Thursday, July 22, 2010

wonder how to respect other cultures


This is a guest post by Joanna, who blogs at My Name is JuJuBe. She's wondering just where the lines are for white people between "appropriation" and something like, "respectful appreciation."


I have a question that I would love to hear some feed back about. I recently read a book called Culture Bandits, by Del Jones, about the appropriation of African cultural images and traditions by white people.

Now, I understand that performing a traditional type of music, or wearing certain culturally significant items are blatant forms of cultural appropriation. I never really paid attention to the concept of cultural appropriation before, but have become more aware in recent years.

So, I have several questions regarding this.

1) While I have heard many times (and always believed) that a white person wearing dreadlocks is a form of cultural theft, does the same hold true for a white person wearing braids/cornrows?

2) If a white person displays art work from another culture in their home (and I mean GENUINE artwork, not a white person's INTERPRETATION of another culture's artistic tradtion), is that cultural appreciation, or cultural appropriation?

3) If a white chef is called an "expert" on the food of another cultural, like Rick Bayless is considered a highly respected Mexican chef, is that culturally inappropriate? (I see nothing wrong with a home chef cooking food from another cultural tradition, but I think that profiting from someone else's cultural traditions is disrespectful.) Does it make a difference HOW the person goes about doing this? (meaning, is Rick Bayless living in Mexico and studying the food and later opening a restaurant as offensive as say, Taco Bell?)

189 comments:

  1. In my white opinion:

    1. I don't know, honestly. I think people should style their hair the way they like to and not worry if it's white enough.

    2. I don't think the artist cares whether the person supporting him is white, and I think it's a bad idea to intimate that white people should only buy work from white artists, or POC artists who work in traditional European or American styles.

    3. Anyone who thinks Taco Bell sells tacos probably thinks McDonalds sells hamburgers. If it's haute cuisine, I don't see anything wrong with it, but if it bills itself as "authentic whatever-ethnicity food" that seems a bit much.

    I guess I really don't understand the problem with ethnic groups other than European ones influencing the mainstream. Yeah there are a lot of stupid people but is the guy who thinks he's a Buddhist because he ate too many mushrooms any worse than the girl who tells everyone how she prayed for Jesus to fix her car and it worked?

    Stupid's stupid, I personally think it's kind of cool that there are so many influences on life now. The things listed in the OP - fashion, art, and cooking - are concepts that are shaped in time and culture, and as culture gets more globalized it's nice to have other cultures as influences rather than simply colonizing them out.

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  2. I have to be honest and say that I go person by person. Although I often see white women in my town wearing braids and have mixed feelings about it. What is a 'style' for one person may be something much deeper and richer for another. It's hard to say what makes the things you've mentioned- for me personally- offensive or not offensive. Without knowing the person, it's hard to know if the respect and understanding are present. I don't know if that makes sense.

    When I see such being marketed, made a trend, I cringe. It's easy to see the theft, because when the next necklace or hairstyle or cuisine becomes "hot", then that which was just so cool isn't cool anymore. But it was never just some "cool thing" to the people it was lifted from.

    I guess I should've waited for others to comment first, yes?

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  3. @cahughes- see that is the thing.... the people who KNOW ME (and who I have asked these questions of before) actually know me... so their response may be totally different than someone who is having a first encounter with me. So, while my friends may not consider me wearing corn rows offensive, other people might, and that is why I posed that specific question.

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  4. As for #1, the ancient tribes of north and western Europe (Celtic, Vikings, etc) sometimes wore dreadlocks, so I've never considered that cultural theft. I've got my own contempt for pot-smoking, Marley-listening "white rastafarians," but dreads themselves were worn by the poor and dirty all over the ancient world long before the founding of the rastafari movement.

    As for braids? I think there's a better case for cultural appropriation there. But they usually look ugly as all hell on white girls anyway, so whatever.

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  5. This seems to fall into the category of "How do I be White without hurting anybody?" I"m guessing you can't. If a WP is wanting to minimize the impact of their cultural tendency to appropriate and exploit the cultures of others, its best to start from internal motivations rather than external appearances.

    1. I don't see the point in wasting energy over whether or not WP should be allowed to wear their hair however they please. I could give a damn. Dredlocs, flat-top fades, cornrows or a Jheri curl, see if I care. (HA! In fact I'd like to see that last one!)

    I DO care if WP start wearing their hair in dreds or cornrows and then start calling it a "new trend" or start renaming the shit "Mattlocks" or "mini-frenchbraids" as if they invented it, rather than outright copied it.
    They do this with POC music, slang, clothing and neighborhoods ALL the time. As if to say "Look at what wasn't cool until WE started doing it Everybody!" THIS is what makes me want to kill and destroy... not the act of copycatting in and of itself.

    2. Again, what's your motivation? Who is that art there for, and what is it saying? Do you actually know a damn thing about the artist, the genre, the origins of the style? Or is it just fashionable to have it there? What part of "yourself" exactly are you intending to express by using this type of art in this manner?

    3. If Rick Bayless underpays his Mexican staff who do the actual cooking, or hires mostly white or otherwise non-mexican staff to do most of his cooking, shirks giving career credit to his Mexican mentors, while investing the profits from his culinary enterprises to promote himself as THE expert on Mexican Cuisine. Yeah that's offensive.

    If there was some global process where all peoples and industries specializing in the cooking and serving of Mexican cuisine came to a universal, objective consensus that yes, Rick Bayless, is one of the top experts on Mexican cuisine, then no it's not offensive. However I think the truth is probably a lot closer to the former than it is to the latter.

    And what is the point of deeming someone an "expert" on any cultural phenomenon anyway? It strikes me as an attempt to lay claim to that phenomenon. There seem to be an awful lot of White experts in all sorts of multicultural practices... That's pretty telling, no?

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    Replies
    1. I really wish I had the ability to articulate my thoughts the way you do. You are truly brilliant without pretension or useless words.

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  6. @ Laplain

    Sheer brilliance, as always.

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  7. Jane Laplain... after reading the last paragraph of you comment, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. He and I exchange books all the time, and I had a textbook from college about Egypt. I told him I had the book, and the first question he asked me was "Who wrote it?" So, I looked the author up on the internet, and the first sentence called this man (who was from Germany) a "world renowned Egyptologist". My friend's comment was "Anyone who calls himself an Egyptologist is a white supremacist who is attempting to distort the history of African people by claiming to be an 'expert' on Egypt in order to perpetuate the notion of European origins of civilization". I tend to question the motives any white person who is deemed an "expert" on a non-European culture

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  8. As a white person, I can't give you any definitive answers on this but I think a lot of previous posters have really touched on something when they point out that taking it on an individual basis is important.

    I'm religious, so I believe that if someone takes their faith seriously, then it doesn't matter what their race is. If a black person believes the tenants of say, Shintoism, then they should be taken seriously in that context. Similarly, if a white person honestly and truly believes and submits to Rastafarian-ism then they should also be taken seriously in that.

    However, many whites use minority faiths and culture as just a fashion or identity statement. Wearing keffiyehs or malas if you don't recognize the significance makes it a problem of privilege. Don't even get me started on hipsters wearing feathers or war bonnets.

    Scrutiny is really what seems most important. Why is that white girl wear cornrows? Does the painting mean something to them or is it just a multicultural novelty?

    @Jane Laplain

    If there was some global process where all peoples and industries specializing in the cooking and serving of Mexican cuisine came to a universal, objective consensus that yes, Rick Bayless, is one of the top experts on Mexican cuisine, then no it's not offensive. However I think the truth is probably a lot closer to the former than it is to the latter.


    Agreed.

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  9. Joanna,

    What I am thinking is this- if you know the respect is there in your heart, the understanding, then honestly, I don't feel there's much you can do as far as the opinions of those who don't know you. If someone asks about hair or art work, just say why it's that way or why it's displayed in the home. Be sensitive to the fact that others may not like it. But also know that none of us can help what people we don't know think about us. They will think what they're going to think, regardless.

    With braids and dreds, I think the problem lies with the acceptability of it on white people as opposed to how it is viewed on black people- too 'ethnic' for others' comfort, for example, or being seen as unprofessional.

    With art, if there is an appreciation for the art, the statement of the art, then why not be able to display what touches you and moves you in your home?

    And I agree with Jane Laplain regarding Bayless. As long as he acknowledges that he does not own the cuisine- give credit where credit is due, then I'd say cook away.

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  10. OT @ Macon: it seems that the comment box doesn't show up on Firefox.
    -----------
    1) Yes. From my experience they will often admit that they are doing it because black folk are doing it and makes them look cool, dangerous, rebellious, sexy, etc. so they want to those same attributes as well (or the you come across the very rare case where they find that it looks better on anyone but black people). Or they do it for laughs (when they try to have an Afro).

    Otherwise they try to rename it to something more consumable to white sensibilities or hark back to their ancient (Celtic, German, etc.) ancestors who also supposedly had the same hairstlye even though they never noticed it until they finally noticed black people who have always been wearing these hairstyles.

    2) Rarely see it as appreciative of art and often seen it used more as trinkets, talking pieces and accessories for elevating oneself rather than being a real admirer of art. And often the art from PoC is traditional, made by past and present artists, rather than modern art made by PoC.

    3) I find that I just have to nod my head to Jane Lapin on every point she made with this one.

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  11. Thank you all for your comments thus far. I actually decided to pose these questions after I purchased a few art pieces for a friend of mine, and found so many beautiful pieces on the site that I considered buying some for myself. When I asked my friends advice about these issues, he basically gave me the response that such things can only be decided on a more personal level.... that if the people who are close to me understand my intentions, that is what should matter. But I know that impact is often more important then intent.
    @jane laplain you are absolutely correct in saying that I cannot be white without hurting anybody else. At some point, my privilege is going to impact another individual in a harmful way, but I would like to do what I can to minimize/avoid the damage.

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  12. "its best to start from internal motivations rather than external appearances."

    there it is.

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  13. Sorry for the talkativeness but my friend is a cosmetologist. We have discussed dreadlocks on whites.

    There are ways for the hair to be clean while in this state but it is extremely involved and time consuming. Usually, the whites with this hair style have dirty, dying (it is dead cellular matter already but I'm speaking of rotting here) cones that are not washed for months.

    I have a hard time seeing anyone who treats their hair in such a disgusting way as doing it out of respect for another culture.

    Otherwise they try to rename it to something more consumable to white sensibilities or hark back to their ancient (Celtic, German, etc.) ancestors who also supposedly had the same hairstlye even though they never noticed it until they finally noticed black people who have always been wearing these hairstyles.

    Exactly.

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  14. Joanna said…
    While I have heard many times (and always believed) that a white person wearing dreadlocks is a form of cultural theft, does the same hold true for a white person wearing braids/cornrows?

    The first person that came to mind when I read this was Bo Derek. Never mind that fact that black men and women having been wearing cornrows since the beginning of time. This white woman, bolstered by privilege made braids an overnight sensation for many white women/girls in this country. It was as if the very hairstyle had no significance until she ‘by her own effort’ decided to make it so.

    Whites have a problem in just appreciating anything. To them such a cultural distinction must be 'owned' and re-imagined to fit into their world-view of things. They reverse-engineer the trait, then reduce it to its most fundamental element; re-label it- assign a completely new etymology to it and call it their own.

    @Joanna…
    “If a white person displays art work from another culture in their home (and I mean GENUINE artwork, not a white person's INTERPRETATION of another culture's artistic tradition), is that cultural appreciation, or cultural appropriation?”

    Speaking as an artist myself no- I think that would amount to 'cultural appreciation'. Now mimicking the style of the artist and then advertising yourself as the ‘foremost authority’ of the African school, (keeping the tradition alive through your efforts alone) now that would be appropriation. The problem lies with claiming the cultural marker as your own and forgetting where you got it from. Purposefully curtailing the influences and contributions of the people you stole it from; paying no homage and giving no credit where credit is due. That's appropriation to me..

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  15. When I was ten or so, I was on vacation with my family in the Caribbean and got my hair done in cornrows by a local hair stylist near the beach. I begged my parents to let me do it because I thought the local girls' elaborately braided hair was pretty and it looked like it'd be cooler and more comfortable in the tropical weather than my pigtails. I do think that, as a white USian girl, I was appropriating a cultural tradition from the black creators of the hair style. If my daughter or younger sister expressed similar fascination with and desire to copy black girls' hair, I am not sure I would allow her to do so.

    On a vaguely related note, white people purchasing art or cultural items from people of color could be seen as economically supporting those PoC. As an adult, I've recently become interested in bento boxes and am considering purchasing one from a Japanese import company. I definitely consider PoC "inspired" works created by white people to be appropriation and inappropriate - like the "tribal" or "exotic" clothing at mall stores. When actual PoC sell a product, though, they tangibly benefit from its sale to whites.

    Does the financial positive of white people buying stuff from PoC offset the social and cultural negatives of white appropriation? If not all instances of white people enjoying or consuming PoC-created items appropriative, what makes an instance okay or not okay to you?

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  16. The internet tells me that some Hindus in India and Sufis in Pakistan wear dreadlocks, in addition to various prehistoric European peoples.

    As for dreads on modern white people, sometimes they simply look good. I've briefly toyed with the idea myself, not because I want to steal anything from black culture, but because I have admired them on fellow whites.

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  17. And white peole 'appropriating' other people's children in adoption?

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  18. @Joanna

    Jane Laplain... after reading the last paragraph of you comment, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. He and I exchange books all the time, and I had a textbook from college about Egypt. I told him I had the book, and the first question he asked me was "Who wrote it?" So, I looked the author up on the internet, and the first sentence called this man (who was from Germany) a "world renowned Egyptologist". My friend's comment was "Anyone who calls himself an Egyptologist is a white supremacist who is attempting to distort the history of African people by claiming to be an 'expert' on Egypt in order to perpetuate the notion of European origins of civilization". I tend to question the motives any white person who is deemed an "expert" on a non-European culture

    I have to call BS on this. I've read German and Swiss authored Egyptology books that study the culture in a respectful manner and acknowledge the non-European origins of Egypt, copyright as far back as the 80's. It would make sense that this Egyptologist is German considering much of the research about Egypt was done foremost in France and Germany, with USA catching up to a slow third.

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  19. 1. The European tribes didn't wear dresdlocks. Their hair was matted, which is entirely different. Dreadlocks are one thing. Matted, unkempt hair is something else. Don't equate the two. Yes, it's cultural appropriation because 9 times out of 10 is done for the cool/hip/trendy factor, not actual respect.

    2. This can be tricky. It really is a person to person thing. For example, if the artwork isn't bought from the main source and the artist doesn't receive profit, I have some trouble with that notion.

    3. No, you're not an expert. You're a student. You learned textbook cooking, not home cooking. You're still a gringo cooking Mexican/Chinese/fill in the blank food. Just because you can make a burrito, it doesn't mean you are down for the causes of Mexicans or other Latin Americans.

    4. There's a mighty thin line between cultural appropriation and appreciation when it involves whites. If one requires profit, cool factors, or attention, it's appropriation. Pure respect does not ask or require any of these things.

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  20. TungstenMouse

    The irony of a white person following Rastafarianism is astounding.

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  21. @Tangerine

    Does the financial positive of white people buying stuff from PoC offset the social and cultural negatives of white appropriation?

    Is it okay to claim the cultural properties of others for your own use, so long as you're willing to pay them a handsome sum for the privilege of being appropriated?

    Is it okay to barge into somebody's house uninvited to tell them how much you adore the architecture, as long as you make them an offer?

    Just because you paid for it doesn't mean its yours. Just because you copied it doesn't mean you were a co-creator. Just because you really like it doesn't mean you have to have it . (That last one is a real headspinner, I know).

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  22. @honeybrown1976

    There's a mighty thin line between cultural appropriation and appreciation when it involves whites. If one requires profit, cool factors, or attention, it's appropriation. Pure respect does not ask or require any of these things.

    THIS! THIS THIS THIS THIS!! Thank you!

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  23. Personally, if I walked into someone's home and I saw more than one "asian" painting, I would feel uncomfortable. I would suspect that it's appropriation and I'd wonder if I'm just another part of that.

    I like what honeybrown1976 said: "If one requires profit, cool factors, or attention, it's appropriation. Pure respect does not ask or require any of these things." In particular, the cool factor or attention part because I often feel like displaying "asian" art is done for the cool factor. It also doesn't go over well when the art is obviously low quality and purchased on a recent trip to an Asian country as a souvenir.

    I'm not against people cooking ethnic food, but Rick Bayless is an "expert" because he's white. How many other Mexican chefs who are Mexican (because there are more than just Rick Bayless) have ever been called an "expert"? In some respects, Bayless doesn't have a whole lot of control of when others call him an expert, but he could do more to highlight other Mexican chefs.

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  24. Stina: Not saying Germans (or anyone else) cannot be a serious scholars of Egypt, but French and German people (and other Europeans) looted tombs in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, and that's how they built their academic tradition of Egyptology. The museums of Europe are full of stuff stolen from Egypt and other parts of the world. So it should not surprise you that a lot of Egyptians are not exactly happy about European claims to expertise about Egypt. In this as anything else, "seriousness" or good intentions don't get you a pass from being the object of other people's feelings about what you are doing that are rooted more in what you represent than who you are as a particular person.

    As far as the OP, I have similar feelings and tensions about appreciation versus appropriation. As I said, I know I have to walk around carrying what I represent, not just who I am, and the exact same thing that seems appreciative to one POC who sees it may seem offensive to another. I think maybe appreciation is humble and does not call attention to itself. As honeybrown1976 said.

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  25. @ Tangerine

    I used to wear my hair in loose braids all over my head, not tight ones, because I thought it looked good...and I remember one of my friends had one of those ponytails with braids that you can clip onto your hair, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

    I don't know if that would be considered cultural appropriation or not, but I will say my friend, who was black, thought I was ridiculous for wanting to wear it.

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  26. So, in my graduate classes we have conversations about appropriation in art, music, and poetry, because so much of our culture is constructed by sampling, pastiching,collaging, and the controversy of whether imitation/stealing is acceptable as a form of continuing or furthering the project/conversation/idea, or whether it is unethical and unacceptable, for reasons similar to those mentioned above in other comments. Race and culture are often factors--like Picasso's use of African mask motifs, or Vanessa Beecroft profiting from the controversy ofher adopting African twins art project. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/arts/26iht-beecroft.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2
    Aside from copyright law and what one might be able to 'get away with', the sense of whether it's appropriation or appreciation comes down to acknowledgment, whether that's a citation or some internal acknowledgment in the work, so that the audience understands the material is borrowed/taken, and the artist communicates an understanding and respect for the source.
    I think the same holds true for 'real life', mostly, except there's a lower threshold for irony. Obviously, there's no frame of commentary or self-critique when a little white girl demands corn-rows at the beach.

    For instance, those hipsters ironically wearing feathers. Without bringing awareness and respect into the act (probably bc they have none), they advertise their disregard and belief of total entitlement, probably in the name of post modernism and 'everything's available and it's all free to me!'...

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  27. @olderwoman

    So it should not surprise you that a lot of Egyptians are not exactly happy about European claims to expertise about Egypt. In this as anything else, "seriousness" or good intentions don't get you a pass from being the object of other people's feelings about what you are doing that are rooted more in what you represent than who you are as a particular person.

    Firstly, we don't know if her friend was Egyptian or not. Secondly, whether the goods were stolen or not in no way impairs one's ability to interpret them or study them. The question of whether people are angry at early Egyptologists stealing treasures from tombs does not have anything to do with her friend's completely false claim that all white Egyptologists believe that the origin of Egypt lies in European civilization, and that their entire agenda as Egyptologists is to perpetuate this belief. Yes, institutionally a white person raping the heritage of other cultures is an act of supremacy, but the idea that current Egyptologists who study the artefacts that came before or even know a lot about Egypt necessarily are supporters of the belief that Ancient Egypt is a European influenced civilization is a fallacious idea.

