”Redistribution of free speech” rights, meet “cultural appropriation”.

Who can say what they want to, about whomever they want, out in the open, in either the United States or anywhere else, without suffering unpleasant consequences? Probably no one. Then what does “freedom of speech” mean in 2018? Who determines what is acceptable, and what consequences will be applied to unacceptable speech? Has speech become just another right to be redistributed according the prevailing thought police? What are some other freedoms that now require the approval of the perfectionist progressive* mavens? *I use this term to denote those who act like they are the arbiters of acceptability; others call them liberals, leftists, radicals, etc.

How about being able to wear what you want, or eat what you want, or cook or sell what you want? No to all of those, if in the process you “appropriate” a culture not your own. I am a 72 year old U.S. born, Caucasian heterosexual (cisgender?) male, born into a Jewish household, and declared myself to belong to Christ at age 40. So here’s a “cultural appropriation” quiz. If I am walking the streets of Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington, can I do the following without being harassed, threatened, or jeered by the perfectionist progressives of that city? I will list the activities, you will mark either A for acceptable, or for the unacceptable activities, H for harassment, T for throwing stuff at me, or S for stomping me, on the line provided. Ready?

1. Wear a: sombrero____; tribal headdress ____; bra under my shirt ____; bra over my shirt ____; camouflage paint _____; war paint _____; paint stained wife beater _____; women’s clothing entirely ______; women’s and men’s clothing combined ____; burqa ____; speedo only ____.

2. Speak with: a lisp _____; a fake Mexican accent _____; any non English language _____; ebonics _____; proper (white) English diction _____ ; rapping _____; yapping _____.

3. Set up my own: taco stand _____; soba noodle joint _____; falafel cart _____; hotdog and apple pie cart _____; slideshow about cannibalism around the world _____.

4. Have a meal at a: Chinese restaurant _____; Mexican restaurant _____; Ethiopian restaurant (unless they really need my business) _____; hotdog and apple pie emporium _____; Korean karaoke bar _____.

5. For Halloween costumes: blackface _____; fatsuit _____; dark glasses and cane _____; dark glasses and caning a seeing eye dog _____; zombie makeup _____; tomahawk and loincloth _____; just the loincloth _____.

Now let’s grade your answers. For question 1, all answers would be either H or T, except for A for burqa since no one could be sure, especially if I wore a padded bra, that I wasn’t a Muslim woman. But if the wind blew the burqa up to reveal hairy legs, then the correct answer would definitely be S. If you saw me in a speedo, you would want me to add C, for cover up, to the list of responses.

For question 2, H and T would be correct for all. Why correct for my actual normal speech, English diction? Because it sounds, as we used to say, hifalutin. Oh well, my bad. Yapping would get an S from PETA members, who overwinter en masse in Portland.

For question 3, taco, soba and falafel are all cultural appropriation, but the Japanese tend not to mind imitation, since they built their auto industry on that revered principle, so soba would get an A, as would hotdogs and apple pie, and cannibalism would get an emphatic S, unless the cannibals were wearing white face.

Question 4 is a trick question, since even in Portland and Seattle keeping restaurants in business overrides cultural appropriation. Why? So protesters will not run out of restaurant windows to break during their riots over cultural appropriation!

Question 5 would have been unanimous in getting S for every response except for zombies, but they are soon to be added to the “protected classes”, to give Trump something to tweet insults about, since he’s run out of insults about the other protected classes. So S for every response, and for Halloween itself (I hate people knocking on my door at night holding out hands and baskets for teeth-rotting sugar, especially since sugar, or was it cotton, maybe both, made slavery economically viable). 

Princeton university, once under the leadership of the most brilliant theologian America had produced, now offers students guidelines on acceptable Halloween costumes. Their first question to ask is “is my costume making fun of a group of people.” My question is, “so what?” People who take offense at, or dwell on, or obsess about being made fun of, are people I don’t want to have a beer with anyway. Now right here, you might expect a disclaimer saying it’s not okay to make fun of races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations or sundry other human characteristics. You won’t get that disclaimer from me. Having been part of military units and sports teams–two of the most cohesive human working groups–and experienced the never ending mock insults about every foible or trait, every race, ethnicity and physical characteristic, I have come to realize that stuff actually helps bind the individual into the unit, because they are all working together towards a common goal. That’s the key. Offense-mongers aren’t working together towards anything except winning the victimization sweepstakes.

Now for an interlude of reason.

From David D’Amato, writing on thehill.com.:  “But the idea that culture is something susceptible to appropriation assumes that culture is owned by a membership in a particular racial or ethnic group. Fundamentally, cultural appropriation requires us to believe that culture is a dead thing. However, culture is a living thing, forever changing and blending with other cultures at its margins. Cultures have never been hermetically sealed from one another, self-contained and exclusive of outside influences. Each one is necessarily a mixture or an agglomeration of its influences. A culture doesn’t spring to life fully formed, a platonic ideal that generated itself from nothing. The idea of cultural appropriation presents a demarcation problem: Where are we to draw the line that separates permissible from impermissible behavior? Is it permissible for a white American to practice yoga or become a rapper? Perhaps a Cinco de Mayo party is an example of impermissible cultural appropriation, or maybe it depends on how many people of Mexican heritage are participating. Any rules that attempt to distinguish cases, to map lines of demarcation are sure to be arbitrary and absurd. When people treat other cultures with derision and disrespect, the problem is not cultural appropriation but cruelty, hatred and racism. A simpler lesson is, in such cases, called for: Don’t be a jerk. Treat people with respect, as autonomous equals with valuable lessons to impart about who they are, where they’re from, and what’s important to them. 

Just as there is no such thing as a pure race or ethnic group, so are there no pure cultures, unmixed with others, their essence uncorrupted. The toxic notion of cultural appropriation breathes new life into old racist attitudes, discouraging us from finding new opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange. Our small-minded, parochial and plain ridiculous worries about cultural appropriation are robbing us of both opportunities to learn from and simply have fun with each other.LET’S HAVE SOME FUN…


Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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