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Stop apologising for cultural appropriation Politically correct crusades undermine all that's valuable in a diverse society

Shy and retiring actress Victoria Abril at Cannes Film Festival. Even three years on, she would be in trouble Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Shy and retiring actress Victoria Abril at Cannes Film Festival. Even three years on, she would be in trouble Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images


July 1, 2020   5 mins

Florence Pugh has become the latest casualty in the war against “cultural appropriation”. The charming star of Macbeth, Midsommar and Little Women recently issued a nauseating apology on her Instagram account for donning cornrows and painting henna on her hands when she was a teenager.

Pugh recalled how she hadn’t heard of “cultural appropriation” until a friend informed her of its supposed meaning and “the history and heartbreak over how when black girls do it they’re mocked and judged, but when white girls for it, it’s only then perceived as cool”.

After acknowledging her “white fragility” and “white privilege”, Pugh expressed how “truly sorry” she was for the “offence” she caused and “profusely” apologised that it “took this long” for her to realise her transgression.

If you are au courant with the latest trends in pop culture, then you would know that Florence Pugh has not been the only celebrity embroiled in charges of appropriating and defiling the culture of ‘marginalised’ groups. Over the past decade, figures such as Justin Bieber, Madonna, Katy Perry, Scarlett Johansson and Jamie Oliver have all been accused of being “culture vultures”. Recently, The Simpsons have announced they will no longer use white actors to voice non-white characters. Other white voice actors have recused themselves from voicing black characters on cartoon shows, saying they should be voiced by black actors instead.

White people aren’t the only ones who have been condemned for such cultural transgressions. BeyoncĂ© was accused of “appropriating” from Indian culture because she wore a rather glitzy sari for Coldplay’s “Hymn For the Weekend”. The social media editor of Marie Claire lambasted Rihanna for allegedly “appropriating” the Chola aesthetic from Mexican culture for donning thin eyebrows — even though thin eyebrows have been used across the world, from southern Africa to 1920s New York.

One would be wrong to assume this nonsense is simply consigned to the absurd summits of celebrity culture, however — it’s trickling down to the whole of our cultural discourse. For instance, in 2018, American student Kenziah Daum was subjected to a vicious social media backlash, simply because she wore a traditional Qipao to a Prom night. In 2019, Indigenous musicians in Canada were at each other’s throats over the Cree artist Cikwes’s use of a traditional Inuit singing technique, because according to Inuit “spokespeople” she did not have “permission to
 take something that isn’t hers and make an album, and put it on iTunes, and have it for sale”.

“Cultural appropriation” is an academic concept that originates from the esoteric realm of post-colonial and decolonial studies, but has now become a pop cultural phenomenon and a mainstream political issue.

The argument is that exploitation of the cultures of colonised peoples by colonial structures is analogous to theft and plunder, like the lawless seizure of land, artefacts and treasures. As currently interpreted, it is also a form of erasure, emotional violence against the colonised subject, rendering them invisible, to cement total subjugation and control over all spheres of their subordinated existence.

Too often the argument has nothing to do with anti-racism or a critique of colonialism, but identitarian gatekeeping — the enforcement of customs of etiquette over who can use a particular cultural form in any particular context. This “cultural insiderism”, to borrow a phrase from Paul Gilroy, empowers self-appointed guardians to establish a cordon sanitaire around cultures and appropriate the right of license, hence entrench their own social power.

An irony of this argument is that most opponents of cultural appropriation proclaim, often radically, to be for diversity, immigration and multiculturalism, yet they are same people who bitterly resent the actual results of such a symbiosis. Tribally marking off permission rights over who can use what cultural form, or whose “voice”, and in what way is puerile.  It attacks the main benefits of living in a modern, culturally diverse, cosmopolitan society: freedom of expression, cultural innovation and experimentation and expansion of one’s horizons and liberation of the imagination.

No culture is pure, uncontaminated, hermetically sealed, existing purely within its own universe. “The history of all cultures is a history of cultural borrowing,” Edward Said observed, and that Said’s magnum opus, Orientalism, has often been invoked by the culture warriors to bolster their arguments is something he would be aghast at.