    Case in point: The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt traces the Predynastic cultures and makes it clear that they originate from the south rather than the north supporting the idea that the civilization of Egypt is influenced by other African cultures. The book is edited by a white man. That one example falsifies the premise "All white Egyptologists believe X".

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  28. 1. Yes, in most contexts. Because 90% of the white people I have encountered wearing cornrows are doing so to be "hip" (or as more than one person have said to me, "ghetto" *cringe*). Also, there's something weird about people trying to get their hair into hairstyles best suited to "kinky"/"nappy" hair-- the way it intersects with the whole business of "good" and "bad" black hair seems off.
    2. No, in most cases. For example, I have a several Japanese art pieces in my room, which I bought because they're beautiful art. I don't think someone has to be raised in an aesthetic tradition in order to appreciate art in that style. Where it gets sticky, I think is when someone likes the art because of the culture it came from, not its aesthetic merits-- that's just fetish-y and creepy.
    3. No, if the person is taking pains to produce authentic food. I don't think the ethnicity of the chef is important. However, if someone is just pouring some canned corn on something and calling it "Mexican" (seen it done!), that's not cool, because it's not only appropriating the culture, it's misrepresenting it.

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  29. SB- I hate hate HATE when people use the term "ghetto" to refer to someone's personality, style or attitude. I think it is disgusting when I hear white teeny boppers who have never traveled past their suburban block look at anything that they consider "low quality" or "trashy" and call it "ghetto"!!!

    As for the cornrows, I have worn them in the past for three reasons:
    1) My boyfriend at the time wanted to see me in cornrows and preferred the on me.
    2) His 11 year old niece needed practice on her braiding skills and wanted to make a little money, so she asked me if she could braid my hair.
    3) The day to day upkeep was practical.

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  30. S.B., you wrote: 'Where it gets sticky, I think is when someone likes the art because of the culture it came from, not its aesthetic merits-- that's just fetish-y and creepy.'

    Hmm, but doesn't that lead to the problem of 'who cares where it came from, this looks cool'?
    Because it seems that to lift an artwork (or any object/practice) out of its tradition or context can be an act of disregard.
    I think that, because the histories or informing experiences behind artworks, foods, traditions, hairstyles, etc, may have significance or meaning for their originating group, it is an attitude of arrogance for an outsider to accept the aesthetically attractive object/idea yet reject the opportunity/obligation to learn and respect where it came from and who it belongs to.

    But I suppose you are referring to when white people have a sort of culture crush, and perceive any race, ethnicity, national origin, religious/spiritual practice through a distorted lens of ('positive') stereotypes, simplifications, and generalizations. I agree that this is as based in willed ignorance and fantasy-think as any other way in which white people appropriate or capitalize on non-white cultures, and as such is creepy and fetish-y.

    I think there is a ground between feigned or deliberate innocence of an aesthetic tradition and exoticising or infantilising it, and, as a white person, I do notice many of us insist on framing every issue as This Extreme Un-nuanced Stance vs That Extreme Un-nuanced Stance when it comes to issues of racial and cultural difference.

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  31. I get sick whenever I hear about white people living happily in PoC countries. Reminds me of how extensive white privilege is and how shitty white people treat us in America.

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  32. I've always associated cultural appropriation with $$$$ and a lack of a deeper understanding of a 'culture' that's for sale.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeMF3mHkT3g&

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  33. 1. What if, as someone touched on earlier, the person is wearing braids simply because it's extremely hot, they have a think head of hair, and braids are the coolest (as in least warm) hairstyle to wear? Should that person not be allowed to wear their hair comfortably just because someone, somewhere, considers that hairstyle to be part of their culture?

    I can see why African-Americans see dreads and braids as part of their cultural identity and get irritated at white people in the USA appropriating it as a fashion. But it is not the same everywhere in the world. I was complemented a number of times on my dreadlocks by black people; none of them were from the USA though, and none of them considered dreadlocks to be part of their culture as such - they just saw it as a hairstyle. Similarly, I've never met any black people from Africa who considered dreads to be part of their culture - since there are so many different cultures in Africa, most of which contain people who have dreads, it would seem pointless for them to try and distinguish themselves with a hairstyle that everyone else shares. Instead, it may be wearing dreads in a certain style that denotes something about your culture, rather than the dreads themselves. And as has been pointed out, dreads and braids exist in other cultures outside of Africa and the USA and have done for thousands of years. While African-Americans can claim dreads and braids as part of their culture, it doesn't follow that no one else in the world can wear them or they're not part of anyone else's culture.

    But I disagree somewhat with the point made that white people only connected dreads to their Celtic roots when they saw black people wearing them. This seems to be conflating two separate phenomena to me - dreadlocks as a 'cool' fashion statement and white people who claim to connect to their Celtic roots. Actually there has been a growing movement for at least 150 years of white people connecting with their pre-Christian roots, manifest today in the large number of Neo-Pagans in Europe, Australia and North America. These are people who have rejected the appropriated West Asian monotheistic religions and have chosen to instead piece together and re-imagine their traditional religion. Sure, the Romans described the Celt's locks as being 'matted' - but really, I can't think of a better descriptive word for white people's dreadlocks today, especially if the word 'dreadlocks' itself doesn't exist (as it didn't for the Romans).

    2. Be conscious of where your art is coming from. For example, in Australia there are Aboriginal artists who sell their paintings to the general public; but there is a large and noxious trade in on-selling art. The artist is paid a pittance, while their work goes on to be auctioned for thousands, sometimes a million dollars, with the artist never seeing another cent. Similarly, a lot of businesses sell south east Asian arts and crafts, bought for a few cents overseas and sold for a lot of dollars here. Try and make sure that when you buy something because you appreciate it, you're not inadvertently shafting the very people who made it.

    3. I can't see any reason why anyone couldn't become proficient, even an expert in any method of food preparation, wherever it comes from. But I think being an 'expert' is a separate thing from the moral issues of what you do with your 'expertise.'

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  34. Dreadlocks on white people bug me. I've never been able to articulate it sufficiently "rationally"— maybe it's not entirely "rational" [full disclosure, I'm Jamaican]— but I'm sorry, there it is. I see it a lot where I live, so I'm forced to see it and put up with it, and I try not to judge, but it bugs me.

    And, aaargh, not even 5 comments before we got the now de rigeur "prehistoric European tribes" back-formation. I haaaate that explanation/justification/whatever it is. I can't even explain; I just— aargh. Just... don't.
    . . .

    Certain things are so highly, and frequently, stereotyped that my tolerance for potential appropriation is lower. As a JA'n, I am viscerally annoyed by white dreads, possibly because I've had to put up with sooo many stupid, humiliating, infuriating dreadlock-related comments from WP over the years (and I don't even have dreads) that I just have no patience for it. I'm fresh out of benefit of the doubt, you know? OTOH, if I saw that someone had a houseful of Caribbean art, I wouldn't immediately suspect appropriation. That isn't, and has never been, a fad. But Asian Art Guy— he's getting the immediate side eye. Because it's a "thing." When I see a white guy who uses a kimono for a robe, I worry. Ditto white chicks in saris. Ditto "Southwestern" home decor (ie: Native Americana; dreamcatchers everywhere, etc.). And so on.
    . . .

    Q: When was the last time something was given to "[White] American Culture"? Has that ever happened? Or, a case where people didn't mind, or were happy to contribute the thing?

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  35. @honeybrown1976
    Thank you!!
    A sincere white Rastafarian would be... well, interesting, to say the least.

    The Ras Trent variety is much more common.

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  36. My opinion, and I'm white:

    1) A white person wearing dreadlocks is not a form of cultural theft; it's a form of emulation, often based on an appreciation of part of the culture. An original dreadlock wearer loses nothing if a stranger half a world away chooses a similar hairstyle. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    2 and 3) In my observation, people are usually delighted when others take a sincere, genuine interest in an aspect of their culture.

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  37. What's the point of you wearing cornrows? Is it just because you like the style? I'm not being snarky I really would like to know.

    I'm asking this because what some people completely miss is the fact that cornrows, braids and twists etc have a purpose. When done correctly (not to tight) these styles protect our hair from the sun, pollution and breakage. When moisturizing our hair, these styles help to retain moisture which is crucial for healthy hair, especially for blacks because our hair is extremely delicate. It more porous so it dries out much quicker than the hair of other races.

    I could go on about how the styles help with preventing tangling etc but that's for another time. There is still the factor that the act of getting your hair styled (if done by a family member or friend) is a bonding experience for me personally. My mother and I have the best conversations to this day when she does my hair. :)

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  38. 1. I would say that the fact that black women's natural hairstyles are considered "unprofessional" makes the use of that hairstyle by white women problematic. Cornrows and braids are protective styles for natural black hair; I can't wear my hair in a big poofy afro all the time or it will simply get too dry and will eventually start to become damaged. So while I also like to get fancy with my cornrows/braids occasionally, for the most part my use is utilitarian. I will never put relaxers in my hair again (I've been natural for almost a decade), so I'm doomed to have pretty much any hairstyle that I choose - including cornrows and braids - damned as being an inappropriate look for business or professional settings. For a white woman to choose to use those styles strictly as a fashion thing just seems off.

    All that said, when I see a white woman with cornrows, I don't think much anything (negative or positive) of it or them - unless they start showing them off, which I've seen happen quite a bit. "Look at me and my SUBVERSIVE NEW STYLE!!" Um, okay.

    2. It depends, do you buy the art because you like the art? Or do you buy the art because you've fetishized the culture that created it? I kind of approach this in the same way I would approach an interracial relationship; a white person who dates a non-white person is not doing anything problematic...unless that white person starts saying stuff like "I only date Asians because they are all so beautiful and submissive." If you only like art because " are so " then it's a big ol' bucket of racefail. But if you geniunely connect with a piece and have respect for the culture and history that created it (and the knowledge to back that respect up), then get your art on!

    My husband is an artist of color, and he's having a damned hard time selling anything in this economy. I think I'm going to ask him if he'd be willing to join the conversation here.

    Your question also reminds me of a thread I saw on Sociological Images about whether art created by Native Americans that isn't all howling wolves or dreamcatchers can be classified as Native American art. It doesn't answer your question, but you may find it interesting. http://contexts.org/socimages/2009/06/15/what-counts-as-indian-art/

    3. I've gotta cosign Jain Laplain 100% for this one.

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  39. @Stina

    I realize your intention is to refute Joanna's friend's claim that all Western Egyptologists have a eurocentric agenda. But you are comimg dangerously close to excusing a centuries long history of Western plundering, colonizing and appropriation of non-European civilizations as irrelevant to the present day

    The taking of knowledge by force IS terribly TERRIBLY relevant. If I broke into your grandma's house and went thru her dresser drawers, took her diary and photo albums, copies of bills and receipts she had, clothing and personal knick knacks, dragged them all back to my house and studied each item for a few years, would that make me know alot about her that most people probably didn't before? Of course. Would that make me an Expert on The Life of Stina's Grandmother? Would that qualify me to write her biography and publish definitive reports on what Stina's Grandma was like, what her existence represented to the world? I'm pretty sure you would beg to differ if I said yes.

    Now imagine I'm still curious about your grandmother and would like to go digging for more info. I'm not sure where to find it, so I and a few friends show up at YOUR house armed with weapons. We threaten you at gunpoint to help us find where that safety deposit box she once mentioned in her diary is. Trembling with fear you comply. I extract the contents of the safe deposit box. I publish these exciting new findings and gain even more acclaim as an expert. You could not object to any of this because my friends with the guns are still stationed at your house, fingers on the trigger, ready to do whatever it takes to keep you from interfering in MY groundbreaking research about YOUR grandmother.

    All of that context would certainly shape my narrative about your grandmother in important ways. And it would probably affect the KINDS of knowledge I was able to produce about her in the first place. It props up my method of data collection as the only legitimate way of gaining "expertise" on your grandmother;s life, because I'm literally controlling the story from the get go.

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  40. OOps pressed post a little too soon.

    One last thing. Thanks to my criminal efforts there is now an entire new industry called Grandmology: The Official Study of Stina's Grandmother. I have created an academic discipline, a market for trade, copyright and scientific funding in one fell swoop.

    So yeah "Expert" used as a career title is biased as hell. It's a concept grounded in a consumer based and often white supremacist agenda.

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  41. "I'm not against people cooking ethnic food, but Rick Bayless is an "expert" because he's white."

    This seems important. WP can take an element of another culture and utilize it to attain levels of commercial success unavailable to the people who created it in the first place. I'm sure Elvis had genuine respect for the blues but that doesn't excuse him from taking advantage of the fact that his whiteness is what made it possible for him to profit from it.

    This also reminds me of an ill conceived show from the food network, I forget the name, where a white chef would go around to different towns/countries and try to beat other chefs at their own specialties. It always made me uncomfortable.

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  42. Re: Egyptology, the issue isn't so much whether white people can study ancient Egypt without a white supremacist mindset but rather the name of the field itself. "Egypt", the word, is Greek in origin. The point is more that acknowledging the non-European origins of Egyptian civilization would mean using the ancient Egyptians' name for their land, usually transliterated kmt/Kemet.

    But here's where you run up against the extent to which white supremacy is institutionalized. Tell me, please, how many universities have a Department of Kemetology? If I want to get a job teaching the history of Kemet, will my CV (resume) be taken as seriously if I market myself as an expert in social history of Kemet, or in the social history of pharaonic Egypt?

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  43. I really don't want to start any wank here, but can someone please clarify this for me:

    Jane said ""How do I be White without hurting anybody?" I"m guessing you can't."

    ... So the very existence of White people hurts everyone else?

    I'm sorry, but that really does sound like "kill all the whites and the world would be better." How is that a good thing, exactly?

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  44. as a lover of hiphop the first thing i think of in this discussion is Eminem. what gets me about him is that sooo many white folks, critics, etc. suddenly decided that now there were complexity and intensity and controversy in lyrics; these were the same people decrying the more simplistic 2 live crew but ignoring spice-1, most of 2pac, guru, organized konfusion, etc. it's like until eminem there wasn't anything real or adult or noteworthy in hip hop.

    to his credit eminem is quite open about how he knows he is able to reach into the suburbs in a way that, for example, dr. dre couldn't without him. sometimes white folks who do have a true connection to and understanding of a culture (hiphop being a culture dominated by but never exclusively made up of PoC) and its arts are put forward without their intention as the great experts. it is the responsibility of the eminems, rick bayless' and gwen stefanis to stand up for those who they learned from. that is where they can best be judged: how much credit do they give to those who created the art?

    for my friends and i, we usually dont even talk to a white person with dreads. it's usually a waste. the last time i did was having an arguement about police brutality in a workshop with a dreaded white dude who called himself samedi. he thought he had the answers for how black folks should deal with it. if you don't know the name, google samedi; i'll wait.

    got it? yeah, that's my experience with white folks with dreads. i think that until there is equality, there's just some things white folks gotta accept that they cannot do. period.

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  45. On buying art - I'd say that if an artist of colour is happy to sell their work to white people, that's up to them. You'd obviously want it to be a fair dealing situation where they weren't being cheated or pressured, but if that's not a problem then a blanket boycott isn't going to respect the artist's own choices - and in fact could end up treating them as a generic member of their race rather than a person with their own ideas. So a lot of it seems likely to vary from artist to artist.

    Buying it when you're white? Well, if you're looking for cool points or fetishing someone else's culture or something like that, then you're being an ass. But if you buy a piece because you think it's beautiful and admire the person who made it, then you're buying it for the same reason you'd buy from a white artist, which I don't see much of a problem with.

    I think the issue is basically whether you treat the piece as a generic piece of racial exotica or whether you treat it with the same respect you'd treat a white person's art, which is to say, as the work of a gifted individual who has their own responses to the culture and traditions that influence them.

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  46. Aadonis219@yahoo.com.auJuly 23, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    Immediately upon reading the initial post I thought of two people- Eminem and Tiger Woods. Now I dare not question Mr. Mathers respect and admiration for the rap/hip-hop culture given his exposure to said musical genre(s). I will make the assumption that you like minded folk are fully aware of rap's conception and spare you from a lengthy lecture. Again I do not question Mathers intentions but by the very tenants of how White Supremacy works one must question if his success ( and or to what degree) a direct result of him belonging to the collective whiteness, and if so does his appreciation begin to cross over to appropriation. Comedian Paul Mooney said " They have the complexion for the protection of the collection" or something to that effect. By the very nature of demographics in America White people buy more albums than every one else and in my experiences White America does not take a liking to anything ethnic until it stamps it as White first, just ask Pat Boone and Little Richard. Really this is no different than Yao Ming receiving the million votes for the All-Star game one year simply because there is nearly 2 billion people in China despite his mediocre talent. Eldrick just happened to dominate a predominately wealthy White sport on his and Earl Wood's own work ethic. Tiger does not have the millions of Black fans to launch him to super stardom/billionaire status that some White celebrities do. POC do not have that LUXURY. Minorities who embark on such endeavours are not in a position to ever appropriate whereas Whites who enter into other cultures leisure activities always runs the risk of easily becoming one who appropriates given it really is a White man's world. As a Black man from the States residing in Australia I was re-educated to the wonders of White Supremacy. Italians, Greeks, Arabs and basically all non Anglo-Saxon peoples from Europe/Mediterranea are pejoratively referred to as "Wogs". In America the illusion of inclusion eventually ended such nescient ideologies from taking root. There are points where I visit Italian or Portuguese restaurants and I visibly see Anglo-Saxon owners with very cheap Asian/Indian employees. I need not say more. I'm living in James Cameron's "Avatar" and the appropriation is nearly omnipresent, as White people have basically sought to maintain that POC ( Southern Europeans included) know their appropriate place-subordination. Pardon my rant.

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  47. Re: artwork. If it's trying to show how down you are with the other culture, it seems like appropriation to me. I know someone who has a lot of Native American art in her house, including a number of antique cradleboards mounted on the walls. I was there when I was 16 and while they were beautiful items and the couple knew the history of them -- it was sort of a track-lighting highlighted, museum-like display, it did feel like appropriation to me, but I wouldn't have known what that is at the time.

    I do think there is a difference between buying something like a squash blossom necklace from a Native American artist and buying a made-in-China version from QVC and telling people you have Native American jewelry.

    My dining room furniture is French country in style and...made in China. So maybe I'm a hypocrite (though I didn't know where it was from when I bought it, I didn't assume it was made in FRANCE, either).

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  48. @ cornfuzed

    you made quite a leap from "whiteness hurts others" to "kill whitey!"

    nobody said anything about any kind of retaliation so your argument amounts to a strawman.

    Whiteness was created to elevate 1 group of people above all others. That's the world we live in. If you are white, you benefit from white supremacy at the expense of those who are not white. Don't you think that might have a negative effect on POC?

    If that is true, please explain how you can be white without hurting anyone.

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  49. @cornfuzed
    Jane said ""How do I be White without hurting anybody?" I"m guessing you can't."

    ... So the very existence of White people hurts everyone else?


    Why, YES.

    The category "White Person" was created SOLELY to justify the hurt such people were causing to everybody who was NOT classified as White. I've talked at length about this in many of the most recent comment threads. Please look them over if you need clarification of this point.

    I'm sorry, but that really does sound like "kill all the whites and the world would be better." How is that a good thing, exactly? .

    Not sure if you're white, but this is another classic SWPD. Acknowledging the negative impact White culture has had on everybody else always seems to translate to some white ears as "Kill Whitey!!"

