ancient Vedic scriptures of India which are thousands of years old have the earliest evidence of jaata/locks which are almost exclusively worn by holy men and women. It has been part of a religious practice for Shiva followers."

4

martasultan wrote (edited )

Some people live outside. It happens.

Europeans prior to civilization as it stands would braid their hair and spend a lot of time keeping it clean because fucking mold grows in dirty matted hair. People need to clean their fucking hair.

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ConquestOfToast wrote

Look that's great and all but white people came into contact with dreads through black people. We can argue all day about historically niche subjects but that's where it came from. You can't steal from one culture then claim it's from another. On top of that. That specific practice in India also requires you to shave your dreads and release them into the Ganges as a form of sacrifice to Shiva. So unless every one of these white sacks of shit start doing that I don't want to fucking hear your horseshit excuse for white people actively devaluing and erasing black folks culture because you think it "looks cool". Have some fucking respect for the people around you.

Yours truly, A former white person with dreads.

-4

JayGrym wrote (edited )

Actually OP states he didn't even think about race when he got the dreads so that means THEY weren't being racist. But I have received multiple racist paragraphs now lol ironic. Race is a dividing factor because people emphasize race like it matters. Its another form of division that will continue to keep the masses separate, preventing any form of strong resistance to an oppressive system. Yes, I'm aware certain races have been tormented by white people for centuries. But I haven't oppressed any race. I'm assuming OP tries not to oppress others either (I hope so anyway). Its foolish to continue dividing strength of the masses, unless you wish for the oppression to continue. Unite or we all suffer. Its a simple belief. Also, the example I gave was the EARLIEST known example. Not the only one. EDIT/ADDITION: Over half of surviving Ancient Greek kouroi sculptures (from c. 615 – 485 BC) are found wearing dreadlocks. Were Greeks black? Everyone pulling the race card really seems kinda racist. Just my opinion. I just don't see a point in division. It weakens the cause. We are all the same species.

3

alex_ wrote

I can unite with others while recognizing their race and experiences matter. These two things go together quite well actually as I'm acknowledging their unique experiences as an individual who is part of a larger culture that has been oppressed.

-1

JayGrym wrote (edited )

I accept this but I have never been racist, never defended a racist, never done anything to belittle someone based on race. And also no one knows my background. I've been poor my whole life and I'm a short, skinny white dude with fucked up teeth (too poor to get them fixed) and long hair with chaos tattooed on my neck. I'm not exactly accepted here where I live (bible belt). CPS tried to take my kids because a doctor lied and said I was having drug withdrawals (I don't do drugs, he was disregarding my questions about my children and I was shaking because I wanted to hit the doctor). This doesn't compare to the wrongs whites have done to other races for centuries. But I have never supported any form of racism and those that commented with belligerent racist remarks are only pushing people away from the cause because it turns into hate speech (note I never spouted any). I grew up in a low income area in California and moved to Oklahoma to look for work. My point is the dialogue here has been completely counterintuitive to the mission statement of this forum and I'm a little disappointed because I had hoped that raddle would be a place for like-minded people to learn from each other (rather than hurl pointless race-based hatred toward one another) and organize against the system that succeeds BECAUSE racism has us dividing our power. I can't change my skin color and I can't go back in time to stop slavery and racism. I can only live in the present. If I was offending any party, I am truly apologetic but it was unintentional. I thought we all had the same goal.

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indi wrote

Actually OP states he didn't even think about race when he got the dreads so that means THEY weren't being racist.

You think you can only be racist if you're being deliberately racist?

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JayGrym wrote

No, but I do think that he was just doing something to make himself feel comfortable without hurting anyone. I think all races have the capability to be racist. I'm stating racism is only helping the ruling class (I definitely don't fit in that category) and by criticizing someone for having dreads and being white is senseless and racist lol it doesn't enrage me. Just disappointing because I'm hoping for revolution, not more of the same ignorance I could get from any white racist. Judging from the comments it looks like I'm the odd man out and everyone else wants some ridiculous race war or something. I don't support any racist ideals and I don't think it's okay to say someone can't do something because they are red, yellow, black, or white. Because that is the essence of racism.

1

yaaqov wrote

Because that is the essence of racism.

It's really not, though. Racism is structural/societal/institutional (and crucially, asymmetrical) system of oppression. While people of all races can be racist, it's not possible to be racist towards people of all races; namely, it's not possible to racist towards white people, though it's certainly possible to be prejudiced or mean towards white people, since they will never be made to institutionally suffer as a result of their whiteness.