This point is effortlessly made about European or Western culture, but it is also true of non-white cultures. Jazz is commonly thought of as invented by black Americans and appropriated by white America — yet, jazz itself appropriated from European classical music. That was cultural appropriation par excellence and we’re all the better for it.

Cultural forms can certainly be utilised in a racist and exploitative manner, the sordid history of blackface minstrel performances being an example. Black music historically has been derided as “race music” and demonised for being violent, salacious and primitive, while white artists were showered with praise when they play similar music. So it is true that intercourse of cultures doesn’t always take place on equal or equitable terms, but can be shaped by racism, inequality and oppression.

However, as Amiri Baraka once observed, the issue here is not that of cultural appropriation at all, but of material exploitation: “The problem is that if The Beatles tell me that they learned everything they know from Blind Willie [Johnson], I want to know why Blind Willie is still running an elevator in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s that kind of inequality that is abusive, not the actual appropriation of culture because that’s normal.”

The ubiquity of campaigns against cultural appropriation reveal how social struggles, anti-racism for instance, are increasingly framed in cultural terms, rather than political ones; how cultural radicalism has mutated from promoting cultural liberty and freedom of expression to cultural restrictionism; how politics itself has been culturalised, hence why the recent statue wars and the removal of “unwoke” TV episodes have dominated mainstream political discussion over the past few weeks.

A recurring motif one detects in the campaigns against cultural appropriation is a primitive and moralistic hostility to capitalism and consumerism. Often the outrage is over the commercialisation and commodification of cultural forms, that in turn are mass produced and sold for a profit. According to these cultural “radicals” this process is abuse. Cultures becomes diluted, reduced to musical tropes and clothing styles that have been evacuated of authenticity and soul by market forces.

But it is precisely this commodification that lays the basis for a new radical cultural freedom, allowing people to choose elements from a mixture of traditions and create a new culture for themselves. The same process also makes it easier for people to stray from their “original” identities and to integrate into modern society. Uncommodified cultures stagnate, closed to outsiders, and raise the costs for straying outside their walls. Humans make culture, not vice versa. Because of this, cultures are dynamic, evolving and always intermixing, so to erect borders between cultures and police them is not just inherently authoritarian but inane.

It is not a coincidence that many agitators against cultural appropriation are socially-conscious people of colour, second and third generations immigrants whose ties to their heritage is precarious. You may feel like a foreigner in your home country, yet might as well be a tourist in the country of your parents. The best you can do is take the bits of your heritage that you value and assimilate it in yourself to have any connection with it all. Even then it feels distant and instrumental.

I am empathetic to this myself as a British-Nigerian, the sense of alienation and deracination many of my cohorts will feel. But I see this deracination, this proletarian “rootlessness”, however paradoxical it may seem, as the basis for a new higher form of liberation. One of the hard truths of modern existence is that there is no such thing as a rooted, stable and authentic identity one can reconnect with after seismic processes such as colonialism, migration and globalisation.

Which is why I find the most irksome aspect of this argument the noticeable but seldom mentioned assumption that only white people have the liberty to break out of their “roots” and become universal, worldly, cosmopolitan, mobile and protean. But “people of colour” are particular, provincial, rooted in their ancient cultural and spiritual traditions.

The culture warriors aren’t even trying to expand cultural freedom and possibility for non-white artists. No, they want everyone to be provincialised, white people included. This to me can only produce inane solipsism and break down the possibility of having a shared universal conversation that transcends colour lines and cultures.

Crusades against cultural appropriation are not progressive, they are reactionary. Not only does it constrain exchange, inhibit the imagination, and threaten to deaden cultural expression and innovation, they undermine precisely what is valuable about a diverse and open cosmopolitan society. For the sake of art, culture and the human experience itself, let’s take a stand for true cultural freedom and unfettered imagination.


Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.