    Um NO. That's not what I said. Acknowledging a cultural legacy of harm and advocating murder as payback for that same harm... those are not the same thing. But if that's the only logical conclusion you could draw from the former... Hrmmmm... interesting. Tell ze doktor more about zees fantasies you are havink, ja?

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  50. @Willow: But the English word for Egypt is... Egypt. In German it's Egypten.

    And speaking of Germany, what do the Germans call their country? Deutschland. Good luck finding Deutsch Studies, and if you try to market yourself as an expert on the social history of Deutschland, you will get some very strange looks. We also have English names for various German cities. You are unlikely to find Köln or München on an English map, but you might find Cologne and Munich. Same with other European cities: Prague or Praha? Vienna or Wien? Rome or Roma? Aix-la-Chapelle or Aachen?

    It IS a common white trait to translate country and city names into our various languages, but we certainly don't limit ourselves to those in the developing world, and you can observe the same phenomenon in some non-European languages as well.

    In short, no, that is not a valid reason to reject an entire discipline.

    As for the other points mentioned, I'm not sure how relevant the old thefts are to the MODERN field of study. The fact that a man was born in Germany or has a German name does not mean he is incapable of studying a culture that his ancestors may have stolen from. If acknowledged, an outsider's perspective can be valuable, and you are assuming that he is not also drawing information from modern Egyptian sources. He might even Egyptian roots himself: Germany has become very multicultural in recent decades.

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  51. Cicada, that fingers-stuck-in-the-ears look isn't exactly becoming around these here parts. Nor is that song you're singing ("La la la la la, I can't hear you!").

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  52. Here is the problem as I see it: The "othering" cycle.

    Step1: WP notice elements of POC culture (hair, art, music, food, etc.)
    Step2: Said WP feel uncomfortable because said POC elements are "foreign" to them and outside of their understanding of whiteness.
    Step3: Said WP compare POC elements to elements of their own "white" cultural standards.
    Step4: Said WP determine POC elements are "inferior" to white elements due to white supremacy, and the privilege that goes along with it.
    Step5: Said WP begin to make fun of, berate, criticize, denounce, reject, discredit, marginalize, exclude, attack said POC elements (E.g. BW/BM being told that locks, braids, cornrows are "unacceptable" hair styles because said POC hair styles are not in line with WASP/European standards of beauty.)
    Step6: POC are now on the defensive about their very cultural existence/practices and feel the need to engage in some BS cultural exchange to assuage WP's fears, prejudice, hang ups, misgivings, racist rants, cultural attacks, etc.
    Step7: Said WP then "discover" that elements of POC culture can be copied, co-opted, exoticizied, and marketed to other WP for profit.
    Step8: Said WP also "discover" that elements of POC culture make them special, unique, different, cool, hip, avant-garde in a haute couture socialite kind of way that allows them to "other" their own. This way they can stand out in a sea of WP and feel exclusive.
    Step9: Said WP continue to be racist towards actual POC, still "othering", still believing that POC are inherently inferior to their own "white" cultural standards.
    Step10: Said WP seek to become POC experts claiming to know/understand elements of POC culture better than the actual POC that created the culture in the first place (e.g. Hip Hop) This allows WP to whitewash POC elements without having to challenge their own beliefs, identity, and elements of "white" cultural standards.
    Step11: Repeat Step1.

    I know this is a very basic cycle and I'm sure more steps could be added, changed, etc. but you get the idea.

    So IMO because WP "other cycle" POC you can never have a "respectful appreciation" for POC cultures until this cycle stops.

    Also, "respectful appreciation" will never happen until we eradicate white supremacy, and the privilege that goes along with it, from the minds of all human beings on this planet.

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  53. @Karinova

    As thoroughly convincing as your "aargh. Just... don't" reasoning behind not acknowledging the hair habits of prehistoric European tribes are, I still disagree. This probably says a lot more about my choice of friends, but the dreaded WP I knew as a teenager were squatters and street kids who wore their hair in dreads for the same damn reason that the European tribes did: because when you don't have regular access to a shower, it's the easiest hairstyle to maintain.

    As I mentioned in that first horrible tribes-citing post, I have as much disgust for white people adopting Jamaican dreads (and everything else) for cool points. But my own personal experience that not all dreaded white folk do it for that reason just won't let me agree with you completely.

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  54. ahhh...
    Eminem.. that great ripper off of Chino XL.

    Thats is all.

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  55. caribbelle- there were actually several reasons I wore cornrows in the past. My ex boyfriend preferred me in cornrows as opposed to my loose hair. His niece was 10 when I first met her, she was learning how to braid hair, and she wanted to practice on me, and make a little money. (and after having her braid my hair many time, I did feel that sense of bonding and closeness that you mentioned). Also, my hair is very thick, dry, and frizzy. I cannot wash it too often, or it will fall off, and I cannot brush it while it is dry because it looks unkempt if I do. So, cornrows was a more practical style for me, especially during the summer. And of course, I am not going to deny that I also considered cornrows aesthetically pleasing.

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  56. I think the topic of this post is very good, but the message of the post itself is something I utterly detest.

    Thorny issue though it may be, in truth, I think that when whites "appropriate" other cultures, the net benefits in the long run far outweigh any putative damage that may result from the white person not fully understanding the culture in which they involve themselves (but does anyone really understand any culture "fully" anyway?.

    Basically, it's a form of internalized oppression when POC's subtly imply that we should live in little racial bubbles where we pretend that many of our behaviors are "black," "white," or some other defining characteristic that ignores the complexities of nationality and culture.

    When you tell a black person they're acting white, you're saying, "Black people aren't supposed to be educated or ever expect inclusion in mainstream culture."

    When you tell a white person it's insensitive for them to wear the clothes of or read about, or visit, or eat the food of, or live among, or watch the movies of, etc. etc. another culture, whether it be abroad or a differing culture within the same nation, you are insulting both the white person and, more especially, the non-white culture, by somehow implying it's like a little premodern village that'll somehow be destroyed by intermingling it with anything else. POC's and our cultures are not that weak. A lot of what is called white culture today was once black. Jazz and rock and roll are only the tip of the iceberg.

    Globalization is real and it will only intensify. It will not stop. Should it be cosmopolitan or should it be just a form of global westernization, spreading only white culture? Before you claim that white "appropriation" is essentially the spreading of white culture into others via contamination, consider the alternatives.

    This is one issue that makes me hate white leftist university administrators like wildfire, because the protectionist attitude often taken under the guise of protecting the sanctity of non-white cultures is so infantilizing and insulting that I can't even begin to describe the level of indignation it makes me feel.

    To all white people: Please keep borrowing things from black culture. You could do it in more tasteful ways, to be sure, but if someone tells you to avoid it entirely, for fear that you're somehow polluting it, those people do not speak for all black people.

    Cultural mixing is like racial mixing. The world will be better in the end when there is more of it, even if it undeniably creates loads of awkward situations in the interim.

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  57. @ Cicada,

    You are making this a language and translation issue. It's not.

    It would be one thing if we were talking about calling it "Masr Studies" or "Masrology", i.e. using the Arabic name for the modern region that encompasses the Nile valley instead of the English name. But the issue here is the Greek (hence European) Aigyptos versus the African Kemet. It is further complicated by the fact that the Greeks did, rather late in the history of Kemet, conquer the country.

    The broader context here matters, too. We've created a world where Europe (and now the U.S.) has exploited and continues to exploit Africa. Using names that derive from the European conquerors' terms instead of what the Nile valley residents called themselves is an artifact of white supremacy.

    As to whether we should throw out all the work of modern Egyptology just because it is published under the label "Egyptology"? That's a complicated question. Again, it is impossible to be hired to study or teach about this period of time in this region without submitting articles to Egyptology journals and having "Egyptology" on your CV. You will not be taken seriously by publishers and get books published if you write as a Kemetologist. I have a hard time saying, "Look, I know you just wanted to be able to feed your family, but everything you've done is invalid because you aren't Radical Enough for my taste." On the other hand, how do we break the system if people aren't willing to be that radical?

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  58. @ Mike,

    You are completely missing the financial exploitation often involved in white mis/appropriation of POC culture. Also white tendencies to trample other cultures' sacred symbols into stereotyped oblivion. (Hipster headdress much?)

    Cultural mixing is great in theory, but for white people who want to fight racism it is important to learn how to do so responsibly and respectfully.

    Because one of the cultures that is being mixed is White Supremacy, and that has to color everything else we do.

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  59. So, Mike, POCs should just allow whites to monopolize what is ours for the sake of globalization?

    No, until white supremacy is wiped out only then will this rose-colored idealism work. Let me guess, you believe that we live in a post-racial world, right?

    We are not there yet.

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  60. Its interesting that the study of the culture/history of ancient Egypt is called Egyptology, when the study of analogous cultures would fall under history or anthropology. Or in the case of Rome and Greece, the classics. I think naming it Egyptology and conceiving of it as a stand-alone discipline is probably derived from the exoticization of Egypt in the European consciousness, a trend that was particularly strong during Victorian times, when "archeological excavations" led to widespread looting by whites. My point being that even calling an individual an Egyptologist, rather than, for example, a historian studying ancient Egypt, reeks of orientalism.

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  61. @Willow: But in the example that I gave, Germany instead of Deutschland, the English word Germany comes from Germania, the Roman name for the region.

    Oh, and then there's Wales... the Welsh themselves call the country Cymru. "Wales" comes from the old German word Walh, meaning "foreigner" or "stranger." When the Anglo-Saxons took over what is now England, they named their Welsh/Cymry neighbours in their own language.

    It's not white supremacy. As you can see in the examples that I've given, we rename white nations as readily as non-white nations, sometimes because we first hear the names from conquerors or neighbouring peoples (not always white people!), sometimes because we ARE the conquerors and are trying to remake the world in our image, and sometimes simply because the original name is difficult to pronounce. The name "Egypt" appears to fit into the first category. We took the Greek name because of our neighbours: it came to us through Middle French and Latin sometime in the 14th century. The Ancient Greek name apparently has roots in Middle Egyptian and has something to do with the temple in Memphis, then a capital city.

    I just think you're reading too much into this. It would be NICE if we'd just all start calling every ancient and modern nation on earth by its "correct" name, but the fact that we don't proves only that we can't be bothered to rename half the globe.

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  62. After my friend made the comment he made about Egyptology, I went to a few websites/blogs dedicated to Egyptology. And on every one of them, there was the debate over what RACE the ancient Egyptians belonged to. And, as soon as evidence was produced proving that, for example, Cleopatra was a Black, African woman, the crowd that was fighting AGAINST the idea of Egyptians being Black all of a sudden wanted to claim that "Egyptians didn't care about skin color, so it doesn't matter anyway...." That right there told me A LOT about the motives of most (NOT ALL) "Egyptologists"

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  63. [Scott, I'm not going to publish that; it's too disrespectfully dismissive of most of the conversation going on in this thread. Read it more carefully, please. ~macon]

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  64. @Joanna: I think the main reason why people object to the whole Cleopatra being black idea is just that contemporary images and descriptions of her exist. She had a big nose and Caucasian features. Her skin may well have been dark -- coins and marble busts don't show those details -- but to portray her as a fully black woman is as silly as pretending that Jesus was blonde and blue. Technically possible, I suppose, but more likely to be wishful thinking.

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  65. I'm not sure if this is off-topic, but there was the recent controversy about whether Angelina Jolie would be an appropriate casting choice for a movie about Cleopatra. I remember skimming the comments of several of these articles, and couldn't believe how stridently white commenters (identifying as white) insisted that Cleopatra was actually white/Greek/or just so beautifully regal that nobody but Angelina Jolie could convincingly carry the character.
    Maybe this is more of a race-bend topic than about appropriation, but it is striking how Western ownership of Egyptian historical expertise is so deep-rooted.
    Even if we can't be sure whether Cleopatra was was/looked Greek vs. African, the overwhelming support of a Hollywood default to Angelina Jolie---and accusations of reverse-racism against anyone who found it problematic---was not reassuring me that white people are at all open-minded about re learning any history that's not written in our own words.

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  66. @ seang,

    Egyptology as a stand-alone discipline isn't just history, though--it's literature, religion, archaeology, history, etc. Analogous to "classics," I guess, and actually, in universities it's often part of the classics dept. In the case of the former, you would have people in the dept who call themselves Egyptologists, Assyriologists, Latinists, Hellenists, etc. Closer to modern times, there are lots of departments of medieval & early modern studies (the better ones are global in focus), or East Asian Studies, or American Studies, or...etc.

    I guess you could try to make something out of an -ologist versus -ist distinction (academics usually talk about "Europeanists" and "medievalists") if you were so inclined. Mostly I guess this is another question of, at what point do we say the origins of the field are too problematic for it to continue in the way that, according to current academic praxis regarding pretty much every other civilization, studies of other societies are proceeding. (That is not supposed to be as flippant as it sounds. IMHO it is a valid question).

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  67. @Sparrowette:
    "when you don't have regular access to a shower, [dreads are] the easiest hairstyle to maintain"

    Yeeeah, no. That, right there, is one of the things I have a serious problem with. That may be the thing I have a problem with. I almost don't even know where to begin.

    Shall I start with "right, like gutterpunks, by nature of being gutterpunks, have no use for fashion statements; everything they do is strictly utilitarian"? Please. In my observation, that subculture is especially concerned with hairstyling and personal appearance. If low-care hair was all they cared about, they'd all be rocking crewcuts— or one big MATTED "dread." [BTW, seriously? That's not really the group you want to blanket-reference for keepin-it-real-ness, what with all the rampant Trustafarianism and lateral appropriation. Do not get me started.]

    Or maybe I'll go with, "NEWSFLASH: dreadlocks require quite a bit of care and washing"? Or perhaps, "goddammit, quit telling me— and each other— that dreadlocks=unwashed. That is only true for you!" For the last fucking time, it's you people who associated dreads with dirtiness, and now it's stuck. First y'all just said it (about us), and now you're busy personally making it true. And it'll work. There are more of you than us, and so eventually you will take it from us completely. And I fucking resent that. Deal with it.

    And as for this Celtic tribes bullshit, it's exactly that: after-the-fact obfuscatory bullshit. Next time you see a dreaded WP, strike up a convo about the Picts; they're highly unlikely to know WTF you're talking about. Because it's not fucking about that. At all. It was never "about that" until just a few years ago (10 max), when it finally became common white knowledge that it pisses many BP off (and, probably more to the point, dreaded WP started to get routinely laughed at by other WP— ie: it was no longer a consequence-free fashion statement). Then, like magic, all those WP who got them essentially because grunge was hot 5 years earlier were suddenly a) descended from prehistoric Celts, and b) deeply aware of it, as part of their identity. Oh please. Dreaded WP everywhere must have been sooo relieved to finally have a way to muddle that convo. Because now, "Ancient Celts" are THE go-to retort; if you're going to get an "explanation," it's gonna be that one. And you know what? It pisses me off even more, because it's so fucking dishonest. It's a White Lie.

    It's appropriation, plain and simple. Hell, even Wikipedia doesn't bother trying to equivocate on this.

    PS, I really don't care if you remain "unconvinced." Right back atcha. My opinion is: FUCK blond dreads. Deal. With. It.

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  68. @ Cicada,

    Why do you keep bringing up in-Europe examples? I agree that European powers conquer each other, but that's really beside the point. We live in a world where the white West has continuously exploited Africa--including drawing borders and naming lands when we have NO RIGHT to do so.

    I would be laughed out of academia if I tried to publish a "History of Rhodesia." Yet Egyptology is the seemingly-unshakable name of a valid field of study.

    I'm aware of the *possible* etymology of Aigyptos, yes, but the fact remains that the name "Egypt" is a direct descendant of the name the Greeks gave to the land, even if they sort-of derived it from an indigenously-given name they maybe-misheard. "Kemet" is the actual name the people who lived there called it.

    (As for the idea that a modern nation can have a "correct" name...yeah, well, do I live in the United States or the Estados Unidos? Or heck, the Vereinigte Staaten? Linguistic pluralism for the win. But again, if someone says "Estados Unidos" it doesn't come with a history of oppression and Evil Spanish Dominance of white Americans).

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  69. @Karinova

    For starters, I am mixed race. Please do not decide for me that I am white (seriously, did you just "you people" me?).

    Secondly, you and I both know that there is a big difference between gutterpunk matt dreads and rastafari dreads. But in modern society, they are both called dreads. I never claimed that rastafari dreads were in any way dirty, and I have also stated that white people have no business wearing that variety.

    I also did not claim that gutterpunks are doing it because of a DEEP SPIRITOOOOAL CONNECTION with the Celts. I said that they do it because celt dreads (should I start calling them "matts?") are an easy hairstyle to have when you live on the street. For the record, yeah, they also probably thought that they looked good.

    If white street kids want to rock a bunch of dirty-ass matted dreads in their hair, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to. It's so far from rastafari dreads that it's hilarious.

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  70. "Please. In my observation, that subculture is especially concerned with hairstyling and personal appearance. "

    agreed. and in fact the easiest hairstyle to maintain is a shaven head especially if your living on the street and can't shower regularly. dreads on WP are disgusting because it's not natural for our hair. Every single dreaded WP I've ever known has been one of those people who just tries waaay too hard.

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  71. @willow. Fair point. Although, how thoroughly has Egyptology been rehabilitated? (not being an academic, this actually a real question). Are authorities from the problematic origins still read? Have their ideas continued to float around the field? Who populates the field?

    I just wonder if you really can cleanly separate problematic beginnings from the current state of the discipline.

    In popular culture ancient Egypt is still orientalized to a strong degree (for an especially on the nose example see Stargate, where ancient Egyptian culture is literally alien). Not to impugn any particular academics practicing in the field; I realize there is a world of difference between the academic and popular views on culture. But if the presence of those ideas in the culture at large is that strong, it seems likely that it would seep into the academic discipline.

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  72. @Cicada..
    re: cleopatra, you said: She had a big nose and Caucasian features.
    Please explain or list which ever you prefer, what those caucasian features were?

    Macon, wasn't there a topic somewhere about this?.

    As an African woman, I'm waiting with bated breathe for you to describe those Caucasian features which mean it would be silly to describe her as a black woman.

    Waiting ... patiently.....

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  73. soul,

    Hmm. Not directly, that I can remember. Are you thinking of this one? Maybe its comments too.

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  74. @soul:

    Take a look at this photo of a bust of Cleopatra from 30-40 BC:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Kleopatra-VII.-Altes-Museum-Berlin1.jpg

    If I had to guess ethnicity from facial features alone, my first thought would be Turkish. She apparently had Greek roots, so I wouldn't be too far off. Doesn't mean she didn't have African roots AS WELL, but claiming that she's a black African just doesn't make sense.

    Incidentally, I am not American, so I find American ideas about what makes someone "black" (i.e. any African ancestry whatsoever, especially if it's visible) very strange.

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  75. Cicada... there are many African people who have what many people consider "Caucasian" features. Not because they are mixed with Europeans, but because Africa has more genetic diversity than any other continent in the world. The skeleton of Cleopatra's mother was examined and was examined. Cleopatra's mother was an African woman. Also, another issue with "Egyptology" is that it calls itself a SCIENCE, which gives the impression that it is somehow more factually based than other historical fields.

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  76. OH, and I wanted to mention one other thing. When I was a child and we learned about Egypt in school, NEVER ONCE were we told that Egypt was an AFRICAN country. We never looked at maps of the world to see where Egypt was located. We were never taught that Egyptians are AFRICAN people. All of that was glossed over. Today the term "Middle Eastern" is used to deny the fact that some "Middle Eastern" countries are, in fact, AFRICAN nations.