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JayGrym wrote

I understand. I simply have no control over those institutions. If I did they would no longer exist. What I'm coming to understand is if you're white just go screw yourself because no one wants your help. I just think that hurts the cause. The whites that aren't racist get lumped in with those that are racist. So there will be no progress on this front. Tactically, this is exactly what racist whites want. They want a complete distrust and hatred toward whites, especially if those whites are against the racism because it divides the general populations power. There's no solution for "white trash" like myself. We are white so we can't be part of the solution. How do I personally stop systemic racism? Show me the solution so I can follow the proper path please.

2

indi wrote

What I'm coming to understand is if you're white just go screw yourself because no one wants your help. I just think that hurts the cause. The whites that aren't racist get lumped in with those that are racist. So there will be no progress on this front.

If that's what you're "coming to understand", then the real reason you're getting "lumped in" with white racists is because you're becoming one.

Racism is actually a pretty simple concept. It's racial bigotry + systemic oppression. Anyone of any race can do racial bigotry against any other race (or even their own!). So yes, when a black person makes fun of "honkies", they are doing racial bigotry just as much as when a white person makes fun of "n-words".

But the systemic oppression part makes a huge difference in those two cases. The systemic oppression of black people by white people means when a white person uses "the n-word", it's not just racial bigotry... it's racial bigory + systemic oppression... which makes it racism. By contrast, when a black person uses "honky", it's just racial bigotry without systemic oppression. That difference is why I can write out "honky", but have to say "n-word" rather than use the word.

Racial bigotry is bad. But racism, because it involves systemic oppression, is really goddam bad, and must be called out and fought against whenever it appears.

Now here's the really important thing about everything I've explained above... are you ready?... here it goes: There is not a single mention of "intention" anywhere.

That's because intentionality doesn't matter. When you said "[a]ctually OP states he didn't even think about race when he got the dreads so that means THEY weren't being racist", that is literally the dumbest fucking thing I read all week - and that's saying a lot because I'm an activist who reads a lot of right wing shit that is so stupid you wonder how they even mustered the brain power to move their fingers on the keyboard.

Racism doesn't stop being racism just because you didn't mean to hurt anyone. And it certainly doesn't stop being racism just because you were being selfish and not giving a fuck... oh, pardon me, "doing something to make yourself feel comfortable".

If dreads really were culturally appropriated, then it does not matter even one tiny bit whether the OP appropriated them deliberately or even knew they were appropriated. Yes, ignorance is not a defence, and "not caring" is certainly not. Good intentions are also not a defence - culturally appropriating something because you like the culture you're appropriating it from does not make you a hero. (I mean, duh, right?) Cultural appropriation is stealing, and stealing is stealing. Saying "I didn't think about race when I culturally appropriated this" is no different from saying "I didn't think about the people I was stealing this from"; you can't seriously believe that is a sensible defence, can you?

Now... all that being said, I don't know if dreads really are a cultural appropriation issue. I've never met a person of colour who really cared - not even activists sensitive to the issue of appropriation - because it's not something actually deprives the source culture of anything. It's not like a white artist doing indigenous-style art, or a white musician "acting black" and making black music. Those things are actually taking away opportunities from the source culture. Another reason people have told me they don't care is that it's not like white people are being rewarded for wearing dreads while people of colour are being punished for it. That's what I've always been told about the issue. But you shouldn't take my experience or anecdotes as the final word. If you care, you should ask people of colour what they think (but not every rando PoC you know or meet - ask in places where those kinds of questions are welcome; there are plenty of groups who are happy to discuss those kinds of topics).

And that's really the problem that I'd say everyone here has with both your and the OP's attitudes. Doing something racist is not in itself a crime, because we all grew up in a very racist society and racism is deeply embedded in everything we've learned. We are all "white trash" (well, those of use who are white, anyway). We will fuck up and do racist shit from time to time... all of us. And if we're lucky, we'll have friends who call us out for it. What happens next is where your and the OP's problem lies. When you do something racist and someone calls you out on it, do you humbly ask experts - usually the targets of the alleged racism, who are almost always the experts on the topic - about their opinions, and what you should do next? Or do you act like an ignorant, privileged asshole, assume you know best about racial issues that really don't have any impact at all on you and that you've never really thought about before, and start whining about how much it sucks to be white?

One of those choices is correct. The other is how you get lumped in with white racists.

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JayGrym wrote

I agree with you. I have asked how I personally can stop systemic racism and haven't gotten an answer (I don't think it was you that I asked). If I can get an answer to that I will follow that path.