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Kathryn Allegro
Kathryn Allegro
4 years ago

Sheku Kannah-Mason (British/ Antiguan/ Sierra Leonean), BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016 and now a professional cellist, was inspired by Jacqueline du Pre (British), Mstislav Rostropovich (Russian) and Bob Marley (Jamaican). He has recorded works by Faure (French), Casals (Spanish/ Catalan) and Bloch (Swiss-American), among others, and has done arrangements of works by Bob Marley. What kind of music would the culture warriors let him play and forbid him to play?

Gary Richmond
Gary Richmond
4 years ago

Excellent article. Surely, the idea of multiculturalism is to embrace, enjoy and engage with the entire culture of someone else and, to integrate and assimilate the person and their culture throughout society. When this doesn’t happen we end up with the marginalisation that multiculturalism is designed to prevent. The real concern, is that by promoting a cancel culture narrative, those who are trying to embrace, enjoy and engage will just stop trying for fear of causing offence. The result further division.

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago
Reply to  Gary Richmond

Surely, the idea of multiculturalism is to embrace, enjoy and engage with the entire culture of someone else and,

No. “Multiculturalism” (more accurately, multi-cliquery) is an aspect of the ideology of Greed-Globalism (aka Political Correctness), the purpose of which is to make indecently wealthy greedy people even richer by driving up their rental income and property prices while driving down wage costs, none of which helps the scum in Benefits Street but then they are probably racists anyway so what does that matter.

Now why did the opponents of Brexit constantly go on about the money as if that’s the only thing in life….

David J
David J
4 years ago
Reply to  Gary Richmond

Promoting division is surely the point of it all, thus fracturing and weakening society.

David Bell
David Bell
4 years ago

A very good article highlighting what is a very pernicious movement. Cultural appropriation should be celebrated. Just look at the food we eat with influences coming from all parts of the globe. Simple things like this have brought society together. Reversing the process will sow division and discontent.

Like many of the Antifa protests and much of the ideology underlying the Black Lives Matter group the intention appears to be to increase social divisions in an attempt to promote their ideological program and “cultural appropriation” is one of the tools of this agenda.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

Thank you for a sensible article on this subject. If only I had read it before throwing out all my Coltrane/Ayler/Coleman/Davis etc records and CDs the other day lest the Cultural Police descend on my house and take me away.

swallis
swallis
4 years ago

Yes – well said. If all cultural transfer stops, what happens to creativity?

Besides, if we take it to the limit, pretty much everything cam from somewhere else. Are we in the US going to stop using “Arabic” letters? Will the US and the UK band together to stop anyone else in the world from speaking English?

Jazz was invented in the US, are going to stop exporting “our” music and require that no one else in the world play jazz?

Might technology be considered part of culture? Oh the list goes on…

But on a deeper level, we might wonder… what is this that is happening? What global ‘force’ is encouraging people to attempt to stifle each other.. to stifle themselves??

Andrew D
Andrew D
4 years ago

Wise words indeed. I sometimes think the ideal society for those who go on about ‘cultural appropriation’ would be apartheid South Africa – separate identities firmly protected, and any interchange equally firmly discouraged. What’s not to like?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Ironically, the SJWs are now imposing a kind of racial apartheid in the dorms of some US colleges because black students don’t feel ‘safe’ around whites. Something similar has happened in CHAZ/CHOP – although whites who felt they had been ‘oppressed’ were allowed to join the blacks. It’s a mad, mad world.

David Morley
David Morley
4 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The following is a very effective take down of this kind of mentality:

https://youtu.be/rZQKM9IIqLw

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
4 years ago

Very well said, Mr Leonard. Bravo!

ednajanjacobs
ednajanjacobs
4 years ago

Historians, when speaking of cultures, point to a effect of one culture coming into contact with another as cross culturization. This is simply an act of one culture picking up the trend in another and adopting it. An example might be in textiles or jewelery. This is normal and can be seen in the world of fashion design. But most people, at least currently, are looking through an imperialistic lens and experience an “appropriation” of basic identity as a tool of oppression rather than a sharing. It would seem that Amiri Baraka expressed the difference succinctly.

