Accusations of cultural appropriation gone wild: Canadian comedy club bars white comedian with dreadlocks

January 16, 2019 • 12:30 pm

Canada has always been a rival to the U.S. for ludicrous behavior by the authoritarian Left, but now our northern neighbor has taken the prize. As the Montreal Gazette and The Toronto Star report (click on the Gazette screenshot below), well, the headline tells it all:

Zach Poitras, the comedian shown in the photo below, was barred from performing two shows, one at (I’m not making this up) the “Snowflake Club” and the other at the Coop les Recoltes. This is solely because Poitras sports dreadlocks, as you see below:

From the Monreal paper:

The Coop les Récoltes is a bar but also a solidarity co-operative created by the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Groupe de recherches d’intérêt public, a collective that deals with social and environmental issues.

The establishment confirmed its decision to exclude comedian Zach Poitras in a message posted on its Facebook page.

Poitras was barred from performing at the Snowflake Comedy Club and He refused to comment on the decision.

In its online explanation, the co-operative defended its mission to be “a safe space, free from any link to oppression,” and described cultural appropriation as a form of violence. [JAC: There goes “comedy” in that safe space!]

“We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces,” they wrote. The group argues that cultural appropriation is when “a person from a dominant culture appropriates the symbols, clothing or even the hairstyles of persons from a historically dominated culture.”

JAC: The Facebook page adds that only oppressed groups can experience this kind of cultural appropriation, which is also construed as actual violence. That’s palpably absurd hyperbole.

This part of the Facebook post sounds weird, but that’s because it’s apparently automatic translation from the French:

For a person from a historically dominated culture, see his culture being appropriate, that is to say, diverted or emptied of its meaning, capitalized, fetishized, etc., is violence. After decades of colonialism, slavery and cultural genocide where the people of black have been persecuted and forbidden to practise their culture, wear their clothes and their hairstyles (we are thinking here of the English settlers who prohibited yogis from practicing their spirituality, Black women forced to shave their hair or to indigenous people whose spiritual practices and rites have been banned by the Canadian state in an explicit objective of assimilation), it is a slap in the face to see that this is why a group has been persecuted , another group can take it without problems or consequences.

To those who speak of cultural exchange, we would like to recall that an exchange is made on an egalitarian basis between people from different cultures, that is, when there is no power report involving the domination of a culture.

These paragraphs are why I call this kind of ideology “authoritarian Leftism.” There is a simple assertion of what is right and wrong, with debate not allowed. Some questions are beyond discussion, and if you try to discuss them, you’re a racist or a bigot.

More from the Montreal Gazette:

The posting says the co-op understands that Poitras’s intention isn’t racist, but adds the hairstyle “conveys racism,” adding that “cultural appropriation is not a debate or an opinion,” but rather “a form of passive oppression, a deconstructive privilege and, above all, a manifestation of ordinary racism.”

Greg Robinson, a UQAM professor specializing in black history, compared the situation to a larger interpretation of the concept of “black face,” which saw white performers darken their faces to portray black people.

“White people would dress as black people to mock them,” he said. But Robinson added that even when the intention wasn’t to mock but rather embrace or immerse one’s self in a culture, it’s still necessary to be careful.

“It’s like the N-word — black people can use it in their community, but when someone from outside uses it, even if they want to be like black people, there still remains an aspect that is rooted in history.”

The Coop Les Récoltes did not reply to requests for an interview.

These people, as well as Dr. Robinson, are way, way off the mark. As Wikipedia notes in its entry on “dreadlocks”, this hairstyle has been worn for millennia:

The ancient Vedic scriptures of India which are thousands of years old have the earliest evidence of jaata/locks which are almost exclusively worn by holy men and women. It has been part of a religious practice for Shiva followers.

Some of the earliest depictions of dreadlocks date back as far as 3600 years to the Minoan Civilization, one of Europe’s earliest civilizations, centred in Crete (now part of Greece). Frescoes discovered on the Aegean island of Thera (modern Santorini, Greece) depict individuals with braided hair styled in long dreadlocks.

In ancient Egypt, examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with locked wigs have also been recovered from archaeological sites.