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  77. @Joanna:

    An African mother (whatever that means... many of the peoples from Northern Africa are basically Caucasian, but let's assume undeniably black Sub-Saharan African) and a Greek father? I'm sorry, but that makes her mixed. Couple that with suspiciously Greek facial features, and I'm having a very hard time picturing her as a black woman.

    Then again, Americans also think Obama is black, even though he's a full 50% white, so... there will always be people who cling to evidence of ANY African ancestry to claim that any number of important historical figures are "black."

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  78. @Joanna:

    Ye gods, woman... what is wrong with your school system? I would have thought that it was obvious that Egypt is in Africa, and I cannot think of a time when I was not aware that Egypt was an African nation.

    As for why it's lumped in with the Middle East these days, I suspect that's more for cultural, linguistic and religious reasons. Not sure why it matters, though. The definition of these regions is pretty arbitrary... Turkey, for example, wants to be considered European and even join the EU, but it's controversial, and many see it as a Middle Eastern or Asian nation instead.

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  79. Angelina Jolie looks nothing like I would expect Cleopatra to look, TBH. (Neither does Elizabeth Taylor.)

    If Sophie Okonedo isn't cast, I'll be disappointed.

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  80. @Cicada
    Again, I'll ask the question, can you describe those features which are uniquely Caucasian which make it silly fro her to be described as an African woman... cos as an African woman.. I can't see em.

    Thanks.

    P.s. If you would scroll slightly further down the wikipedia page you quoted, you will also see this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Клеопатра_VII.jpg nose not so prominent anymore...

    Where you come from actually never crossed my mind. But then to me, America's general idea of what makes someone 'black' is only a snippet of the ridiculous European ideas of what makes someone 'black'.

    I mean you seem to disqualify the blackness of a person based largely on the shape of a nose. Which makes no sense to me really. Especially since Africans largely do not have one shape of nose.

    You know what is tiring, its someone trying to force their stereotypes of what AFricans 'didn't' look like based off of a book which studied a tribe, or a select few.

    We all know the stereotypes, Africans are stocky, the women have large behinds, the men are big, broad shouldered, their noses are broad, lips plump, muscled, kinky hair texture, dark skin.

    So again, I ask please list these features which make the possibility of her being African, 'silly'

    Whilst doing that, I'd have a look at Algerians, Moroccans, Libyans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Sudanese, Somalians, Tunisians, the Northern Nigerians, Northern Ghanians, Namibians, mauritanians....

    hmmm, so yeah.

    Lets hear it then. Cos seriously, this damn stereotype of the way Africans look is one of the most racist, divisive and bullshit stereotypes out there.
    And seriously, I'd like to hear/read someone tell me what those typical African features are.. cos maybe, just maybe... I as an African woman, who knows my lineage and can tell why and where certain features are common... I who have had white Europeans have the audacity to point to my features and argue with me about my heritage...
    maybe I, this African woman that I am... simply don't know my own fucking lineage.
    Maybe, us Africans are so simple that we don't know that we don't know that people from libya might possess great big stonkers (nostrils for you) I mean we can't look at gaddaffi and figure tit out.

    I dunno.... maybe us Africans just need to be told who and what we are, and anything which doesn't fit the norm that some racist, out dated, ignorant mother fucker who visited the 'dark continent, pillaged and began to re-write its history... says... is gospel.

    I mean, I dunno. We pray to a pretty white Jesus don't we. 100 years ago, if you dared to say Jesus was even a lil tanned, the roman catholics would have a special reservation in hell for you

    Pretty, blonde hair, blue eyed Jesus...

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  81. Possibly Germane GermanJuly 23, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    In reference to Egyptology, the past theft of materials from their countries of origin has lasting impacts that continue today. German museums still do not acknowledge the fact that the exhibits were obtain in an unethical manner. In one instance, I saw an exhibit which insisted that materials had been extracted legally under the laws in effect at the time! This ignores the fact that those laws were written specifically to facilitate the theft of the artifacts in question. Until this theft is openly and frankly acknowledged, pretty much the entire field of archaeology - and Egyptology in particular - is complicit in perpetuating (and erasing) the ongoing effects of colonialism.

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  82. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    North Africans are 'basically caucasian'?

    @Joanna... bet you 10bucks you'll hear.. 'Egyptians are basically arabs'

    I keep forgetting how much of racism masquerades as 'intellectual authority' on this blog.

    Nice reminder :)

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  83. Cicada

    Who the hell are you to decide what others consider themselves? Obama is a black man because HE SAID SO. Quite frankly, if you didn't know of his mother, you'd call him black, too. So, save that "well, he isn't black because his mother's white" tired meme to bed.

    So, if someone doesn't fit into a comfortable box of identity created by you, they can't claim that identity?

    Thus, I reiterate who in the hell are you to decide that, other than someone that's not listening and attempting to derail the conversation at hand?

    Back to the topic at hand....

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  84. Cicada-

    White people made the rule. I believe it was called the 'one drop rule'. It is so ingrained into our society that we all seem to adhere to it. Sadly.

    Why do people insist that any mixed race person- when one of the races is white, attribute power, success, intelligence, beauty to the fact that the person is x% white or not 'full black'? But when the person does something that we don't like, then it's said that they're black. It's ignorant.

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  85. @Cicada

    Hold on.

    Americans don't think Obama is black, Americans know he is. He identifies as a black man so who are you to say that people are claiming his African ancestry just because he's an important international figure. So him identifying and experiencing life as a black man is completely irrelevant then? GTFOH!!

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  86. @ Joanna
    Tiny braids "corn rows" are ridiculous on any one who has straight hair that must be washed daily or every 2 days because it a waste of time to do such a detailed style on hair that is washed that often.

    If however someone has wavy/curly/coily/kinky hair of any race, than yes braids are a sensible style because your hair tends to be dry and doesn't need to be washed more than once a week. The curl pattern preserves the style and will keep it looking good until wash day. Joanna, your hair as you described it probably is practical in braids.

    and YES to those that said matted or locked hair is not the most practical style for someone that is poor. If it was all about practicality they'd have a short cut that they did themselves or had their friends do with some cheap scissors.

    Maybe this is a regional thing but growing up we never said corn rows, we just said braids. I didn't hear corn rows until white people said it.

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  87. Cidada you are now officially in offensive territory.

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  88. @Willow,

    While I agree that hipsters tend to convert the cultures they appropriate into upper middle class white phenomena, it is still better than the case of some Appalachian white who would never allow any non-white influence into his life, even if his circumstance brings him into contact with it. That complete isolation furthers the sense of "otherness" more than fumbling around with other peoples' cultures.

    On the issue of financial exploitation, I'd have to disagree and say that that's an essential part of my point and an unavoidable reality of globalization itself. This is why I think that this issue is often confused and tied up in leftist economic views that have little to do with race per se. Being opposed to globalization but for antiracism is naive and nonsensical.

    No one in this debate is going to argue that it should be illegal to make money off the representation of another's culture, so it's clear we're talking about the moral and ethical nature of that appropriation. I think what you call financial exploitation is a thing that looks dirty in the short run but in the long run brings more human living standards (and senses of dignity and respect) closer together. It is no coincidence that it is in places of commercial success, such as the west and east coasts of the US (in comparison to the "heartland") that one finds racial mixing, both biologically and culturally. In all of human history, it is in the big cities that cosmopolitanism happens, and it is in part always facilitated by commerce.

    This ties into my next point so I will elaborate...

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  89. @honeybrown

    I find it highly ironic that you say that I'm the one wearing rose colored glasses and who is full of idealism. Or that I believe in a post-racial world.

    One cannot simply wait for white supremacy to disappear, or expect that it will end as a result of conversations and conscious desires to reach out and end it, and THEN engage in cultural appropriation. The elimination of white supremacy and the furthering of global capitalist interdependence are processes tied into one another. To ask that one or the other just wait in order for it to somehow get done in the right order is unrealistic and fundamentally misunderstands how humans have come to be so much more likely to rub elbows with those different from themselves in the first place.

    Again, this is an example of where I think idealistic leftists unintentionally damage the cause of multiculturalism, by supposing that they can reconcile the criticism of peoples' making money off of stuff, even if it's other peoples' cultures, with the impetus towards breaking down the "otherness" that creates tensions.

    Basically, just because some person calls him/herself an antiracist, uses lots of Michel Foucault terminology, and regards oneself as a champion of the downtrodden against some nebulous western hegemony doesn't mean that person actually fulfills that goal in mind. White people wearing Che Guevara shirts and protesting globalization (and never noticing the irony of their mass produced shirts) aren't doing anyone any favors. I don't care whose allies they call themselves.

    Also, there isn't just a monopoly by whites of black culture or anyone else's. There are black owned businesses. I am an American, so I can't speak for elsewhere, but if you surf the web you would be surprised how much you can vote with your dollars and support black businesses even within a single country.

    But I'll end on the note of saying that you cannot seriously deny that trade (free, regulated, or in any form) between peoples has been a force that brings people out of the tribe and into a more global community throughout all of human history. The world is by no means post-racial, and it will NEVER become post-racial simply as a result of intellectual arguments. Commerce (enjoyed by whites and blacks, even if mostly whites) has done far more to break apart "otherness" than academics (white and black, but again mostly white in the US) who write abstract arguments about breaking apart western capitalist hegemonies.

    Who is really wearing the rose-colored glasses?

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  90. Cleopatra was decidedly a Ptolemaic ruler, so was at least significantly Greek, ethnically. That is not in question. Nor, frankly, would it matter what her ethnicity was vis a vis the rest of the region as the Ptolemites (my word?) were a conquering ruling class anyway, so what existed in the Court had no relation necessarily to what existed down on the street.

    So there we are.

    Signed,
    The only biracial POC to minor in Classical Studies at my university.

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  91. I will try again.

    There's a lot of thoughtful, sensitive discussion here about the harm that white people cause and have caused by appropriating the products of other non-white cultures.

    Yes, too often it's the white performer who reaps all the benefits from adopting and claiming the fruits of other non-white cultures. But I don't think appropriation is really the problem. Does anyone here object to India's appropriation of the Hollywood musical form, or cinema itself for that matter? How about Julia Child's appropriation of French cuisine? At the risk of offending, how about the African-American appropriation of basketball?

    Food, music and styles have always blended whenever trade routes opened. Appropriation is only ever a problem when combined with a power imbalance and historical wrongs that haven't been sufficiently acknowledged. It's offensive for white people to play at being Indian because white Europeans stole their land. White people profiting off the blues or even hip-hop seems like an extension of the wrongs of slavery and enforced poverty.

    Acknowledging those wrongs is a very good thing, but I think its a bad thing to get stuck in a narrative in which white people are somehow instrinsictly exploiters, and is part of the reason some white people choose to pretend to be something that they are not.

    Finally, I'm having a hard time reconciling this finely nuanced discussion of how best to respect other cultures/ethnicities with the absolute racist hysteria being whipped up in the mainstream, most lately over Shirley Sherrod. Given the national mood, I don't think that anyone who even takes the time to think about these issues is part of the problem.

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  92. "Then again, Americans also think Obama is black, even though he's a full 50% white, so... there will always be people who cling to evidence of ANY African ancestry to claim that any number of important historical figures are "black.""

    Then again, Cicada, there will always be people who cling to ANY evidence at all, like "suspiciously Greek facial features" (whatever that means), to claim that an important historical figure is not black.

    And by the way, many of us say that Obama is black because that's what HE SAYS. He gets to make that call, not you.

    Can you be done now, Cicada, because boy, do you know how to suck all the air out of a conversation and I'd like to hear from someone else now, I really would.

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  93. Re: Cleopatra

    She was Greek, descended from Ptolemy, one of the generals of Alexander the Great who set up a dynasty after Alexander conquered Egypt.

    Her family was known for it's inbreeding and sibling marriage so while it is quite possible that she did have some Egyptian heritage the official story is that she's the product of Greek incest.

    From the wiki page about Cleopatra:

    She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and therefore was a descendant of one of Alexander the Great's generals who had seized control over Egypt after Alexander's death. Most Ptolemeis spoke Greek and refused to learn Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents like the Rosetta Stone.[2] By contrast, Cleopatra learned Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian Goddess.

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  94. @ Joanna

    The woman believed to be Cleopatra's mother, also called Cleopatra, was the sister of her father Ptolemy Auletes. They were both Greek.

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  95. @Jane Laplain

    Red herring.

    I am not contesting the idea that raping their culture of their heritage is bad. In fact I'm pretty sure I said in my response that this is an act of white supremacy.

    HOWEVER. This does not make her friend any more correct when hir says ALL EGYPTOLOGISTS THINK EGYPT HAS EUROPEAN ORIGINS. I am not going to excuse it, no matter what I think about the rest of what he's saying.

    it would probably affect the KINDS of knowledge I was able to produce about her in the first place. It props up my method of data collection as the only legitimate way of gaining "expertise" on your grandmother;s life, because I'm literally controlling the story from the get go.

    I also didn't mention that some Egyptologists may have this agenda. I thought this goes without saying because making blanket statements of an entire group of people is inherently fallacious. And not ALL of them are assholes about the way they collect the data. This is evident in that artefacts are being returned to Egypt.

    In what way would the KINDS of knowledge be affected? What types of knowledge do current Egyptians have a hold of that white Egyptologists would be unable to understand?

    Also, to those who are saying it should be Kemetology- why not call it Tameri (our beloved land) or The Two Lands, which are also endonyms for their land? Is there some reason why people think Kemet is more accurate? I'd like to see the reasoning for this.

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  96. On the WP with dreads thread, I'm a white guy who had thin dreadlocks for ten years. They weren't difficult to maintain; I have fine, curly hair. I had them done as a "dread-perm", and then never had to do anything complicated after that. I washed them and twisted them, occasionally rubber-banded one, and they stayed dreaded without any product or crap in them. I work in a professional environment; my hair cannot be dirty or smelly. I kept my hair tied back all the time.

    I'm not a Rastafarian, and I'm not a trustafarian either. I never really thought of it as cultural appropriation, and while I didn't get much feedback from POC, what I did get was positive. I just think dreadlocks are beautiful. I didn't derive my identity from them. They did not have the deeper meaning or cultural resonance for me that they might have for a POC.

    I cut them off when I started balding and have been keeping my head shaved since. It is indeed easier to keep my hair this short; if I was on the street, I'd shave my head in a minute.

    I have a master's degree in Scottish studies, I know exactly who the Picts are, and it strikes me as ridiculous to justify my old hairstyle by tracing my ancestry to them. Now _that_ is trying too hard.

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  97. @seang

    Fair point. Although, how thoroughly has Egyptology been rehabilitated? (not being an academic, this actually a real question). Are authorities from the problematic origins still read? Have their ideas continued to float around the field? Who populates the field?

    Many Egyptologists are dedicated to finding out what the Egyptians thought, and not imposing their own ideas. Besides the whole thing about civilization being given to Egypt by European settlers (which is widely acknowledged as untrue), there was also the effort to try and relate the Egyptian pantheon to an uncivilized expression of The One True God, the JCI God. This is also considered BS now. It's an idea that had momentum in a time where (and this is one example) Victorians like E.A. Wallis Budge had to get money for digs by being patronized by people who wanted to hear those answers. While his translations are still used, he is generally not the go-to source as William Faulkner is, but his ideas about the religion itself are widely debunked. Sigfried Morenz is also another example of a German egyptologist who frequently compared and contrasted the gods of AE with the JCI god but this was a way for people of the west to understand better the eastern ideas and polyvalent logic of the Kemetic peoples, not to say that they were one and the same.

    Egyptology is a rigorous academic field where untenable positions are put down, just like in other academic fields. The continuing perpetuation of colonization is something that still has to be dealt with but by returning some of the artefacts, Egyptology is making small steps in that direction, and hopefully it will continue in this vein.

    I just wonder if you really can cleanly separate problematic beginnings from the current state of the discipline.

    Yes, you can.

    But if the presence of those ideas in the culture at large is that strong, it seems likely that it would seep into the academic discipline.

    This is a ridiculous assumption. Seriously?

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  98. @ Joanna,

    Oh I wouldn't make too much of that, pretty much everyone in academia call zir field a science. ^_^ Even history, the stalwart of the humanities, is considered a "social science" more and more often. (I take issue with the notion that the sciences are any more valid than the humanities in the first place, but...not on SWPD).

    @ seang,

    To be honest, I have no idea as Egyptology is not my field! I'm familiar with some of the secondary scholarship because I use it to, um, practice German, but I don't know the subject well enough to say, "Okay, but the author she cites here was responsible for plundering numerous tombs in the Valley of the Queens" or whatever. My field, which is interdisciplinary in a similar way, has its own issues. In buckets. So I don't feel qualified to judge others' lack of progress until we make a bit in our own. ^_^

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  99. Elisabeth- I am not an expert on Cleopatra, but what I read was that the heritage of her maternal and paternal grandmothers are unknown (it is suspected that her paternal grandmother was a concubine of Nubian descent and it is unknown whether her maternal grandmother was also a concubine or another ptolemy relative), and that scientists from the BBC studied the skeleton of Cleopatra's sister, and they found it had both Semitic and Bantu characteristics.

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  100. @ Joanna

    That makes sense...a lot more sense than the idea that so many generations of women would have sex with their brother and nobody else ;)

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  101. Speaking of art, what about listening to the music of other cultures?

    This, for instance, brought tears to my eyes. . . (i.e., I'm not indigenous, but I REALLY "appreciate" it).

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  102. I simply want Cicada to list those features which make it silly for her to be considered a black woman. Period.

    You know, its funny.. this topic: SWPD 'Wonder how to respect other cultures' os completely wrong.

    its 'SWPD: Constantly define POC by stereotypes in order to establish more about POC than POC know about themselves.

    Cicada.. you fail. Period.
    NOrth Africans are basically caucasian? - prove it

    You know, how Jesus became not just white, but Blonde hair, blue eyed and pale as all getout whilst strolling slap bang in the middle east and wondering the desert with no fixed abode is evidence that White people manufacture evidence to purport the whiteness of many important historical figures.


    re: Europe. The BBC (that bastion of knowledge) still refers to Egypt as Middle Eastern
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/737642.stm

    Even when it cannot be questioned that the country is firmly placed in Africa.

    The more you type, the more it becomes obvious that your theories are based on stereotypes far worse than these damn americans you bemoan.

    People like you are the very definition of racist. You constantly try to prove to POC that you know more about us than we know about our selves, your silly ideas which are based on silly made up stereotypes and theories which you got from a book mostly likely taught in your overwhelmingly superior European school.

    Who are you seriously trying to convince of European superiority with regards to enlightened thought? Most European education systems suck.

    Oh but I digress.... the list gets longer.

    So yeah.. kindly
    1) list those features
    2) list the reasons why/prove that North Africans are caucasian.

    My theory is that most of what you say is based on simply stereotype of the way your superior European schools have taught you about the way Africans should look, Which despite your essays and narrative would be a really simple FAIL really.
    A real, embarrassing, tedious, simple fail.

    Fingers crossed for you, that you have something else... but like I said.. please do share. I'm waiting with baited breath

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  103. @Sparrowette,
    For the record, I did not assume you were white (or anything else). I started it by addressing you by name, but really, my comment was directed at the argument you made not you personally... necessarily. So, strike "@ Sparrowette" from the comment, but nothing else, because I absolutely stand by it. I hated your argument the first time, I hated it the second time, and I still hate it now. Because not only is it intellectually dishonest, it makes WP comfortable with their pathological whiteness at the expense of truth, reality and context.