Dennis Wheeler
Dennis Wheeler
4 years ago

I’d never even heard of this Pugh person until now anyway. Someone capable of such simpering, abject self-abasement deserves to be cancelled.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Wheeler

She’s terrified – and that’s the problem, not how she does her hair.

hgppevans
hgppevans
4 years ago

Does sensitivity over cultural appropriation not reflect the rising significance of intellectual property in our political economy? Is this not simply one aspect of a wider social tendency towards enclosure of ideas to secure economic rent. In a post-industrial society cultural expression is defacto economic production, if not of material wealth itself then the arbitration of claims over that wealth.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
4 years ago
Reply to  hgppevans

Indeed. TBF, he lost me at “enclosure of ideas to secure economic rent.” I can’t think of a single example of this, not can I see any evidence that “cultural expression is de facto economic production.”

hgppevans
hgppevans
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Property is a legal right to exclude others unless they pay a rent. Complaints over cultural appropriation seek to use social stigma for similar ends.

David Simpson
David Simpson
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Try some recent Disney movies for size – making billions out of caricaturing other cultures.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
4 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

What ideas are being “enclosed”? And you make Disney sound like a more lucrative version of Asterix and Shakespeare, although Disney usually just adapts existing stories.

David Simpson
David Simpson
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

. . . and reduces them to a sort of multicultural pap

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago
Reply to  hgppevans

No, because it privileges races above individuals, and it can only be individuals who own IP.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

So our annual Bastille Day tasting of French wines can go ahead? That’s good because yesterday I sent out the invite with subject line ‘French Wines Matter’.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
4 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

That’s living on the edge!

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
4 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

All Wines Matter

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
4 years ago

That last paragraph is absolutely super. So positive.

As you note, the origin of cultural appropriation is in the decolonisation / crit theory school of academia. All of these deconstructionist schools of thought by there nature do not offer a positive narrative for the future, only problems with the present. Unlike many others on here I think it’s a useful lens to view the world, but I think the lack of positive narrative will eventually lead to the passing of this views current cultural dominance.

Red Asp
Red Asp
4 years ago

An excellent piece. Pargraph twenty:

“Which is why I find the most irksome aspect of this argument
the noticeable but seldom mentioned assumption that only white
people have the liberty to break out of their “roots” and become
universal, worldly, cosmopolitan, mobile and protean. But “people of
colour” are particular, provincial, rooted in their ancient cultural and
spiritual traditions.”

There it is: the racist assumption which underpins all the complaints about ‘cultural appropriation’.

Paul Ridley-Smith
Paul Ridley-Smith
4 years ago

Brilliant essay. Such clarity of thought and expression. Thanks.

John McFadyen
John McFadyen
4 years ago

A most intelligent, genuine and sensible essay. The resistance to ‘cultural appropriation’, as you state “attacks the main benefits of living in a modern, culturally diverse, cosmopolitan society: freedom of expression, cultural innovation and experimentation and expansion of one’s horizons and liberation of the imagination.” In agreeing with all of this I don’t believe in the melting pot theory though, as such ‘mingling’, if supported, to integrate cultures, is a far more organic process.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 years ago

“yet, jazz itself appropriated from European classical music”

Actually it’s my view that Jazz started off as a parody form of French marching band music in New Orleans and surrouding areas. The conviction that it was related to European classical music is most favoured among European origin American adademics, such as Gunther Schuller. I myself see no such connection. If one is worried about the use of ‘parody’ as a source for great artistic invention, let it be known that all art starts off as parody, usually of one ‘artist’ by another. Parody is a form of tribute that also liberates the parodist from ‘influence’.

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Two words:
Scott
and
Joplin.
Now remind me what instrument he played.
There is huge underestimation of the impact of European (non-folk) music on other “genres”. The equal temperament scale for a start. Can you imagine Jazz without sharps and flats….which were invented by….