During the Bronze Age and Iron Age, many peoples in the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, East Mediterranean and North Africa such as the Sumerians, Elamites, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Amorites,
Mitanni, Hattians, Hurrians, Arameans, Eblaites, Israelites, Phrygians, Lydians,
Persians, Medes, Parthians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Georgians, Azeris, Cilicians
and Canaanites/Phoenicians/Carthaginians are depicted in art with braided or plaited hair and beards.

True, most whites who wear dreadlocks became aware of them because the hairstyle is popular among modern blacks, but that hairstyle has been appropriated time after time, with black dreadlocks being only the most recent instantiation of cultural borrowing that goes back to India.

More important, wearing dreadlocks is not at all like blackface and certainly unlike the word “nigger”— tropes and words historically used to mock and denigrate black people.

In contrast, dreadlocks, like nearly all instances of cultural appropriation I’ve seen and reported about, are worn by people because THEY LIKE THEM and admire that aspect of another group’s culture.  In what respect, exactly, is it racist to wear dreadlocks? Am I being racist when I go to a Chicago soul food restaurant, or buy ribs, in a place where all the other patrons are black? I don’t think so: I’m enjoying part of another group’s culture. Am I supposed to avoid such places, or pay some kind of verbal homage to the oppression of African-Americans? Isn’t it enough to enjoy another group’s food in their company?

The argument that it’s okay to culturally appropriate so long as the borrowing is from a “dominant” group not only makes no ethical sense, but runs into its own problems. How do you rank groups as being more or less oppressed than yours? Are Asians lower on the oppression scale than Europeans? I’m told that in some places in Asia, Europeans are regarded as inferior, so does the ethics of cultural appropriation depend on where you are?

What the comedy club in Montreal is doing is not only ridiculous, but is a prime example of virtue signaling: making a gesture to trumpet your own ideological purity, but a gesture that has no effect on society and no mitigation of injustice. 

In fact, as I’ve argued before, the more cultures borrow from each other (in respectful ways, which is the case nearly 100% of the time), the more they’ll come to understand and appreciate each other. Saying, “we’ll punish you for wearing dreadlocks” just enforces otherness and cultural segregation.

I wonder if there was this kind of outcry when Justin Trudeau visited Canada and wore Indian clothes (something I do when visiting as they’re more comfortable, and also a sign of respect for local culture). Yes, I know people made fun of Trudeau et famille, but did the Outrage Brigade come out? Was he prohibited from entering Indian restaurants?

This is the brand of social-justice warriorism that we must combat, for it has the opposite effect of what is intended. The fact that the “cultural appropriation” meme is spreading is due simply to people being afraid to criticize this kind of nonsense for fear of being called racists.

O Canada!

h/t: Stephen

“I pledge not to appropriate any culture”: madness at Augustana College

October 28, 2018 • 12:15 pm

Augustana College is a private liberal-arts school in Rock Island, Illinois, founded by Swedish-Americans as a Lutheran theological seminary. Now, according to Wikipedia, “Augustana ranks among the top 40 U.S. liberal arts colleges in the sciences, based on the number of graduates earning Ph.D.s. Students accepted to Augustana typically rank in the top 20% of their high school classes.” So it’s a good school.

But they seem to be deeply concerned with cultural appropriation, and not just for Halloween. Here’s an event they hosted last week, and notice the pledge. How can you pledge “not to appropriate any culture”? (Click on screenshots to go to links.)

 

If you’re wondering what Augustana means by “cultural appropriation” which you should pledge not to engage in, this is set out in a poster (below) from its Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity advertising the event.  Yes,

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IS THE ADOPTION OF ELEMENTS OF A CULTURE THAT IS NOT THEIR OWN. IT REDUCES A CULTURE TO A STEREOTYPE
AND REMOVES THE CONTEXT THAT MAKES CULTURAL ELEMENTS MEANINGFUL.

That definition says nothing about “appropriating up or down”, so Asian students should pledge not to wear blue jeans, much less Western clothes. You can imagine many other verboten scenarios.


