I’d never heard of the phrase “cultural appropriation” until about two years ago, when someone objected to white people using a (non-offensive) word of American black origin. I can’t recall the word, but I remember the fury of the writer at the idea that other people could use words her ethnic group had originated.
As a concept, I find it bizarre, the idea that a word or idea could be owned by any person, let alone a group.
“We invented the colour yellow. Anyone else who uses it is oppressing us!” Am I supposed to be outraged at an Englishman using the word “craic”? Should an Englishman be offended at me using that great Irish phrase “Careful now!” because it is in his language, or me offended because it was written by two Irishmen for a British sitcom starring Irish actors filmed predominantly in London with British money but set in Ireland? More to the point, does any of this actually matter?
I’m old enough to remember when Cultural Appropriation was something racist bigots feared. From Alf Garnett style fear of “smelly foreign food” to the KKK’s terror of the blood mixing of the races and the contamination of the bloodline, the far right looked at other cultures and saw nothing they wanted. Are we supposed to applaud that now? If I look at other races or nations and see food, clothing, language, things that I like more than my own native culture and suddenly that makes me some sort of colonial? Seriously?
Let’s just be clear here: the idea that you can look at another culture, see that they do something better, and say let’s copy what they’re doing, is what we used to call progress.
Ah, scream the Permanently Offended, but what if that food or culture belonged to a people who had been oppressed by your ancestors? You know what, I don’t give a toss. Let my ancestors answer for their crimes, I’m not carrying the can for them. Let us answer for our own crimes, not the crimes of ghosts.
Cultural Appropriation is if anything a badge of respect and open mindedness, that you accept that there is no such thing as an all knowing master race but that we can all learn something from the other people.
In short, Cultural Appropriation is the epitome of being liberal.