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin P

Well said – and not to mention the entire system of Western classical harmony that both Jazz and Rock are based on. (Wouldn’t agree about the “sharps and flats” though: Yes, the West invented the way we notate them, but myriads of cultures have been using them for ever. A “flat” or “sharp” is just a way of indicating deviation from the standard C major mode, and so is a Eurocentric concept.)

swrli2
swrli2
4 years ago

i was so annoyed when i first read about this in the news media, the cynicism in me thought about the “press” coverage being a good for florence pugh publicity, however the more you think about it “cultural appropriation” has happened since adam and eve. does the wearing of clothes come under this banner, does the eating of “foreign” foods” come under this banner, does the use of technology ?????

Ralph Hanke
Ralph Hanke
4 years ago

I am frightened by cancel and woke culture.
I teach in a university environment and really no longer know what I may say or do.
For example, a few years ago a student told me he or she was grateful for how well I treated him or her. Personally, I think all I did was enjoy a number of gratifying intellectual conversations with him or her.
As you can see, I am keeping in mind that I must not give away that person’s gender for fear of micro aggression.
His parents, it turned out, were also also grateful how for how I treated their son (f**k it, he was a male), took my wife and I out for dinner, and gave each of us a gift.

As a quick aside, I am a Canadian, working in the US. Was it cultural appropriation to use an Oxford comma in the sentence before last? Just in case: God save the Queen; Britannia rules. As a subject of the Once-Dominion-of-Canada, I’m good now, right? And how many American’s would miss the irony in all that? Pretty much every undergrad I ever taught.

Back to my story, I received an intricately carved elephant and my wife received a gold threaded Sari during dinner. Or should I be saying “we were gifted?” And where did that horrible phrase come from? And did I incorrectly place the question mark inside the quotes?
Do please excuse my neuroticism; or is that wokeness? Is wokeness even a word or must I put a dash in there somewhere? And given woke actually comes from African American culture, should I, a Caucasian, even use it at all? Definitely not if I am playing by the cultural appropriation rules. Right?
Two questions now come to mind. First, even though my student’s mother showed my wife how to wear the Sari”quite a complicated undertaking in it’s own right”can she ever wear this Sari to an official university event”especially one concerned with cultural awareness? I think maybe. It was a gift given to my wife with an open heart. In fact, it was made especially for her. My student’s mother asked for my wife’s measurements and as well as a picture so she could get the colors matched and the size right. And she insisted! So I sent the picture and said my wife was size… We’ll leave it at that, shall we.
The Sari is unbelievably gorgeous, fits perfectly, and suits my wife’s coloring exquisitely.
Second, must I take down the elephant from the knick knack shelf in my office? After all, it did come from India and one would hate to decorate one’s office with artifacts from another culture. I suppose I had better get rid of that box of Chinese tea while I am at it. But dammit, that bottle of Pepsi stays. It came from white Midwest students. Although, one of them did study overseas…
Further, if my wife”dammit I should have said spouse; did I learn nothing in the eighties”does wear the Sari, must I dress in lederhosen to offset any possibility of a cultural faux pas? And there I go again, more appropriation. But no. I went to a French school in Quebec when I was a teenager; and I voted for the separatists as well. So I am OK there. I think.
Back to the lederhosen”god how I hated those things as a kid. Given my parents are from Austria, would they offset my wife’s choosing to wear the Sari? And should I behave like a Fascist given my parents came from the same town as “he who shall not be named?”
Sorry about that J.K. But you have already been cancelled, so it doesn’t matter. Thank deity. Or something like that. Oh to hell with it, am an atheistic humanist. Or is that not OK either? What about anarcho-capitalist? Can I say that out loud in a faculty meeting or paper presentation. Or does that indicate some form of fascism as well? Better ask a tenured faculty. Nope, too risky.

I am pretty sure I know my wife’s answer about the Sari. She is not one to stir the pot.
But that is about all I know. I believe I will curl up under the covers again.

rperkins
rperkins
4 years ago

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

David Barnett
David Barnett
4 years ago

The english language is all “cultural appropriation” – Anglo-Saxon, Norman-french, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Gaelic, Hindi, Arabic ….

plynamno1
plynamno1
4 years ago

Thoughtful, analytical and progressive ” a good article.