    It didn't (and doesn't) matter to me what your race is. But since it's come up, frankly, it just emphasizes my point. I'm Jamaican, but snarkfuck my "[un]convincing" opinion on the matter; the BS narrative WP have come up with is much more salient and important. That is what ticks me off. History is written by the winners, but I never really thought about who they got for scribes.

    It seemed like I "you peopled" you before; that was a textual accident. But now I think on it, I'ma again, but this time on purpose. I mean, listen to your own self: dreads are "worn by the poor and dirty"? They're "easiest," for the unshowered? That is toxic nonsense. It doesn't even make sense: all one needs to keep one's hair from dreading is a fuckin' comb— and most people have one of those attached to the end of each arm. But there you are— you, Sparrowette— taking time out of your day to make this idiotic (and untrue) argument? This makes you, Sparrowette, part of the problem, IMO.


    You're here 'splaining to me that "in modern society, they are both called dreads." Well no shit buddy; that's the problem. If the average person on the street differentiated, this might be less irritating.
    But we don't. When someone goes off about about how "nasty" and "smelly" dreads "are," do you really think they're thinking, much less saying, "well, except those worn by Rastafari/JA'ns/black people/clean teens"? Hell no. They see the grossness happening on some trustapunkian's head ("all you have to do is stop washing it!"), and assume that's the standard. And so it's all become one big stinky dirty mental image where dreadlocks, drug use, panhandling, shiftlessness, the Caribbean, filth, poverty, poor hygiene and black people are vaguely related concepts. Celts don't even enter the picture. [And why is it
    that so often, when WP decide to go all "counterculture" and "reject" mainstream society... they start acting like (their own stereotypes of) nonwhite people? Coincidence??]

    Let me spell it out: Associating dreadlocks with poverty and lack of hygiene— insisting they're related— IS OFFENSIVE TO ME. Dreadlocks are also strongly associated with my country, my culture, my people. They are associated with ME.

    And I'm done with you.

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  104. @cahuges

    White people go to the most bizarre lengths to associate themselves with black people of importance. I mean they re-write history for crying outloud just to 'own' a piece of that importance.

    Remember Mohammed Ali, when he became famous, some white people went on TV claiming they owned his family.
    When MikeTyson was heavy weight, they claimed he was a product of his white foster parents, the minute he did something wrong .... that same white raising he got...... vanished.

    Black success is claimed as whiteness, but black failure is resolutely blackness.

    You know slash the guitarist has a black African father - white people claim him completely. They will argue with you that Sade Adu is 'latina' mixed with white e.t.c. despite her African father.

    But shhhh, lets turn a blind eye to it, just like cicada.
    ok. now we too can be in on the game. *clapping hands*

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  105. @ Stina,

    Sure, I'm open to Twolandsology or what have you. Again--that's *entirely* beside the point, and a bit like arguing whether we should call it "United States Studies" or "American Studies." (American Studies is usually U.S. specific, for the record).

    As for culture affecting academia--damn straight cultural phenomena, including white supremacy and the continuing colonial mindset, impact academia. We are not any better than anyone else.

    As for untenable positions being put down, let's be clear that these are positions that are untenable in the opinions of other leading scholars. In my field, positions that are considered "untenable" today were bedrock FACT twenty-five years ago. It's not that scholars suddenly got smarter and realized their logic was bad, it's that they learned to look at things in a new way. If all the scholars in a field are still in an old mindset, they won't be able to see the "untenable" nature of a particular position.

    But we could have an entire spinoff blog, "stuff white academics do" (or even just, stuff academics do...).

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  106. @Stina

    In what way would the KINDS of knowledge be affected? What types of knowledge do current Egyptians have a hold of that white Egyptologists would be unable to understand?

    By kinds of knowledge produced I mean the areas of research deemed most profitable. It's the money, honey. (They weren't blasting into tombs for their health). What sorts of knowledge increase public demand (The Glory of Ancient Egypt) for such a limited supply (Concrete Knowledge of Ancient Egypt).

    Comparatively speaking, we know a lot about The Pharaohs and the Queens and the royal families of Ancient Egypt, but really not that much about the vast majority of Ancient Egyptians who were not Royals. Perhaps because less powerful Ancient Egyptians couldn't leave behind as many artifacts BECAUSE they had less. Be that as it may, it skews the story we know today.

    Isn't it awfully convenient that Ancient treasures, sacred artifacts and facts about powerful rulers are the more glamorous more more sensational items we know of Egypt? Aren't these also the most profitable as well?

    Capital funds archaelogical digs FOR certain kinds of artifacts. You don't get money for a dig until you clarify exactly what you are looking for. If they don't care about what you're looking for, no money for you. Investors want a return on their investment just as much, if not more than they want to find out what Egypt was "really" like.

    When you think of Ancient Egypt you think Pharaohs. And Cleopatra. And war with Europe. That is NOT an accident. That is not simply the only concrete record we can find. That's MARKETING.

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  107. @Stina (Continued)

    I do NOT believe that Egyptologists are all White Supremacists. I do believe that Egyptology and all other disciplines of "Historical Expertise" are influenced HEAVILY by a consumer driven industry which seeks to obtain, exploit and sometimes CREATE certain "truths" about "lost" cultures. All to the end of increasing the wealth and status of its investors.

    Wanna guess which Race most investors in Archaelogical funding are?

    I have nothing against Archaelogy. But we can never take for granted that these disciplines are funded and controlled by an imperialist and YES White Supremacist legacy. If for no other reason than becuz White Supremacy has been what's up for the last 500 years or so!! Why do we always want to dismiss this? White Supremacy is one of Human History's most "successful" pan economic, philosophical, and epistemlogical campaigns ever. (The horror of that, but still). Its racist/imperialist subtext taints every facet of history and its study. It has shaped how we understand world history, the facts we promote, the facts we forget, and the new knowledge we search for.

    We could probably have a different and/or much fuller grasp on Ancient Egypt than we currently do. But right now we only have the story that Egyptology's patrons have been willing to fund thus far.

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  108. @Willow

    It is beside the point. It seems like people are not wiling to take my argument against painting all white Egyptologists with the same brush for what it is and are trying to fit it into another argument. I'm not even talking about that, and I'm not even necessarily disagreeing either. Who do you mean by we?

    The question about Kemet v. The Two Lands v. Tameri was more about personal curiosity. I have not heard any argument about why one would be more accurate than the other considering all three are what they used themselves.

    When seang mentioned "ideas" I took it as him commenting on the idea that Europe was responsible for Egyptian culture, which is just not true. If people still believe that in pop culture, then they're fucking ignorant, and no one who actually has studied Egypt and learned the basic NO DUH information that Egypt is African, was populated primarily by black Africans, and from Dynasty 0 onward was influenced by south African groups as far as development of civilization, will turn around and go "Hmm, lots of people believe this, I guess I'll just abandon all the shit I've learned based on reading translated Egyptian manuscripts and studying pottery shard evidence and language families and just jump on the bandwagon!" That is ridiculous.

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  109. Queen of the CynicsJuly 23, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    My opinion, and I'm white:

    1) A white person wearing dreadlocks is not a form of cultural theft; it's a form of emulation, often based on an appreciation of part of the culture. An original dreadlock wearer loses nothing if a stranger half a world away chooses a similar hairstyle. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    2 and 3) In my observation, people are usually delighted when others take a sincere, genuine interest in an aspect of their culture.


    Yet another fucked up comment from a white person that just slipped through moderation. Thank you, Chris. POC really should be fucking grateful that awesome White people decide to show any interest in our lowly cultures.

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  110. I wrote a comment earlier that got eaten by a bad internet connection which is just as well as I was assuming that cicada and stina were the same person (and I'm still not sure they are not), but I still think what I wanted to say then to cicada applies to both of them: you have made zero attempt to understand what anybody else is actually saying and engaging you is a waste of time. It seems like this whole conversation has been derailed into a debate about Egyptology and Cleopatra.

    As to the back and forth around Mike's comments and related threads about art and food and stuff, how I see it as a WP is that White Supremacy contaminates everything I do: if I ignore other cultures, I can be seen as being dismissive of them, if I appreciate and adopt things from them, I'm appropriating. Let me be clear on this: I'm saying the problem is White Supremacy, I'm not blaming POC for the problem. As long as there is a hierarchy, anything I do can harm other people. It seems to me that the only way to deal with the situation is 1) do what I can to fight White Supremacy as a structure and 2) act carefully and humbly with the recognition that I'm in danger of hurting people every time I move. Maybe this is just my whiteness talking, but I can imagine people with innocent and humble intentions nevertheless doing stuff what seems pretty irritating/hurtful to POC because of the context of White supremacy.

    Although my own hair is straight and fine and I'd look really stupid trying to emulate "black" styles, I'm sympathetic to white folks with kinky/curly hair who might logically try "black" styles as a solution to their own hair style issues. Not saying they are not posturing and trying to pretend they are cool or Black-wannabes or whatever, but I can imagine more innocent reasons to try the style. Which, back to what I said before, isn't to say that White Supremacy doesn't contaminate everything.

    About food and cultural appropriation and such, when I was a child in 1950s and 1960s Southern California, every Anglo mother I knew made a version of tacos. (This was before Taco Bell made its way across the US and Foster's Freeze was the only fast food source of tacos for Anglos in my part of the south LA area.) No way were they "authentic" and nobody was trying to be authentic or pretend they were really Mexican. But [corn] tortillas were readily available in our grocery stores and the general idea of putting some kind of sauced ground beef and maybe vegetables inside a tortilla was something everyone in the area picked up. This is (in my opinion) an example of ordinary cultural diffusion that (I think) isn't appropriation. But it also isn't appreciation, either. My mom wasn't trying to appreciate Mexican culture, she was just putting a meal on the table that we liked to eat. I'm sure Mexican people would think my mom's tacos were laughable and inauthentic [they were], but that's a different issue. My mom wasn't selling the tacos or telling people that she could make them better than Mexicans could make them, she was cooking dinner for her own family and adapting a cooking idea to her own tastes. My best friend's mom was doing the same thing with an entirely different version of tacos -- hers involved toothpicks and potatoes. They were originally from Oklahoma.

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  111. @Jane Laplain

    By kinds of knowledge produced I mean the areas of research deemed most profitable. It's the money, honey. (They weren't blasting into tombs for their health). What sorts of knowledge increase public demand (The Glory of Ancient Egypt) for such a limited supply (Concrete Knowledge of Ancient Egypt).

    How is demand for types of knowledge (which knowledge, by the way) a function of white supremacy?

    Comparatively speaking, we know a lot about The Pharaohs and the Queens and the royal families of Ancient Egypt, but really not that much about the vast majority of Ancient Egyptians who were not Royals. Perhaps because less powerful Ancient Egyptians couldn't leave behind as many artifacts BECAUSE they had less. Be that as it may, it skews the story we know today.

    The majority of Egyptians were illiterate. They would not have been able to leave anything behind as far as written things go. The reason we know so much about the Pharaohs and etc. is because the function of the tombs is to dictate their life as it was when they lived it so that they can relive it again in the afterlife. This is why there was so much left behind, and why we know a lot about them. The priests were also literate as they and public officials attended scribal schools. This is not so much a function of "a white agenda" but that there was simply more information documented and preserved about these things than the daily lives of the Egyptians.

    It's not like the information is not available at all to laypeople. In my library alone I found and can recommend: "Pharaoh's Workers: The Villagers of Deir El Medina" ed. Leonard Lesko, "Ancient Lives: Daily Life in Egypt of the Pharoahs" by John Romer, and for women specifically there's "Women in Ancient Egypt," two books of the same name by Barbara Wattereson and Gay Robbins respectively, and also "Daughters of Isis" by Joyce Tyldesley. If you don't like that this more specialized information is not well known by the public I invite you to read them and spread the information around yourself, write to 6th grade teachers in your community and provide them with teaching plans and information, write to whoever airs Stargate and tell them you hate it because it bastardizes Egypt, its religion, its people, etc. It is not the burden of Egyptology to make sure that every 6th grade class in the nation speaks specifically about villagers just as much as they do of royalty.


    Wanna guess which Race most investors in Archaelogical funding are?


    I would rather see actual data if you can provide that, thanks.

    Why do we always want to dismiss this?

    I am trying very hard to continue to be polite to you even though you keep putting words in my mouth. At no point did I disagree that white supremacy is a continuing legacy. But if I haven't been clear before let me be clear now: yes people want to know about bright and shinies. No, not all academics are interested in bright and shinies, they may also be interested in other aspects of Egyptian culture. Yes white supremacy is still a big problem. And for the third time now, that has nothing to do with this person's erroneous assumption that all white Egyptologists are trying to rob Africans of their heritage by "perpetuating the notion of European origins of civilization." I really hope this gets through to you because even if you acknowledge my point, you continue to talk about something I was not talking about but for some reason is still being directed at me when it really doesn't need to be.

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  112. @cicada - If you need an example of the genetic diversity of African people... this link shows the story of a Nigerian family that has a baby girl with pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes... and the child is not an albino.

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  113. @Mike - cultural appropriation isn't just about making money off of another culture. It can eventually lead to erasing of history (see the Egypt debate). It bothers me that Elvis' descendants will probably never have to work since he "invented" Rock and Roll while some of those who he "learned" from died penniless.

    It is many more times hurtful when you hear a White (or Black) person say, "White people ARE superior. They invented this, that, theother (which they really didn't invent). What did Black people invent? Nothing! (or something offensive/stereotypical)."

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  114. One more. Maybe I had too much wine with dinner, but I think the following is relevant to this discussion. My spouse can eat with chopsticks and will not ask for a fork if chopsticks are what he is given. But if his place is set with a fork in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, he will use it. He considers it to be an affectation for an Anglo/White to ask for chopsticks. I follow his lead in these rules.

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  115. @karinova

    It's really interesting for me to see how this discussion has gone down in America, because my experiences in Australia are quite different. For one thing, it sure didn't become common knowledge here that black Americans don't like dreaded white people 10 years ago - in fact, it's still not common knowledge. And if/when it becomes so, likely the reaction will be 'so what' because white Aussies have already shown that they don't feel they should have to consider the cultural sensibilities of people on the other side of the world (see this for example).

    So here, I've only seen the 'ancient Celt' reasoning put forth by Pagans - and those Pagans who follow a Celtic path do generally know who the Picts are (I read the Roman description of the Celt's matted locks over twenty years ago, around the same time I read about the Picts). But modern Paganism is for the main part built on cultural appropriation, and as yet over here there is unfortunately no dialogue about that within the community. Under the guise of 'inclusiveness' you will see both a pick-and-mix approach like the Goddess chant in this song and a wholesale appropriation in some cases such as white Australians identifying as Voudou practitioners.

    Within this context, and the context of a blog post about cultural appropriation by white people, it seems quite ironic to me to see you having a dig at those very few white Pagans who are actually trying to claim a connection to their own heritage rather than someone else's.

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  116. I would regard it as real progress if these white experts on other cultures actually developed a sense for how offensive cultural appropriation is. Too often they have to ask. PoC don't have to ask because it is something we experience in real time, all the time.

    For example, there's a huge sphinx in front of the Luxor in Las Vegas. And I know it should not anger me so much. But every time I see that abomination, I just feel sick to my stomach. I literally have a physical reaction to it. This "Egyptian" figure has blue round eyes, a pointy nose, and white skin. It stares confidently out at Las Vegas Boulevard, as if to proclaim white dominance over Africa until the end of time. The message being that the white man is Pharaoh and I better get used to it.

    White acquaintances whom I have pointed this out to consider it an overreaction over a silly, kitschy statue. But I think the lack of empathy and understanding stems from the fact that these folks genuinely see other cultures through the lens of white supremacy. It is natural that they are in charge. So why should it offend anyone when they dress up in local garb to rule that part of their global empire?

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  117. Some interesting reading on ancient Egypt and the black Pharaohs who ruled in the 25th dynasty here:

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/geopedia/Black_Pharaohs

    Per the article:

    "Ancient Egyptians didn’t think in terms of race as we do today. While the Egyptians regularly differentiated themselves from foreigners living around them, they did so in political and cultural terms rather than in racial ones. Foreigners were labeled by their regional or political names, and they were always depicted with distinctive features and dress. Though artwork did differentiate among populations by color, the distinction seems to have been merely descriptive, with no preference ascribed to any particular skin tone.

    To describe ancient Egyptians as either “white” or “black” is inaccurate—they were of varying complexions and features. Scientific testing indicates that, just as today, they ranged from the light Mediterranean type to the darkest shade of brown around Aswan and farther south into Nubia. The likely mixing with neighbors due to intermarriage and political alliances created a heterogeneous population. Egypt’s relationships with its neighbors were also based on political concerns, not race or ethnicity. "

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  118. My bad...did I stumble across "Stuff Egyptologists Do" by accident?

    No surprise that this place is still full of fall--honeybrown, soul (and others), don't waste your time.

    Macon,

    For some reason you do a shitty job of calling out/censoring "regular" commenters who say dumbass things. SWPD: Grant people free reign to do everything "Derailing for Dummies" says not to do once they get enough stickers on the attendance chart.

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  119. @various people:

    Where, precisely, does white end and black begin? I identify people in North Africa as largely Caucasian (but not white European) simply because they look more like me than like someone from Sub-Saharan Africa. Many could easily pass for Spanish or Italian and some are even lighter.

    You accuse me of telling POC who belongs to their various races, but aren't you doing the same to me? As a Caucasian, can't I identify one of my own? And why is it that white blood is less valuable than black (or otherwise non-white blood) in determining race? What's wrong with someone simply being mixed and belonging to BOTH races or neither?

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  120. @ Joanna

    If you need an example of the genetic diversity of African people... this link shows the story of a Nigerian family that has a baby girl with pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes... and the child is not an albino.

    Right. But if that girl grew up got cast as Cleopatra in a movie, would you have a problem with that?

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  121. My issue is with whites appropriating by coming out with all white versions of POC culture. For instance, Stomp The Yard featured black sorority/fraternity stepping, a tradition that originated in Africa. Now there are all white stepping movies like Step Up To The Streets 1 and 2 and several others. It's deemed ghetto, stupid, etc until white people do it, i.e. any black music form, high fiving, cabbage patch dance, pop locking renamed as The Robot, and countless black slang words.

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  122. It seems kind of odd to debate the ethnicity of Cleopatra, If your going to go that far back, why not just go all the way back to when the ONLY humans were Africans from whom we ALL are descended? it's not that "there is a lot of genetic diversity in Africa" it's that ALL genetic diversity is of African origin.

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  123. @ Mike,

    Sorry I missed your reply yesterday. One thing I noticed is that you seem to be more concerned with what white people and white culture is missing and can gain (e.g. the case of the white dude who attempts to disallow all POC influences, which is of course impossible), than with what POC can gain from white culture. Given that white culture is necessarily laced with White Supremacy, the exchange is not equal. Sure, we can say that in a cultural exchange, "POC culture" is being enriched by "white culture" just as white culture is enriched by the POC culture, but since the white culture includes white supremacy, it is not an unqualified benefit for the POC culture.

    As for short-term versus long-term dirtiness--my point is, as a white American, *my* heritage of cultural, economic and military supremacy and oppression is such that I should strive to avoid both the short and the long term dirtiness.

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  124. @Queen of the Cynics
    >> In my observation, people are usually delighted
    >> when others take a sincere, genuine interest in
    >> an aspect of their culture.

    >Yet another fucked up comment from a white
    >person that just slipped through moderation.
    >Thank you, Chris. POC really should be fucking
    >grateful that awesome White people decide to
    >show any interest in our lowly cultures.

    I'm not sure why you consider this so offensive a moderator should have deleted it. This seems like a pretty innocent comment, and is true in my experience as well. I realize the context is WP interacting with POC, but it's just as true when WP interact with WP from other cultures. That is, in my experience.