More misguided accusations of cultural appropriation

October 24, 2018 • 9:15 am

For some reason this mini-kerfuffle has gotten me quite depressed, for much of the world seems to be deliberately seeking to be offended, even when there’s nothing to be offended about. This case involves Kendall Jenner, a member of a family for whom I have no love, but who’s entitled to her vocation as a model. Unfortunately for her and the magazine, Vogue published two photos of her with highly teased hair, to wit (Instagram posts):

. . . and another

Well, look at the photos and then guess what happened next. I bet you can, and it’s summed up by the Independent article below (click on screenshot to read it):

Yes, you guessed it. The hairstyle, which is simply big teased hair, was taken by the Pecksniffs to be an Afro. And that hairstyle is worn by blacks and white models simply aren’t allowed to adopt it. The thing is, that is not an Afro! It’s most likely a wig, and if it were an Afro wig it would look like this style, as worn by the famous Angela Davis:

 

Nope, that’s simply big teased hair, and reminds me of the hairstyle you sometimes see on Helena Bonham Carter:

In fact, Vogue had no intention of making this an Afro hairstyle. As the Independent reports:

The magazine posted the images of the model on Instagram, where they sparked a wave of negative comments from people who found Jenner’s afro-like hairstyle “offensive”.

In a statement, the Condé Nast publication explained how the photos, which had been taken to promote the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund, were meant to evoke a nostalgic aesthetic reminiscent of the early 20th century.

“The image is meant to be an update of the romantic Edwardian/Gibson Girl hair which suits the period feel of the Brock Collection, and also the big hair of the ’60s and the early ’70s, that puffed-out, teased-out look of those eras,” the magazine told E! News on Tuesday.

“We apologise if it came across differently than intended, and we certainly did not mean to offend anyone by it.”

There is nothing to apologize for. If some Pecksniff is offended and thinks this is an Afro, well, too damn bad for them. And even if it were an Afro (which it is not), do only blacks get to wear their hair that way? What about Steve Pinker? And the “Jewfros” worn by Jewish guys who have naturally curly hair (see photos here)? It’s not an Afro, but if it were it wouldn’t be intended to mock black people but to adopt aspects of their culture that people like. But it’s not an Afro. Nope, not one.

It didn’t matter. The Pecksniffs emerged in force, saying that if Vogue wanted to display an Afro, they’d damn well better have a black woman underneath it. You can see some outraged people at the #kendalljenner site and in the Instagram comments , and it will depress me to show even two of them, but I’ll persist:

But Jenner has her defenders, too, and there’s some funny comments. I’ll show one.

In truth, there’s a real discussion to be had about whether black women are unjustly denigrated or subject to bigotry for wearing their hair in styles like cornrows or dreadlocks—styles that originated in the black community to take advantage of naturally curly hair. But that is not this discussion.

In the end, I want to know what the outrage accomplishes here. Does it increase racial justice or the awareness of racist bigotry? I doubt it; it just divides people, and angers those who think that this kind of manufactured outrage is either misdirected (BECAUSE THIS IS NOT AN AFRO), or those like me who think that the principle that one culture cannot admiringly borrow aspects of another is just dumb. It also serves to call attention to those who are outraged, and I’ve long thought that, for many, this is a primary motivation for cries of “cultural appropriation.” It’s a way of making yourself feel special, or calling attention to yourself.

If you want to make those cries, though, be sure that a). it is cultural appropriation, which it is not in this case (that is not an Afro), and b). it’s cultural appropriation of the disrespectful or bigoted sort, a form that’s exceedingly rare. As Davy Crockett said in real life:

I leave this rule for others when I’m dead
Be always sure you’re right — THEN GO AHEAD!

Enough, for I’ve learned from a CNN bulletin that “suspicious packages” have been sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (in addition to the bomb sent to George Soros), and so now we have the problem of right-wing American terrorism to deal with, too. It’s not going to be a good day.

The Left eats the Left: A Native American won’t vote for Elizabeth Warren because she supposedly fabricated a Cherokee ancestry

October 5, 2018 • 9:45 am

Grania tells me that I should stop reading HuffPo so often because it makes me angry. She may be right, but I also read Breitbart, The Daily Wire, Everyday Feminism, and a number of sites on the Left and Right, including extremes on both sides. I do that to see what’s going on across the spectrum of politics. People often tell me I should be spending more time criticizing Republicans and Trump instead of the Authoritarian Left, but everybody does the former; it’s low-hanging fruit and available everywhere. Being another voice in the loud chorus against Trump doesn’t get my juices flowing, though views on the odious nature of the Right, Trump, and the Republican ideology are well known.