Derek M
Derek M
4 years ago

Well in order to avoid the charge of cultural appropriation and as a person of white European heritage I promise not to braid my hair, marry more than one woman or mutilate the genitals of small girls, all I ask in return is that people of African heritage promise not to use printed books, telephones, television, computers, indeed any electronics, modern sanitation or drugs, electric power, cars, trains, planes or powered ships. I’m sure there are other things but that’ll do for starters

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago

Hopefully this principle of appropriation will be fully extended so that only the British are allowed to use trains, bikes, jet engines, electricity generated by power plants, plastics, electroplating, computers…… (And of course Shakespeare and Elgar, not to mention Oscar Wilde and the Beatles in the same sentence.) Oh and take off all those mini-skirts you foreign girls.

James Carr
James Carr
4 years ago

Is it okay for me to play my banjo?

David Morley
David Morley
4 years ago

The only thing I would question is the actual importance of cultural appropriation itself. If the attack wasn’t made because of cultural appropriation it would be made because of something else. Choice of language, for example, or “incorrect opinion”.

The point is to humiliate public figures and corporations as a warning to the rest of us. To make them bend the knee, both literally and metaphorically. Never before has morality been so clearly revealed as will to power.

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
4 years ago

The point of cultural appropriation that has been missed here is that an “offence” can only be apparently committed by the dominant culture against the minority culture. This may just be a rule of the game invented to silence opposition and to make the other feel bad. What I can’t understand is, at this point in history, why do so many people WANT to be offended. They wear it like a badge. It’s devicive and ridiculous. Many people feel less than than they think they should or that they deserve, but IMO there are better ways to get attention than being offended.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago

Great article!

he noticeable but seldom mentioned assumption that only white people have the liberty to break out of their “roots” and become universal, worldly, cosmopolitan, mobile and protean. But “people of colour” are particular, provincial, rooted in their ancient cultural and spiritual traditions.

Just one person’s view, but not sure I’ve come across this before really? Don’t think anyone sane (of any background) would think that? Perhaps in general terms, in the UK at least it could be a symptom of general ‘fetishisation’ of the other – which applies to white cultures too.

It’s perfectly socially acceptable for Scottish people for example to show a proud attachment to Scottish cultural heritage, but there is not quite the equivalent for English people, without undertones of racism or at best parochialism. Orwell commented on this phenomenon in a few of his short stories, so it’s been around since at least the 1930s-40s. To that end there is an assumption perhaps that people will be – or even should be – proud of their cultural heritage if it is outside of the mainstream “western” culture.

Interesting though

Alison B
Alison B
4 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Perhaps you missed the ‘colonialist oppression’ bit…?

Martin Byrne
Martin Byrne
4 years ago

Yes to all that! Humans make culture………and exchanges, discussions between humans surely develop and add to that cultural diversity?

dutch.courage001
dutch.courage001
4 years ago

I垿 still waiting for mr. Elvis Presley to make excuses that he was influenced by black musicians like Chuck Berry and many others.
Man, what a crap of nonsense is going on these days. Make me tired and even stir up the little white rascist man that is somewhere deep inside me (as in everyone I presume).
What a crap: “However, as Amiri Baraka once observed, the issue here is not that of cultural appropriation at all, but of material exploitation: “The problem is that if The Beatles tell me that they learned everything they know from Blind Willie [Johnson], I want to know why Blind Willie is still running an elevator in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s that kind of inequality that is abusive, not the actual appropriation of culture because that’s normal.”

What about all the other bands in the early sixties that did not make it? The Beatles were gifted but also very lucky and lived in another era than the great Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt etc.

hdcurrys
hdcurrys
3 years ago

Bravo and Thank you very much. This is the most well written, educated, thoughtful article I’ve read on this subject that is plaguing my nation. I am beyond fulfilled in my heart reading it.