    No one is saying you *should* be delighted when a WP shows interest in your culture, but heck...I'm not going to stop showing interest in the lives of my Hatian relatives out of fear of being racist.

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  125. I'm only going to comment on the cultural appropriation of dreads and braids/cornrows because that's one issue that annoys me the most (as well as the appropriation of POC culture in general), and that's one issue that's ignored, dismissed and unknown by most people.

    I'm so sick of the whole Viking explanation. I have not yet seen any proof that Vikings have worn CLEAN, actual dreadlocks. Vikings' hair was matted and filthy due to going so long without washing it. Matted and filthy hair does not equal dreadlocks; that's just a horrible myth. Black people can achieve locks easily while washing their hair.

    Besides, where do you think white people got the idea to wear dreads from? I doubt all of them suddenly felt the desire to honor their Norwegian ancestry. White people got the idea from black folks, or from other white people who got the idea from black people. The Viking explanation is nothing more than a way for white people to keep themselves from being accountable for stealing from our culture.

    White people wearing dreads are also the farthest thing from flattery. How can wearing nasty, dirty hair be a sign of honoring our culture? If anything, white people wearing dreads have made it harder for black people to wear dreads because now people assume it's nothing more than a "trendy" hairstyle, and now most people (even many black people) assume that dreads equal dirty hair.

    When we wear our hair in certain natural hairstyles, like braids, cornrows, or dreads, they either serve a purpose, are signs of racial pride, or are ways of saying that we are rejecting the white standards of beauty. As stated by August earlier, braids and cornrows are protective styles for our hair. They help to retain length and moisture. Dreads can also be seen as a long-term or "permanent" protective style and also serve as a way for rejecting white beauty standards.

    When white people wear their hair like this, as stated before, they are reducing these styles to nothing more than a fad. These styles serve no purpose to them; they wear it to try and seem "non-conformist" or edgy. This does nothing but further "other" our hair and make it seem unprofessional and as something exotic or bad.

    Also, just because black people (or any other POC) allow white people to appropriate, doesn't mean it's right. Just because a lot of black people give compliments, doesn't mean there's not a lot of black people who want to take a pair to any "matlocks" they see.

    As Jane Laplain Just because you really like it doesn't mean you have to have it .

    http://angrywhitekid.blogs.com/weblog/2005/06/white_people_an.html

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  126. Queen of the CynicsJuly 24, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    @WaitAMinute

    I'm not the least bit surprised that yet another white person doesn't realise their own liberal racism. Your experience doesn't comfort me because you're white.

    No one is saying you *should* be delighted when a WP shows interest in your culture, but heck...I'm not going to stop showing interest in the lives of my Hatian relatives out of fear of being racist.

    This especially doesn't comfort me. You've been told this behaviour is offensive, but you wont stop because you don't see anything wrong with it. Typical white person.




    @Cicada

    Cicada said...

    @various people:

    Where, precisely, does white end and black begin? I identify people in North Africa as largely Caucasian (but not white European) simply because they look more like me than like someone from Sub-Saharan Africa. Many could easily pass for Spanish or Italian and some are even lighter.

    You accuse me of telling POC who belongs to their various races, but aren't you doing the same to me? As a Caucasian, can't I identify one of my own? And why is it that white blood is less valuable than black (or otherwise non-white blood) in determining race? What's wrong with someone simply being mixed and belonging to BOTH races or neither?


    You are so far over the line of offensive that I should be surprised that macon has allowed you to grandstand with your racism for this long, but I've lurked long enough to know this is par for course.

    This site is such a joke.

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  127. @Jas0nburns
    "It seems kind of odd to debate the ethnicity of Cleopatra, If your going to go that far back, why not just go all the way back to when the ONLY humans were Africans from whom we ALL are descended? it's not that "there is a lot of genetic diversity in Africa" it's that ALL genetic diversity is of African origin."

    Can't speak for other commenters, of course, but the reason I posted earlier on Cleopatra was that the casting controversy was the first time many people had it proposed to them to debate Cleopatra's ethnicity. And, since there is a debate (some have mentioned Ptolemaic heritage; others dispute this or aren't convinced), it seems indicative of the type of appropriation/theft we're talking about here that casting directors and audiences default to a 'safe' choice of Angelina Jolie--she is commonly described as 'exotic-looking', but she doesn't threaten white American audiences with blackness in their Cleopatra fantasy.
    Lots of WP assume historical or noteworthy (or simply unfamiliar) figures look like them, despite evidence or suggestion to consider the contrary.
    An example of whiteness being perceived as the norm, and anything non-white is deviation.

    If your question was rhetorical or my clarification misses your point, I apologize.

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  128. @Sheryl

    I would agree that the erasing of history is something regrettable, and for that reason we should have historians who teach and, by doing so, raise awareness of how things got to be the way they are today. Nothing that anyone has truly and solely belongs to him/herself in a moral sense, even if not legal sense (there are interesting studies about how JP Morgan and other companies that existed in the North and came to exist from previous companies profited from slavery even while never directly being involved in agrarian society or antebellum slavery. Even the things invented after the antebellum period, or taken from others in an Edison-esque manner, could not come about were it not for investment. The world is experiencing the unfortunate fact today that with less investing going on, everyone gets less of everything, including future potential circulation of things and ideas, but that's an issue not wholly fit for SWPD.)

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  129. @Willow

    No worries about the reply.

    The reason I directed my messages to and about white people is that this post struck me as a routine, "I'm a white person, what do I do in X situation?" question.

    What I got from it was a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" lament and my point is that the OP is truly damned either way, but so what, she should go ahead and make a fool of herself (I don't mean that in a condescending way, just a "there's no way past that" way) and not worry about crossing some arbitrary line between appreciation and appropriation or that she'll murder a sacred cow and make the world a worse place. This isn't to say I endorse insensitivity, but the OP's question is so loaded, I just needed to say that her situation is no different than when white people engage in race dialogs on sites such as this. She won't be called out for saying racist things if she doesn't try, just as she won't accidentally mistreat another culture if she doesn't engage it, but that comes with the territory.

    As to the notion that white supremacy in white culture will invariably contaminate interactions by rendering them one-sided, I don't disagree, but...With all due respect, I think that argument presents a lot more self-absorbed metaphysical philosophical nonsense than practical solutions. Being aware of white supremacy's presence in the present culture doesn't in itself eliminate white supremacy and it seems to me to be a lot of wallowing in how one feels about ones whiteness. I see a lot of talk on this site that sits on a fence between useless hand-wringing about whiteness and actual attempts to understand and engage other races in an antiracist way. I see opportunity for nudging white people towards what I think they should do by offering my two cents, and that's what I was trying to do with the OP.

    For example, what does striving to avoid the dirtiness that you describe look like (not a rhetorical question - I really wanna know)? In parts 2 and 3 of the OP, I see the writer fearing dirtiness in the sense of the culturally inappropriate. But to be honest, I think that if Rick Bayless stayed home 'cause he didn't wanna profit from Mexican cuisine, or if a white person refused to buy an African painting and put it on his wall because he knew he didn't understand it, that would be infinitely worse. Again, I'm directing this towards white worries because that's what I see this post (and this site) as being about.

    To bring it beyond whites if you'd like, I think a black person could wear a poncho or turban (I have worn both on occasion when hanging out with friends just because I think they're pretty) even without any Hispanic or Arab descent, and I don't think that's a big deal. I bought that poncho in Argentina, I knew I'd look silly wearing it in the States, but should I have just not bought it? If I were white, would that answer change? I don't think so. I also wish I could play an instrument, even if it were of another culture's traditional music.

    The OP says that if she were to perform a traditional type of music or wear certain culturally significant items, that would be bad because it's blatant cultural appropriation (which she says with obvious disapproval because her question is loaded with leftist "appropriation = contamination" undertones). I'm saying that the OP is blatantly wrong on that account, and potentially many others.

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  130. @WaitAMinute: You're not getting it. There's a difference between wanting to learn about a culture because of the people to whom it belong, and taking a culture and *disposing* of the people to whom it belongs. WP do the latter consistently.

    Wanting to know more about your relatives is NOT the same as someone going "Oh cool!" at an aspect of my culture and divorcing it of all meaning just so they can play along too.

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  131. Jasmin wrote,

    My bad...did I stumble across "Stuff Egyptologists Do" by accident?

    I've been letting that convo go on because I've been reading its topic as "stuff people do within the unacknowledgedly white-framed field of egyptology." And that's related to the OP's topic of appropriation.

    No surprise that this place is still full of fall--honeybrown, soul (and others), don't waste your time.

    I sometimes wonder, when POC call on other POC here like this to leave -- what do the called-on POC actually get out of being here? How do they think differently about this blog from how the fed-up person does?

    Macon,

    For some reason you do a shitty job of calling out/censoring "regular" commenters who say dumbass things. SWPD: Grant people free reign to do everything "Derailing for Dummies" says not to do once they get enough stickers on the attendance chart.


    I think this happens for several reasons. For one, although I know and appreciate the points made on "Derailing for Dummies," I am white. I have those tendencies/habits instilled in me; no matter how much I try to counteract them, they're still going to come out of me sometimes, and, I'm still not going to catch it sometimes when other people perform them. As for calling them out when I do see them, sometimes I do, but sometimes I don't have time for that -- moderating a thread this long (and fast, as it was a couple days ago) along with several others occasionally takes up all the spare time I have. Those aren't excuses, just explanations for one of the ways I do a less-than-perfect job around here.

    As for my letting regular commenters spew more fail, yes, I can see that, and I appreciate your pointing it out. For one thing, if someone's been around here for awhile, and it's clear that overall, they're sincerely trying, then yes, I do sometimes let fail from them through that I wouldn't from someone with a name I've never seen before. I also think it's okay to do that sometimes because this blog now has a lot of regular and clued-in white people who usually step up and correct said fail. All that said, thanks again -- I'll watch for this problem more closely.

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  132. Mike - I want to mention something to you. I never even used the phrase "cultural appropriation" until very recently. I used to wear braids in my hair I have explained the reasons before) without giving it a second thought, though the locs was something I didn't consider because I considered them a religious/culturally specific statement. I had African masks hanging in my last apartment. I was in a jazz band, listened to jazz, the blues, hip hop, etc. It was just something I never even thought about, I never considered that I was usurping cultural symbols that I had no right to. None of my friends ever questioned my motives or expressed offense.

    When I saw other white people doing similar things, sometimes I felt like it was not a problem, and sometimes I felt like they had crossed a line. (For example, I had a friend who proclaimed to love hip hop music, but who had no issue with making racist comments)

    I realized (mostly by reading blogs and books) that when a POC sees me on the street with braids in my hair, they do not know me or the intentions, so they may look at me the way I look at a person who listens to hip hop but embraces racist ideology. That is the reason I posed the question.

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  133. Mike,

    Your dismissal of white sensitivity to POC feelings, opinions, and complaints about cultural appropriation seems mighty dismissive of the latter to me.

    What would you say, for instance, to the Native American who runs this site, My Culture Is Not a Trend?

    Just, "Get over it, you're being too damned sensitive?" Because borrowing and taking is just the way of the world of commerce? (Also, you smell a lot like a libertarian -- are you one? If so, I could see that as a source of your blithe disregard for what a lot of other POC say about the salience of racism.)

    Seems to me that you're being entirely INsensitive. And, for all your well-worded ratiocination, entirely blockheaded too.

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  134. @macon

    I sometimes wonder, when POC call on other POC here like this to leave -- what do the called-on POC actually get out of being here? How do they think differently about this blog from how the fed-up person does?

    You insufferable bastard. You really haven't learned a thing haven't you. Pretty much ALL POC commenters have expressed serious dislike of this blog for various reasons, and you just keep on truckin', never properly responding to the criticism. They don't feel differently, they just haven't got to their breaking point. Yet.

    Have you not noticed how many regular POC commenters no longer come here? Have you not noticed how the ones that are still here basically discuss the topic with a self-protecting aloofness that wasn't there before? Have you ignored all the criticisms persons have been making of your piss poor comment moderation. Not having enough time is an excuse. A tired, White excuse. You know what you can do, slow the rate of putting up posts so you can properly moderate comment threads. Wow. This site really is just proof that 'white anti-racist' is an oxymoron.

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  135. @Mike. You said: "if a white person refused to buy an African painting and put it on his wall because he knew he didn't understand it, that would be infinitely worse"

    Well, speaking as an artist who sells my work, once you create a thing, you can't really control the reception and surrounding narrative. If I create a watercolor depicting desolation over the loss of a loved one, I can put that on an info card or explain the meaning of the work, but someone might buy it because it matches the sofa. I can't force people to honor what the item means to me unless I keep it to myself. When I die and the work becomes public domain, I can't stop someone from using it in political ads for things I don't believe in or for an album cover by music I'd dislike.

    I'm not sure if it's possible for anyone to control the narrative for objects from any culture. We can register disapproval and talk to people about it, but we can't stop anyone from doing whatever they like without making laws, and do we really want laws like that?

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  136. macon,
    I really appreciate what Rochelle has said, and I think she's absolutely right. I agree that the comment moderation has been very lax lately, particularly in this thread, and that lack of time is not a very satisfying. (Take cicada for instance--I mean, come on! How much of the conversation was ze allowed to dominate? It's like the very definition of derailing.) I'm also not very convinced by the "it's because I'm white" explanation--yes, of course, you're being white influences what you see and how you see it, but I think the problem is less with what you get wrong authentically--surely everyone understands that this is bound to happen--and how you respond when you do get it wrong.

    And this theme of POC departing this site is becoming a familiar one, especially among black women, and this saddens and frustrates me. The people who leave are invariably the people whose thoughts and comments are among those I value the most. I feel like, without these commenters, this site would be nowhere. Yet it is these people that the site--and white people here as a whole--consistently let down. [and this next bit is to all WP here, not just macon] Why is that? Why can't we do better than that?

    Finally, I really don't like your question, macon, because it appears to be asking for affirmation, particularly affirmation from POC, and I think you know better than that.

    I don't know what the answer is, but something needs to change. It's as if you're the CEO of a company, and all of your best employees are leaving, and all the excellent new employees you hire are sure to leave, too. Surely the answer in a business scenario would not be to carry on as usual? Surely it should not be for you either?

    I'm available by email, chat,etc. if you want to brainstorm, troubleshoot, etc. I believe in this project, but if you just keep on keeping on, I will have to depart, too.

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  137. @macon.

    What do I get from this site?. 2 things.

    Firstly, I come here for the POC who are responding to some of the queries/insults/racism. IRL, I'm either by responding by myself, or it is simply unsafe for me to do so. People try to debate not just my feelings, but racism.
    Here, most of the time, the POC say what I feel and think even before I say it. It is refreshing. I'm not the sole responder anymore. And I am not being ganged up on.

    Secondly, I come here for laughs. Sorry, but, after reading a few comments from some of the white folk on here, I simply cannot take it/them seriously.

    I also like to read how the 'educated' fools conduct themselves.

    For me, this blog can only be taken in small doses. I get fed-up with it quite quickly. and I mean pretty much after reading the first few comments on a post and sometimes the post itself. I resort to snark mostly because of the foolishness that gets posted.
    Many of the white people who comment seem to be void of humanity, when it comes to black people.

    Now that most of the other POC no longer come here, I find there isn't much value in coming here.
    This blog feels like a car crash, you can't help but take a look.

    I can't see any POC staying here permanently without taking breaks. we ALL get fed up. routinely.

    Its mighty white of you macon, not to have noticed it.

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  138. @soul

    I love your comment. I have a feeling that I may be one of the "educated fools" of whom you speak, but I take no offense at that.

    I especially love how you talk about the site as being a train wreck or only tolerable in small doses. When I do comment, it's always because I think I might have some perspective to which I don't think many of the readers here have been exposed (it's funny how throwing in two cents in that way makes some want to treat you like a rabble-rousing troll - apparently too much heterodox thought might make worldviews explode, if not the world itself).

    There certainly does come a time when you spend too much vitality responding to posts and just can't do it anymore. (Did you know I'm a libertarian who supports the negative income tax, wished the healthcare reform had included a public option, favors social security and medicare, and wishes federal tax dollars were used for school funding more than local property taxes? I didn't know this was possible until a friendly inquisitor recently informed me and corrected my errant mind).

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  139. Queen of the CynicsJuly 25, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Wow, Mike, that reply to soul wasn't the least bit condescending or passive-aggressive at all. ::sarcasm hand raised::

    We've never heard the ultra-important opinions of a White libertarian before
    ::sarcasm hand still raised::

    Gosh, us dumb coloureds would be so lost without you.
    ::sarcasm hand so high I'm brushing against the clouds::

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  140. @mike.

    What in the world would make you think that?.
    I haven't even been able to read through any of your posts in their entirety as the openers usually indicate how pedestrian they are. Unfortunately, most POC would have come across your type of responses in elementary school, I know I certainly did.

    Seriously, Mike.. Not to worry. I never considered you one of them. So don't take offence, the phrase was never intended for you.

    I simply can't regress enough to respond to your posts. Not even for jokes.

    Secondly, I'm unconcerned as to what political party you belong to. Liberals, libertarians, conservatives, non political atheists... when push comes to shove most white folk are the same when it comes to race relations....

    Oh. and I said the site is like a car crash. (not a train wreck).

    I have to say though, the thought of you thinking that I was referring to you was hilarious.

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  141. @Queen of cynics..
    Seriously, I'm laughing. Did Mike really think I meant him?. I mean O_O.
    ROFLMBAO ..

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  142. @Queen of the Cynics...

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously, WTF is wrong with you? I'm not white, I'm not a libertarian, and I was actually appreciative of soul's comment. The only sarcasm was in saying I was libertarian, poking fun at the racially and politically loaded nature of AE's comment.

    Let me guess, you're actually a white person who's convinced that all black people must love sociology and hate capitalism as inherently evil and exploitative, right?

    The really funny part is that you probably don't realize how unbelievably racist and offensive your comment is on so many levels.

    It's like macon's given up on even trying to pretend this site is anything more than a white liberal circle jerk.

    Seriously, WTF!?

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  143. I'm still new at commenting here and I'm still relatively new to the blog, so I'm not burned out yet. But I do feel what soul, QoTC, Rochelle, and Julia are saying.

    @ Macon

    it's got to be hell in a handbasket trying to keep up with the volume of comments here and blocking the honest to goodness hate-trolls AND have some semblance of an offline life. I can't imagine how one person can do this alone without slacking off on quality of moderation eventually.... so maybe the moral of the story is that SWPD needs to be more of a team effort when it comes to moderation and content?

    As it stands, letting discussions on racism run wild with derails, particularly the "educated fool" (TM soul) brand of derailing that certain white folks love so well... not acceptable. I'd sooner see SWPD retired and archived instead.

    I come here for the same reasons that soul mentioned. To decompress from IRL racism and hear other POC people share their views so I can stop feeling crazy and alone in my point of view.

    I also come here because part of me is hoping beyond hope that a white person will actually "get a clue" and finally LISTEN to us with EMPATHY rather than coldly attempting to isolate the exact ingredients for Not Being Racist... (You should know who you are, but you probably don't).

    Empathy. The fantasy that a WP would listen to me or any POC person with the same amount of credulity they listen to each other. But even research shows I probably shouldn't hold my breath.

    http://restructure.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/white-people-lack-empathy-for-brown-people-brain-research-shows/

    All the same, I would hate to see SWPD lose its potential as a teaching/safe space for POCs and a learning space for WP. I have never seen any forum accomplish both of these goals. Perhaps that's impossible. But I don't like thinking its not worth the effort to even TRY to create such a forum.