One of my claims has been that Authoritarian Leftism hurts Leftism as a whole, making our side seem petty, ludicrous, elitist, concerned with identity more than unity, and excessively divisive. The article below is one example (click on the screenshot):

The article is about Elizabeth Warren, and is written by Rebecca Nagle, a woman of Cherokee ancestry. Nagle’s beef, as you’ll see, is that she simply will not vote for Elizabeth Warren as a Presidential candidate—Warren has intimated that she may run in 2020—because Warren supposedly claimed that she had some Cherokee genes.  I haven’t followed this claim, but recall that there is some disagreement about whether Warren really did claim Cherokee ancestry. (That’s why Trump, in his usual boorish manner, called Warren “Pocahontas” during the campaign.)

If Warren did confect a false ancestry to gain some kind of “minority” benefits, then that’s bad, and a blotch on her character. Still, if she ran against any Republican I know, I’d still vote for her. (I doubt that she’ll run, or that she will win if she does run, for she’d be typed as a “Massachusetts liberal,” but I’d vote for her nonetheless.)

Nagle disagrees:

If Warren could simply state, “Like many non-Native Americans, I grew up with stories that my family was part Cherokee and Delaware. After reviewing extensive research on my genealogy going back over 150 years, I now know these stories are not true. I am sorry for any harm my mistaken claims have caused,” I would publicly support her. Such a move would not only be moral and brave but would also serve as a great teaching moment for many Americans who do not understand why false claims to Native identity undermine Native rights.

We don’t know yet if Warren will run for president in 2020, but I know I will not vote for her or stop speaking up against her gross appropriation of Native ancestry until she stops claiming it. Her persistent claims to an ancestry that doesn’t belong to her send the message that the true history and lives of Indigenous people don’t matter.

Two things. First, there’s that claim of “harm” again. Yes, it would irk me if I were in the Cherokee tribe and somebody claimed membership without documentation. But would it break my bones or pick my pocket? No. Nagle is just claiming some sort of victimhood here. No real harm is done to the Cherokee nation by Warren’s claim.  And do read Nagle’s complaint: it’s very long, and an exemplar of the Offense Culture.

More important, I can’t conceive of any liberal not voting for Warren because of this claim. Even if you abstain instead of voting for her or her Republican opponent, you’re still helping Republicans stay in power. This is a prime example of what’s called “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Which is better: withholding a vote from a decent Democratic candidate because she claimed to share your ancestry, or holding your nose and voting for a better country?

Too often the Left goes for the first option, and that’s one of the reasons we’re not in power. I held my nose and voted for Hillary, and maintain that this would be a better country had she won.

Two more authors banned from Brisbane Writers Festival

July 31, 2018 • 9:15 am

Two years ago there was a big kerfuffle at the Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) when writer Lionel Shriver gave a talk asserting the right of all authors to write about “marginalized”—or any—groups, which is a violation of many who cry “cultural appropriation” at that stuff. As I wrote at the time,

Not long ago Yasmin Abdel-Magied, a Sudanese/Australian/Muslim writer, described in the Guardian how offended she became when author Lionel Shriver, speaking at the Brisbane Writers Festival, defended the right of authors to write fiction about “marginalized” characters (i.e., people of color and others seen as oppressed). Abdel-Magied, who came off as someone unable to tolerate even the mildest contradictions of her views, stalked out of Shriver’s talk in tears, virtually accusing the speaker of perpetuating racism by appropriating other cultures in her writing.

Not long after, Shriver published her full talk online, also in the Guardian,  and it turned out to be passionate, eloquent, and thoughtful, but not at all offensive—except to the overly tender ears of someone like Abdel-Magied. Read it for yourself. But I had no idea that, as Shriver describes in a new New York Times piece, “Will the Left survive the Millennials?“, that the ostracism of Shriver extended farther than the kvetching of Abdel-Magied. It did.