And, as a “white” born in the United States, let me add another aspect of our culture, and to me all the culture here is American culture (North, US territory that is). Many of us “whites” have the same feeling that you mentioned of “Rootlessness.” This country is very young relatively speaking, and the presence of European whites have no deep roots. Some aristocratic whites might claim their lineage as French, or Spanish, or anywhere in the UK or a small section of the Mediterranean or Middle East. But, there are a great many light skinned people that came here as indentured servants, or workers their government issued to come with no choice as a lower class, and also many willing guinea pigs with hopes to escape the limitations put on them by class and tribe and religion. As we know often those in Rule put everyone else under their feet no matter their similarities nor possible mixing of blood, even among the fair skinned.

So even later when the U.S. West was opened, with the forced labor of such folks, and the opportunity to own land just by surviving it was available, basically as test subjects in a very hostile land, many such “white” people took the leap. First leaving their country and people where they’d survived hundreds of years, then from the structured colonies to the Wild West. Those who would never have ever had such a possibility of land ownership nor freedom, neither in their home country nor in the Colonies. And these “white” people paired up and survived with many others of different ethnicity in that area. Natives, Mexican, Spanish, Chinese, Africans, all peoples who also frontiered the West. They became families.

Now, when the aristocrats starting coming too, after it was settled some, of course the same judgement they always brought against economic status, social status, and “breeding” status, came with them. As they liked to consider themselves some sort of “pure” which also they tied with economic and social status. Like many people of every color/culture in many different places often set similar systems of judgement.

Anyway… So, say from my lineage, there is nothing known before those days surviving the West. My family has a lot of mixed blood. And we developed in territory that used to be part of old Mexico and France and culturally still has many aspects of that. Generally speaking we are considered “white.” Like most in this area even with Hispanic names. No matter any Native features and life practices reflecting Mexican, French, Native, Black, Asian, etc., everything and everyone that wrought out the West brought with them and created a mix in every way. We have all their blood and some of each of their practices. There are many like us from the Mid-West U.S.

So…… Being the mutts that we are, there is no Root. We are not accepted by any minority that has supposedly kept their blood “pure,” nor by “blacks” who neither know their true African lineage but do not necessarily accept those without darker pigment, although there was a time before this time when it seemed like in my area of the U.S. their background and raising was closest with mine. We are neither accepted by “whites” who can name what part of “The” Kingdom they hail from and look down on those who cannot. People like us, with Heinz 57 bloodlines as my father used to say, “it’s in there,” we seek Roots. We dig deep into Native history, we feel it, touch it; we stand with our black brothers in wars with guns and politicians, the River has touched our souls too; we ride with the Mexicans with whom we share the same names; our decore is based in Asian style; our capitalism mirrors U.K.; our foods are the literal mixing of all of these cultural tastes into large, unique dinners…

We search aimlessly for any sense of our great grandparents ties to the lands of Western Europe since we are fair skinned. We cling to its pre-histories, before it was one… Maybe we fit somewhere in there or maybe somewhere in the Roman Empire…maybe there. We even start to go further off to other places that have an even longer, deeper human civilization impact, like India, China, Eastern Europe, Mediterranean, Egypt, Ethiopia, Middle East, maybe Islands off of those that have become nations and have rich, deep history…

We care about all these places current culture and developmental history… We study the language and everything that made that place what it is today. We want to experience it.

We are seeking ourselves, our roots, our belonging.
We start to feel the only thing that makes sense. The only peace we can have is that ALL human history and culture is part of us, part of who we are, were, will be.

And in reality this is true for all humans. Over the history of history, humans have been intermingling and exchanging culture and bloodlines since Forever.

When you don’t have supposedly solid and specific Roots holding you to one place, demanding you to be only one style of people, be only one certain way… Then, when you don’t feel lost and alone, the whole world feels like your home, your people. And this craziness going on now with seeming extremes against cultural appropriation and support for supposedly genetic racism…. Well, it makes people like me feel even more Rootless than ever before, because there is no rock of any kind to cling to and feel part of the Human Race.

Last edited 3 years ago by hdcurrys