    How do we solve this? Can we?

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  144. I am confused... can someone please clarify. I assumed (and yes I know what happens when you assume) that, from his comment, Mike is a POC. Now, if this is supposed to be a safe space for POC to express their opinions as it relates to white supremacy, why are people (particularly white people) seeing fit to "correct" his way of thinking because it is not compatible with their idea of anti-racism? If Mike is a POC and expressing his personal view of certain issues, can a white person tell him that his viewpoint is wrong? Are all POC supposed to feel the same way?? IS there only one way to be an anti-racist?

    Are differing opinions not allowed within the anti-racist movement, because I tend to see this happen... someone expresses an opinion, someone else tells them their opinion is wrong, and the original commenter either 1)attempts to explain their opinion and catches hell for it or 2) Rescinds their opinion, apologizes and talks about how they know absolutely nothing and should not be expressing their opinion in the first place.

    Personally, I think it is better for people to be able to have differing opinions, and I would rather hear someone defend their own opinion if it differs from mine than backpedal and say something they do not believe in to be "agreeable". I would rather hear where someone is coming from and let them know my points of contention with what they said that have them say something they do not mean or believe.
    Now, I am not saying that I believe it is OK for someone to come onto a forum like this and make blatantly racist, blanket offensive statements. But, I do believe that expressing varied opinions within a movement is a positive thing.

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  145. @soul

    I just figured I was one of the people you were poking fun at because I have a hard time condensing my thoughts into shorter, more concise messages.

    I'm not really concerned with anyones' political affiliations either, I just think it's funny how some commenters try to infer and extrapolate way too much information about people from conversations about tangentially related topics.

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  146. Queen of the CynicsJuly 25, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    @Mike
    It's obvious from my comment that I'm not white, I have no idea why you're saying my comment is racist, seriously dude, I have no idea wtf you're talking about.

    @soul
    I have no idea what is going on in his mind. @.@ I never would've thought you meant him, but hey I guess if you get hit by a stray stone, you squeal.

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  147. I recommend that anyone who feels dissatisfied with this site check out -> http://stuffblackpeoplehate.com/

    It's defunct and discontinued now but the writer had a sense of humor and the level of social commentary was a lot deeper than what you'll find here.

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  148. Soul said…
    “I resort to snark mostly because of the foolishness that gets posted.
    Many of the white people who comment seem to be void of humanity, when it comes to black people.”

    Empathy: to me white people are void of Empathy when it comes to non-whites. Most of the time they seem unaware of this deficit even as they form their responses. Whites who visit to this blog are not necessarily drawn because of an anti-racist commitment, but rather- they’re snagged by the lure of a good ole-fashioned debate. A place where they can test their mettle and try their wits against contributors of color. You don’t have to show Empathy or even humanity in a debate; instead you go for the jugular.

    It’s never about solutions it’s about the discourse. Whites need to prove how smart and how educated they are and they’ve no time for niceties. Here where people are simply faceless entities it’s about the contest- it’s the scent of weakness and it doesn’t have one damn thing to do with anti-racism. Some of the commentors seem utterly blind to their lack of Empathy and that’s where moderation is needed to keep the thread from derailing into another self-centered white-fest.

    But then again if you’re white and moderating an ‘antiracist blog’ how much of the content is sincerely missed and how much is an act of unconscious solidarity? As moderator you can't help but find yourself agreeing with some of the points made by other whites- so by letting those comments through you’re able to avoid personal responsibility because you didn’t voice the comment yourself. It would seem to me the moderator has to have a good amount of ‘Empathy’ himself if he is to truly manage comments coming from his own towards non-whites. If not than this blog is just another endless thread in a drawn-out narrative about a white man and his search for self-discovery. We POC forget that sometimes so there a good amount of frustration when we read new comments on this blog that can simply take the wind out of your spirit, and you’re forced to ask, “What in the hell is wrong with white people?”

    I asked this question after Elisabeth Hasselbeck confronted Shirley Sherrod on The View. We’re talking about a black woman seasoned by ‘racial sorrow,’ acquainted with grief and poised of wisdom. Because if Elisabeth had ‘one thread of Empathy’ for non-whites she never- ever would have presumed to confront this woman on national TV. Instead she should have simply shut her mouth and learned a new thing. If enough people confront this blonde bimbo, she’ll retract her words with those magical white woman’s tears of hers, so that the rest of the show will be about comforting her instead of Shirley Sherrod.

    It’s a lack of Empathy on this blog and in most whites that we’re up against. They’re unable (or unwilling) to put themselves in our shoes- neither can they truly appreciate our unique experiences; not as long as they can derail and deflect the narrative to suit their own end.

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  149. I'm fairly new to reading and commenting on this blog, but, being familiar with other safe-space/solidarity emphatic blogs, my feeling is that it's not okay, at all, when the individuals and communities this blog purportedly exists as a discussion forum for are being talked-over, dismissed, or disrespected by apologists of the dominant thinking and those who are meant to be listening, learning, and deferring to the authority that isn't ours.
    Since the aim is high, and Macon, as a white moderator, is inherently apt to fail, perhaps the structure, pacing, and moderation need to be really reworked. Otherwise, the immediate demands of limited-time/high comment volume are bound to overwhelm even the best intention to hold the blog rigorously accountable and watchful for offensives, failures, and derails. So, the issue is to find a way to do it responsibly and respectfully, or end and archive, I guess. A well-intentioned anti-racist blog can too easily veer into just another platform for racism and fingers-in-ears defense of status quo at all costs.

    I'm white, and this blog is not about what I like or want. I've learned a lot from reading the posts and comments here, encountering both thoughtful, incisive perspectives from POC and also derails, non-logic, refusal to learn,ignorance,bigotry and the exercise of some totally undeveloped basic read/respond skills.

    If we're serious about reducing the negative impact of our whiteness, then we (WP) just have to check every impulse to turn this into a high school debate club or a pity session about how we can never get it right, poor us.

    If we can't be this serious about shutting up and listening, then our seriousness about being anti-racist is suspect, and we should then go away and come back when we're serious.

    Serious, for us, has to mean humility and silence, and actively practicing the position that white person just does not know best on matters of race...no matter how hard that is to accept.

    The whole idea is that our racism is so ingrained its often invisible or normal to us. So, if we're entering this space with that commitment in our heads, why do we still insist on defending actions that don't *seem* racist to us (invisible, ingrained) even as we're being told by individuals our actions affect that our actions, attitudes, and stances are racist?

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  150. To sort of go back to the appropriation issue...

    It seems to me like some posters are suggesting that there are some kinds of cultural appropriation that are less insulting and problematic than other appropriative acts. Is buying Hello Kitty accessories (or analogues from other PoC cultures that are commercial, not spiritual, in nature and are enthusiastically marketed to the White people involved) in the same league as wearing war bonnets in music videos? I ask because I am used to seeing appropriation in the Hello Kitty league as basically okay, though this may be a misconception from my white privilege.

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  151. @Queen of the cynics...

    If by some chance you're not just a white person saying you're a POC on the internet to win brownie solidarity points (the whole, "POC's are a monolith, and you don't fit it, so you must be white...hahaha Sar-cas-uhm!" is really white sounding), then someone should have told you that it is nonetheless racist (call it internalized oppression or whatever you want) to declare yourself the arbiter of who is and isn't a real(TM) POC.

    Hmm...you automatically assumed that I must be white even though I've made it clear in this and other threads that I'm a black male...I wonder what that says you think about POC's and their herdlike nature...hmmm...

    If you think you can't possibly be racist, because you're a POC, therefore you get to control the narrative and tell other POC's that they're not POC's because they don't fit *your* narrative, well...that's incredibly racist!

    If you really didn't know, now you do.

    @soul...

    Now I truly am being totally sarcastic: I like how you said everything I've said has been heard in elementary school, right after you admitted that you don't read my posts 'cause they sound pedestrian and therefore don't know what I've said in the first place. Of course, I'm sure you don't see the humor in that. Not one bit.

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  152. @mike.

    okay.. Seriously. I was not referring to you. How many more times would you like me to say that, before it sinks in?

    I neither consider verbosity a sign of education nor a problem.

    It is not the length of your posts that I find problematic, it is the content, which is neither unique nor 'intellectual'. I simply cannot take them seriously.
    They seem to be full of derail after derail, mean, lacking in empathy and critical thought and completely full of disregard for emotional well being of POC.

    Maybe you should get your thoughts together before typing them.

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  153. I've learned to simply not read past the first sentence of some commenters, and pay close attention to others. There ARE people who are only here to post provoking comments, and there are those who are here only to respond with more provoking posts. It's really not that hard to tell who these people are, naming them really isn't necessary.

    AS FOR THE TOPIC: I don't really know. I don't. I don't know why WP wear their hair that way, mostly because I don't care about hair styles. I only care about keeping my hair clean and not nappy. I let it grow the way it wants, curly, wavy, and voluminous. I'm proud of my hair, so I don't understand why people chase a certain style.

    I really don't get kicks out of arguments like I used to. I just really want to hear how and what people feel about things, and maybe just put out there how I feel. I don't really expect you to care about what I feel. I'm not really into opinions, but I do care about feelings.
    (Also, I told you I would, and I did; If you know what I mean.)

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  154. On empathy - I'm a white person who reads the blog to hear what the POC commenters have to say, and try to empathise and learn. (Imperfectly, no doubt.) I just don't generally comment because I figure I'll do better listening than talking. A lot of the time it seems like the empathic thing to do is stay out of the conversation. Kind of a tip to white readers, I guess: the way I see it, if it's a discussion of racism, you'd better have something pretty darn brilliant to say before you jump in and start laying down the law, and we're none of us as brilliant as we think. (Which is not really a new point; the POC commenters keep suggesting as much.)

    It's not my place to speak for the POC readers and commenters, but I do think the suggestion that this site consider sharing the moderation with someone non-white is a sensible one. It seems like people have to listen to upsetting stuff a lot, and reducing that would be good.

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  155. @cicada...

    Please provide the following detail without derailing or raising another strawman (All strawmen will be subject to a request for proof and added to the request list.


    - List the features which make it silly to consider her a black woman! (stop skirting the issue list them!
    - prove that North Africans are basically caucasian
    - List those features which make North Africans look basically like you
    - List the features of other Dark Skinned North Africans which make them unlike their light skinned brothers and you
    - Please provide evidence where ANYONE said 'white blood is less valuable than black' other than you


    Thank you kindly.. waiting for your enlightening response eagerly. :)

    *just to reiterate:
    My theory is that most of what you say is based on simply stereotype of the way your superior European schools have taught you about the way Africans should look, Which despite your essays and narrative would be a really simple FAIL really.
    A real, embarrassing, tedious, simple fail.

    Fingers crossed for you, that you have something else... but like I said.. please do share. I'm waiting with baited breath

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  156. @macon

    For one thing, if someone's been around here for awhile, and it's clear that overall, they're sincerely trying, then yes, I do sometimes let fail from them through that I wouldn't from someone with a name I've never seen before. I also think it's okay to do that sometimes because this blog now has a lot of regular and clued-in white people who usually step up and correct said fail.

    The failure of us White people and our potentially being corrected by other clued-in White people should not be put ahead of the safety of the People of Color on this blog. While this blog may be a place to teach White people about how we should recognize and change our own racist tendencies, you have stated multiple times that you want this to be a safe place for People of Color. If so, you cannot allow comments you know are fail to go through just so they can be corrected by other White people.

    You could easily respond to them as you do others with a "No, this comment is not okay, you haven't be listening or reading enough, please see Link A, Link B, or Link C to understand a bit better why this comment is not okay and try again later."

    If you cannot handle this, I would suggest asking if any of the People of Color on this blog would be up to being a moderator in letting comments through. If none of them feel like it would be worth it to go through what I assume would be an emotionally draining process going through them (as I imagine there are a good number of pure racist comments that get denied), then I would suggest you set a clear and hard line of what is acceptable or not - regardless if the person making the fail comment is a regular or not.

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  157. cultural insulation can be just as damaging as cultural appropriation.

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  158. @soul:

    Ok, I'll bite. My opinions are largely based on what my eyes tell me. Since there is no clear line between the races, there will always be grey areas, and identifying said races will always require a hell of a lot of subjectivity.

    When I look at someone from North Africa, I see facial features that I recognise from my own people: narrow noses, relatively flat foreheads, thin lips, occasionally light eyes/hair, body hair, skin tones that closely resemble those in Southern Europe, and straight or wavy hair. Of course there is individual variation, but overall, I see a lot of "white" characteristics and relatively few "black" ones (e.g. more squashed-looking noses, rounded foreheads, full lips, jutting chins, dark brown to velvety-black skin tones, woolly hair, all of which I know do not describe EVERY Sub-Saharan African, but you're more likely to see those characteristics, especially a combination of them, in Sub-Saharan Africa than among indigenous Europeans). I've met Frenchmen who could pass for Algerians and Algerians who could pass for Frenchmen, and I've met fully Spanish and Italian people who were darker than many people from North African countries. I do not identify North Africans as white or European, but I'd have to be blind not to see the resemblance or suspect that we are in some way related.

    Via Wikipedia, here is a map of indigenous skin colours: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.png

    As you can see, North Africans are darker than most Europeans, but similar in colour to Turks, Iranians, Middle Eastern Arabs and many Asian peoples. Given their position between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, and given the amount of mixing that has gone on over the centuries, this is hardly surprising.

    My comment about black blood being more valuable than white blood was a response to people claiming that a half-black/half-white person is considered black. This is an American idea that is not accepted by all whites (or even all American whites! Different states defined "Negroes" in different ways), so you can't claim that "we" started it, or that "we" force people of mixed race to identify in any particular way. As for Cleopatra... she is known to have Greek, Semitic, and Nubian roots -- by calling her "black", you are acting as if the European section of her family tree simply does not exist. She was mixed. Somewhere in between white and black, not fully belonging to either.

    Might be easier to just use one of the old definitions of race (people once talked about the English, French and German races) and simply call her "Egyptian".

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  159. @ miriam,

    Yes, but surely cultural appropriation isn't the only way to breech the boundaries of cultural insulation?

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  160. @Cicada.

    FAIL

    You are still working from your stereotype of how you *think* Africans should look.

    Without taking into account what Africa is. Your myopia is noted and its ignorance is astounding.

    narrow noses - Fulani's across the breadth of Africa, just to name one tribe.

    , relatively flat foreheads,

    thin lips: FAIL, The stereotype of Africans with full lips is noted but falls flat and is simply that. Kindly tell that to the Ijebus, to the Hausa's and to the Ethipians and Eritreans.

    occasionally light eyes: erm, we know that you are soo colour struck that you can't tell light brown eyes from dark brown and that you really but thanks. they exist

    body hair: erm.. are you saying that Africans don't have body hair or have too much, because I think for this alone you are a moron.

    skin tones that closely resemble those in Southern Europe: Actually you might want to read your history book to discover why people who tracerse the desert might have light skin.

    straight or wavy hair: talk to the somalians, the sudannese, the eritreans, the fulani, in Northern Nigeria and some southern, across togo.

    re: My comment about black blood being more valuable than white blood was a response to people claiming that a half-black/half-white person is considered black
    Nobody did. YOU DID If I am wrong, please kindly copy and paste the appropriate comment.

    This is an American idea that is not accepted by all whites (or even all American whites! Different states defined "Negroes" in different ways), so you can't claim that "we" started it, or that "we" force people of mixed race to identify in any particular way
    Your history sucks. Please go back to school.

    As for Cleopatra... she is known to have Greek, Semitic, and Nubian roots -- by calling her "black", you are acting as if the European section of her family tree simply does not exist. She was mixed. Somewhere in between white and black, not fully belonging to either

    I did not call her black. You said it would be silly to call her black given her features. I've asked you to list said features which make it silly. You still cannot intelligently do so.

    Might be easier to just use one of the old definitions of race (people once talked about the English, French and German races) and simply call her "Egyptian".

    Yes.. yes.... Why not just call em niggers too like the old way. Itd be a heck of a lot easier wouldn't it?.

    I mean how about we call them what they called themselves you arrogant bigot.

    Your claims are ridiculous, ignorant and severely full of silly stereotype and show your ignorance not only of Africa but of Africa as it was 'back then'.

    Next time sell your bigotry, and wikipedia backed studies to someone who doesn't have a clue about their ancestry because you are seriously coming up short here.
    You are soo full of ignorance and stereotype, that you really should SHUT UP and listen more.

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  161. @Macon...

    You see this... this right here... What Cicada is doing is why I believe racism will never die.
    How many SWPD can you fit into 1 basket.

    1) Attempt to teach POC about themselves
    2) Introduce a strawman and then debate the strawman they introduced
    3) attempt to define POC by their own definition
    4) let their biases shape their perceptions of non-white people
    5) displace non white people and use a quick glance at wikipedia to jusify this
    6)insist on racially categorizing mixed-race people
    7) refuse to acknowledge racism when it's pointed out to them
    8)cite their being white as an excuse for racial ignorance

    I think its that time again....
    Dueces..

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  162. What Carrie said! Co sign 100%:

    "The failure of us White people and our potentially being corrected by other clued-in White people should not be put ahead of the safety of the People of Color on this blog. While this blog may be a place to teach White people about how we should recognize and change our own racist tendencies, you have stated multiple times that you want this to be a safe place for People of Color. If so, you cannot allow comments you know are fail to go through just so they can be corrected by other White people."

    Especially when said white people fail is often corrected by POC. I.e., it's not like white people do all, or even most, of the heavy lifting.

    @cicada,
    your arrogance is astonishing and sickening and utterly infuriating. Your comment is so full of fail, I hardly know where to start, and really, why should I bother? It's clear you aren't listening to a thing anyone else is saying. Maybe time to stfu? I'm tired of the cicada show.

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  163. Speaking of cultural appropriation....
    This is a video of a white woman talking about "I am hip hop" and teaching "hip hop dance"

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  164. This on the dreadlocks thread:

    It's not fair for white people to wear dreadlocks because so many black people are judged so harshly for dreadlocks. Even tidy, well maintained dreadlocks scream gangster! to a lot of white people. (This is crap, of course.)

    When anybody can style their hair in a neat and tidy way, and still be treated as an intelligent professional, white people can force their hair to dread. Until then, why don't white people quite messing with their hair, and use the extra time and energy to be less racist?

    A lot of white people don't like to admit that we are less threatened by black people with white looking hair than by black people with dreadlocks or corn rows. I think it's BS that black people in the US have to spend lots of money and or time to change the texture/length of their hair just to get hired/accepted by white people.

    It's not a far leap from that to understanding a teeny tiny bit how black people might be offended by white people flaunting a hairstyle that intimidates so many whites, and closes so many white 'doors' in society.

    One of my complaints with my fellow white people on this site is that we won't admit:
    A) Our own racism
    B) The racist society we live in.

    I'm no expert on anybody's hair, but I have spent a couple of afternoons convincing my boss that dreadlocks don't pose an additional health threat (what if they fall in the chili!), that we really ought to hire black people if we want to run a store in a black neighborhood, that not all black people are thieves. (!)

    White people are shitty. We judge black people on their hair, we judge black people on their skin, we judge black people on their voices and tones and accents in ways that we never judge white people. Any white person who says they don't, is a liar. White people can get a little less racist, but a non racist society is generations away.

    Given all of the above, can white people be trusted to 'respectfully admire' another person's culture? I think not.

    PS- I am not a 'special non racist' white person. I try very hard to not be racist, but I fail routinely. I apologize for the long comment, but I read a lot of white people on this site looking to exempt themselves from the rest of white society. Not going to happen.

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  165. @macon

    I have to agree with a lot of the comments on this thread: you've let some comments through from WP because you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. swpd- assume that when WP make hurtful comments, they really meant well, and that makes it okay for them to say what they said. And it sounds like you're trying to set up some "very special episodes" as learning experiences for the WP reading or commenting on the blog.

    Sometimes I'll read a really insightful comment, usually from a POC commenter (especially Jane Laplain, M. Gibson, and soul!- thank you for sticking around here!), but also sometimes a WP, When I first read the comment, it feels like I've been stung or attacked, and I immediately feel defensive! I start thinking of arguments and making excuses for myself. But maybe, after I read several more comments in the same vein as the OP, it might finally start to get through my thick, thick skull that POC aren't making this up... but then...

    ... then you let one WP's defensive comment through moderation and it exactly echoes my defensiveness- I find someone who agrees with me, so I can stop listening. Haha! See? I'm not alone, that original POC's comment was totally out of line. I was right all along.... (See how letting WP defensive comments through actually gives the silent WP an easy way out of having to think through their own racism?)

    Fortunately, someone else on the board will generally take the time and effort to shoot down the defensive, argumentative, hurtful garbage, and I can finally see why my defensive thinking was wrong, too (clearly there are some really sharp commenters here!). But, the damage has been done. And the beatdown shouldn't have been necessary in the first place: you don't have to give a voice to our ingrained defensiveness as WP.
    (Back to lurking for me.)

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  166. @ soul

    ok, so what your saying is that many people from different parts of Africa have facial features that don't fit into the stereotypical idea of "African". So, there is no way that just looking at that bust of Cleo is going to tell you how much or how little African Ancestry she has. Correct?

    That seems totally reasonable and I'm not sure why anyone would try to debate you on that.

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  167. @ soul Thank you for stating that.

    This Cicada person is very biased, ignorant, and just flat-out ridiculous. I suggest this person just stop before they really get in trouble.

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  168. @cicada

    slow clap...thread has been thoroughly derailed. smdh

    Willful ignorance is a hell of a thing, and as of late I just can't tolerate it.

    This is an example of why sometimes poc don't engage wp period. We have developed a natural instinct to detect FAIL.

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  169. @Jasonburns
    I am saying much more than that. I am saying not only many people within the same parts of africa but many people within the same family have different features.
    Africans are not shocked with the range of colours within families, we are not shocked by small lips, small eyes, flat chests, big chests, curves, non curves, narrow nostrils or broad, because African features run the entire gamut.

    Thats why I asked that thing to list the features which makes it silly to call cleopatra black. Notice how she found it so difficult to do, she attempted straw man after straw man, cos she clearly didn't,t make any sense.

    Just another racist, full of stereotype, arrogant, ill-educated WIWL without a clue.
    Lol
    I knew she didn't,t know what the heck she was talking about but couldn,t STFU cos those damn Negros need her to tell us about ourselves.

    SMDH. What a sad case.
    Now I really must chuck that deuce

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  170. what's a WIWL? google=no help

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  171. @Jason,

    What I've gathered -- well-intentioned white liberal.

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  172. @Carrie

    "The failure of us White people and our potentially being corrected by other clued-in White people should not be put ahead of the safety of the People of Color on this blog. While this blog may be a place to teach White people about how we should recognize and change our own racist tendencies, you have stated multiple times that you want this to be a safe place for People of Color. If so, you cannot allow comments you know are fail to go through just so they can be corrected by other White people."

    I totally agree. I don't post very often anymore myself, particularly because I realize that I do have more subconscious racism than I realized. Yes, it did make me examine it more when I said something stupid and was corrected. However, in my memory, for the most part it was POC posters who were correcting me. I'm sure the burn-out rate has a lot to do with this. I would imagine some of the POC posters who no longer come here feel like they were repeating the same things over and over again to whatever daily 'well-meaning clueless white person' happened to hit this blog on StumbleUpon. It's too much to ask. It is not a fair trade to ask that I be educated at the expense of a POC expending that much time, frustration, and emotional energy. So, I read silently and try to think about and examine things more in my every day life.

    @Macon - Personally I do believe that if you find something to be obvious fail you should not let it through. There may be fewer postings, but I think quality is more important than quantity. Some of these comments are just too hurtful to justify letting through. Like for example the one about how anyone was basically crazy to believe that Cleopatra could have been black based on her features. There was just nothing constructive in that.

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  173. I read as much of the 171 comments prior to mine as I could, but apologies if I've missed a point or six.

    I really respect what honeybrown1976 said: "If one requires profit, cool factors, or attention, it's appropriation. Pure respect does not ask or require any of these things."

    This topic resonates with me particularly because my life--for various reasons, mostly because I've lived in Arab countries but also because of professional foci--is pretty deeply entwined in Arab culture and it's something I think about a lot.

    One good example (that I think someone mentioned) of Arab cultural appropriation might be the keffiyeh...it's become trendy as hell in White and Black communities alike and I know that that is deeply bothersome to a lot of my (Arab) friends, who (most often correctly) assume that the person wearing it doesn't recognize its political significance.

    At the same time, in reference to the original question, I think it's a case by case thing, and again, honeybrown has it right. To the third question, I think that's particularly interesting: Most home cooks are experts on their particular cuisine but never get recognition for it. At the same time, a lot of professional chefs cook foods that are not from their culture (be it a white person cooking Italian food or Mexican food, or what have you). I honestly don't see those two examples being all that different in that context...in either case (as someone pointed out), as a chef, you LEARNED it, you BECAME an expert. You're probably still not as good as someone who cooks it at home every day :)

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  174. Queen of the CynicsJuly 26, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    @Mike

    Dude. I am Black. I have not followed this thread religiously, I just saw one fed up comment and figured you were white. Like I said, my bad. You're stepping over your self-drawn boundary by questioning my Blackness. Chillax dude. It's over.

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  175. I'm just going to weigh in on Rick Bayless and will freely admit that I read quite a few comments but not even close to all, I started skimming at some point, so I'm sorry if this has already been said.

    From his website: "From 1980 to 1986, after studying Spanish and Latin American Studies as an undergraduate, and doing doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Rick lived in Mexico with his wife, Deann, writing his now-classic Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico (William Morrow, 1987). The New York Times’s legendary Craig Claiborne hailed this work as the "greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable.""

    And Mexicans can be white (Latinos are of all races), so I was looking for something giving his ethnic background, it appears that this dude is definitely not a white Latino, he's just white.

    So basically white dude went to Mexico, got Mexicans to teach him how they cook, and then he came back and got super famous and successful through that.

    Yeah. I have a problem with that. Not the learning how to cook in Mexico part so much as the coming back and getting famous from it part. That is like, textbook cultural appropriation, isn't it? Like, how many of the people who taught him these authentic recipes are dirt fucking poor while he's living it up? That's what really gets me.

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  176. Here's a very good example of culture appropriation--that's quite offensive. At Godheval's blog, http://godheval.net/
    this thing is broken down very clearly for what it is, objectively speaking.

    Toyota's Official Swagger Wagon video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUG3Z8Hxa5I&feature=player_embedded

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  177. Speaking of cultural appropriation.... this website is a company and salon that make products for creating dreadlocks... for the most part in white hair.

    It was created by some white 20 somethings in 1998 who said that "All we knew was that there was a desperate need for a good, all-natural product specifically for starting and maintaining dreadlocks out there, and since it was apparent that no such thing existed at that time, we developed something ourselves that worked - and worked really, really well."

    Now,please tell me, how is it that people of African descent had NO PROBLEM creating and maintaining dreadlocks before their product came along to "save the day"???

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  178. I find the debate about dreads amusing since there is an internal question among Rastas as to why they wear dreads-- after the African Mau Mau rebel group, as a symbol of fighting oppression, or after the ancient Jews, as a symbol of inner spirituality and dedication to faith. So perhaps only the Jews can lay true claim?

    The entire debate is absurd. No one "owns" a hairstyle! I can kinda understand Rastas getting upset about non-Rastas wearing dreads with a clear intention of emulating them, because at least dreads have religious significance and deeper meaning that is somewhat lost when a rich white kid wears it, smokes pot, plays reggae and thinks he's deep. I can also understand frustration that poorly maintained dreads can cause people to associate them with grime and/or poverty. That said, braids are JUST hair. They are a hairstyle, without any deeper meaning than a way to maintain curly, easily-dried-out hair. And in most cultures that wore/wear dreads, they were/are the same thing-- a way to maintain hair. That's certainly how black non-Rastas wear them, yet you won't see a Rasta get pissed because

    I don't care if someone wears dreads because they like them, how they look or feel. I care more if they wear them in homage to Rastas or to blacks, because then they clearly are treating it as something from another culture to adopt, instead of picking a hairstyle they like of ALL the hairstyles.

    My attitude on cultural appropriation is usually to ask why you have or like something. For example, using the art example-- if you like it because it's "ethnic" or "tribal" it's appropriation. If you like it because you like it and it speaks to you, it's fine. If you fill your home with Asian art and furniture and such, you're probably appropriating it. If you have many accent pieces, it's art. Of course, you should buy from artists of the culture in question and look out for commercial appropriation of a culture, because THAT is wrong. And too, you should make a point to find out the significance of something-- you can wear moccassins as shoes, because Native Americans only thought of them as shoes, but a war bonnet is a highly culturally significant and symbolic item and a 20 something hipster has not earned it, so wearing one is inappropriate.

    My home is filled with Tibetan, Japanese, and Indian pieces, including prayer flags, Buddha statues, and calligraphy paintings. I'm sure people here would call it appropriation. That said, I and my partner are devout Buddhists with heavy Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism influences in our faith; my partner can read every single bit of calligraphy (he learned at a young age), and we use the prayer flags in our worship. So before assuming they're appropriating someone else's culture, it's important to remember both that many so called "cultural" things are actually religious and religion and ethnicity are not the same thing, and that sometimes people JUST FIND IT PERSONALLY USEFUL, ENJOYABLE, ETC AND DON'T CARE THAT YOU DON'T WANT THEM TO HAVE IT BECAUSE THEY'RE THE WRONG RACE. Not everything white people do is because they think x culture is quaint, sometimes they think x culture had the right idea!

    Note-- Joanna, since it's been made really obvious in this thread that fine, straight hair doesn't respond the same to dreads as curly, coarse hair, people with fine straight hair probably DO need different products and methods to maintain dreads. And considering that the ancient peoples with fine straight hair who dreaded it never washed their hair (nor did anyone else), thus using the natural oils, modern people with fine straight hair can benefit from products that let them continue to strip oils from their hair while dreading it.

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  179. Thought provoking stuff guys. I think immediatedly of music. Dusty Springfield: a more blatant immitation of a black woman's inflection by a white singer you won't find. And she was highly succesful. Would a competing black singer feel right to be wronged? Yeah.

    But despite all that , Dusty has soul. She is an incredible soul singer, her voice is filled with passion and her range is spectacular. Its hard to put racial boundaries around musical talent, the medium is way too porous. Little Richard to the Beatles to Stevie Wonder to Red Hot Chilli Peppers to TV On The Radio. Reggae-rock, hip hop-soul, Funk-Jam bands, black to white to black and back again. You can't fault the naturally talented when life guides them to their calling.

    Oh and I'm black. PS, i noticeed a rather simplistic racial trolling technique(confined to imdb, youtube and other comment vortexes of inanity)/ People will declare themselves blacks, or asians or whatever (never white suspiciously enough) and go on to denigrate them in a supposedly objective, Im weighing both sides of the question of the worth of blacks or asians manner. It smacks of the previously well-outlined here white tendency to claim an "objective", bland, prematurely conciliatory view towards outrageously racist claims. Well, Ciao

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  180. @ Elisabeth: Erm, Mcdonald's DOES sell hamburgers.

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  181. I'm late. But just incase someone reads this late like I did, I just want to say that Listening isn't neccessarily the best thing you can do as an ally. You don't have to be POC to know when a person has been hurt. I read through this thing wondering why the allies are all silent. Sure, you've heard 'STFU and Listen' and you're following it, but you're not using your head.

    People were getting stoned in this post and you said nothing, 'allies'. Moderator, Macon, you never even apologized.

    Listen- applies to the idiots that posted up there. The ones that can't keep their 'i get my say' to themselves, the ones that think this is about 'winning'. Our life is not up for debate, thanks.

    The silence didn't help, allies; it only justified and empowered the folks passing on their ignorance cos you didn't step up.

    ===
    On appropriation. Let me first say that it is entirely sick and disgusting to use a religious/sacred item as your piece of personal adornment. Someone said it wonderfully, "just cos you like it doens't mean you have to have it". You don't need the freaking souvenir, ok? Stop breaking those stalagmites off, stop buying stuff that you don't actually care about that will probably end up stashed in some memories book or at goodwill or in your dog's mouth. That stalagmite took centuries to form, that culture is as old as the trees.

    Understanding a culture is like those doctors that stayed and died in Afghanistan; to me, it seemed like they realized that their lives are just as worthy of death as the people around them. They didn't have to KNOW everything about the culture, but they saw those people as PEOPLE. NOT souvener makers, NOT exotic folks to take pictures of, NOT great cooks, NOT terrorists, NOT victims, but as PEOPLE. Brothers. Sisters. In it together and that means they die together too.

    Appropriation is the rest. See people as people, or don't.

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  182. This reminds me of "kimono sleeves", a style from the late 40s/early 50s that white people came up with- completely ignoring the reality or meaning behind kimonos. I guess I can see how they're kimono *inspired*- but with the way they've evolved, they look nothing like real kimono sleeves.

    I don't really know how (if) white people can really give credit to a culture who inspired something without appropriating it. Even if they do well at first- if it gets popular, it'll get lost over time. People will either forget what inspired it or forget that it was *inspired by* and isn't the original thing.

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  183. err, not to get into a side-rant but that celtic stuff is bullshit!

    people aren't even sure the celts, as we conceive that group to be, actually existed. and there is also huge doubt about whether or not contemporary irish folks are in fact descended from the bronze-age inhabitants of Ireland whether or not they were the celts...so ppl who deeply feel their celtic roots are basically making something up. (and i say that as an ireland-loving dual citizen)

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  184. Hello,

    I normally would not try to hijack a thread, but I would truly like to know what others would think of non-Native Americans using a wedding ritual loosely based on traditional wedding vase use. I've seen cultural appropriation in weddings discussed on wedding sites before, but the conclusions reached at such sites typically leave a bad taste in my mouth. I am seeking wiser perspectives--not for someone to hold my hand and reassure me that I'm not being racist. If anyone finds this subject interesting and wants to help me, I invite you to E-mail me at liza dot kali at ymail dot com.

    Thank you so much!

    Liza

    PS: Kali is my middle name, so no cultural appropriation meant there :)

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  185. Well skin colour isn't the only contributing factor to culture. Also skin colour shouldn't be a cause for judgement. There are people who are mix who look more like one parent than the other, instead of a mixture.  Location has something to do with it too. Let's say a white person was born in Jamaica (just as example) and that person grew up seeing Rastas and listening to reggae and such. That is all the person knows, that's what that person identifies with because that's how they grew up. I don't get offended over things like that. Same for corn rows, if that's how a person was raised, if that what they most identify with, let it be. 

    Now if that is not their culture and they see it and like it, I don't mind that either as long as they understand the significance to the people of the culture of origin and that they're doing out of genuine fascination and good intention. 

    Same for cooking. I would like if a chef studied or visited a place where the food is mostly cooked but I still think it's a good thing if someone shows interest in a enough culture (if if it's not theirs) to share it.

    I can understand the "It's our thing, stop trying to imitate us." attitude. I'm from the Virgin Islands which is in the Caribbean and we here don't like when outsiders try to imitate our accent or dialect and we don't like when people just try to sound Caribbean to relate to us either. On one hand, we just want something to call our own but on the other hand we all have to realise that everyone around the world is mixing now. There are so many ways to communicate with each other now and we've to realise that when we show the world who we really are there are some from the outside who'll be interested and want to imitate us. I'm fascinated with Enka music which is traditional Japanese music. I'm black with no affiliation to Japan. I can't even speak the language but I still love the music. The Japanese culture on a whole fascinates me and I low learning about it. In reverse, some Japanese are fascinated with Black cultures (I say cultures because being Black in America is different that being black in the Caribbean.) from the West and I don't see anything wrong with that as long as they take time to understand the culture's origins.   

    Sometimes, as mentioned before, when it's done out of fascination and genuine interest, I get flatter and actually try to teach a few things about my culture and say when something offends me or would offend someone from the VI. I don't think most people who try to do things or behave like what is typical of another culture do so to offend but do so because they like what they see. 

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  186. While I do look down on my nose on a fellow tribemember wearing dreadlocks, it is not originally just rastafari-invention. Such hairstyle wa spopular in pre-christian europe with warriors.

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  187. As far as the first question goes(since I don't have much to say on the study of Egypt or anything)
    I believe that if your hair is the kinky more dried out style of hair no matter what your ethnicity, dreadlocks are probably easier for you to maintain. However most non POC who wear them are doing it simply as a fashion statement. It is a style that I, as a WP, have never desired in my hair. I grew up with a lot of friends who were POC so I learned quite a lot about dreadlocks and why so many POC had them. And personally, for people who have the hair type that they work with, I think they are perfectly professional. I've seen more unprofessional hair styles from WP that look so much worse than a POC coming in with dreadlocks.

    As far as the second question about artwork. This is more a sensitive topic I feel. I know a lot of WP who have no sense of another's culture beyond having a cultural fetish for it and some have artwork from them. I identify as a WP but I can also identify as a Native American Indian. Not enough that I grew up on a reservation but we do have it in my family. You can see it more in my dad and grandma and a few other older members of my family. My grandmother has artwork and such from the tribe we are descended from. I don't remember all the stories she's told me of the specific ones and until I find my tape recorder to record them all I don't particularly care at this moment. Once I find it however I want to get her oral history on our family and her growing up on tape so I can type it up and be able to reference it in the future. But that's another topic entirely. I think, this is presuming the POC is alive or their family is still around, that if you buy it directly from the POC for reasons of understanding culture/finding it aesthetically pleasing that it is fine. As long as you don't try and pass it off as your own or what not. If it is a POC who is not alive and none of their family is still around that's where you start getting into grey areas. I have seen plenty of artwork by POC that I've found so beautiful that I've wanted. However, I know that if I were to buy them they wouldn't fit with who I am. Yes, I appreciate art from the aesthetic value and the cultural value but honestly I don't want any actual artwork in my posession. Unless it is my own. Or if I ever happen to get married, my spouses. Though part of that is due to a fear of it getting ruined. I'd much rather see it in a museum or an art gallery. The closest art I have is a puzzle version of "Starry Night" and a poster of it that came with it as well as another of the same painting that part of it is enlarged and an interesting take on it. That I actually got in high school. Not very big and not the whole painting just a part of it. (yes yes WP art I know but the piece speaks to me and the poster/puzzle combo were a gift to me from a birthday.) As long as the person has an appreciation for the art I feel it is more an appreciation. Appropriation feels more to me like someone going and basically committing art theft and saying that it is their own artwork.

    As far as the third point, I don't think anyone should be considered an expert on anything. Maybe highly proficient but not expert. But that's all I really have to say on that.

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  188. i'm completely new to this game, and want to know more (i'm english, and white). what happens if you buy art, wear clothing or emulate another culture because you find that aesthetic beautiful?? i don't mean seeing a sari and going 'oh, that looks cool, i'll wear it when i go out clubbing'. i mean really, truly loving the art form and the process behind it. also, is it just white people that can be blamed for cultural appropriation, what would happen if an african american girl wore a native american headdress in a music video??

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