The Festival authorities publicly disavowed Shriver’s speech and quickly organized a counter-conference to rebut Shriver’s assertions. That of course is fine, but was done only for Shriver’s talk, and was done post facto, as a sort of official announcement of Shriver’s demonization.  It shows that the BWF is simply caving in to those who claim that writers must not culturally appropriate.

Since then Shriver has been further demonized, and has asserted even more strongly her and others’ right to write about what they want. But now, in a further effort to censor authors, the BWF has disinvited two more writers: Germaine Greer and Bob Carr, the former premier of New South Wales.  As the Guardian reported on July 25, the issues were Carr’s views on immigration and other political issues, which apparently did not align with the BWF’s control-Leftism, and, presumably, Greer’s views on transexual women, whom she doesn’t accept as fully “woman-ish” as she does biological women. For that Greer has repeatedly been called a transphobe, and has been deplatformed several times.

Carr told Guardian Australia he was “surprised” by the festival’s response to his new political memoir, Run for Your Life.

“I thought writers’ festivals embraced controversy,” [Carr] said, adding he understood his book didn’t “accord with [the festival’s] values” particularly because it argued for lower immigration, discussed the recent “China panic” in the Australian media and “my encounters with the pro-Israel lobby”.

The festival issued a statement on Wednesday, saying: “Brisbane writers’ festival does not shy away from controversy or challenging ideas, but as all festival organisers know, it’s invariably difficult to choose between the many authors currently promoting books and the need to provide engaging choices for our audience along a curatorial theme. In trying to achieve that balance, we decided in early June not to proceed with including Bob Carr on this year’s program and MUP were advised at that time.”

Those are just disingenuous weasel words, and, in fact, lies. The Guardian‘s report continues:

The Brisbane writers’ festival acting chief executive, Ann McLean, told the Australian there were concerns Carr would not keep discussion to the topic he had been programmed to discuss.

Referring to Greer, the festival’s statement said: “Germaine had not been invited to take part in this year’s program – we’d been asked by a local bookstore to assist with the marketing of an event planned by them for within the dates of the festival. However, when the bookstore decided not to proceed we decided not to host the event alone as it was being held offsite away from the festival hub and (more importantly) it did not fit within the rest of the program.”

Referring to Greer, the festival’s statement said: “Germaine had not been invited to take part in this year’s program – we’d been asked by a local bookstore to assist with the marketing of an event planned by them for within the dates of the festival. However, when the bookstore decided not to proceed we decided not to host the event alone as it was being held offsite away from the festival hub and (more importantly) it did not fit within the rest of the program.”

Greer, who is lauded for her early feminist writing but has fallen out of favour with the left in recent years, in part for her inflammatory comments about trans women and her recent comments on rape, told the Australian: “The Brisbane writers’ festival is very hard work. So, to be uninvited to what is possibly the dreariest literary festival in the world, with zero hospitality and no fun at all, is a great relief.”

The Guardian then published a critique of the BWF’s actions written by Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, a Booker Prize winner. Click on the screenshot to read his essay:

First, Flanagan discusses the withdrawal of novelist Junot Diaz from the Sydney Writers’ festival after social media allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman “some years before” as well as that he bullied and displayed demeaning behavior towards other women. Because of these accusations on social media, MIT, where Diaz works, investigated his behavior and found no grounds to punish him. The same held true for The Boston Review, who also refrained from punishment. But the social media demonization was so loud that Diaz withdrew from both Sydney and an Australian tour. You may differ on the rightness of that, but if two investigations found him in the clear, at least the Sydney Writers’ Festival shouldn’t have issued a mealymouthed statement criticized by Flanagan:

None of this proves Diaz is a good person. But nor does it prove he is a bad one. There were allegations, and there remain allegations. Diaz may be a monster, or he may not. But the allegations remain, and they remain allegations.

So on what grounds was the Sydney Writers’ festival justified in passing judgment on a writer about things the truth of which was not established?

The festival, in its statement announcing his departure, referred to Diaz’s essay The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma published a few months earlier in which Diaz revealed that he had been raped as a child.

“In his recent New Yorker essay, Mr Diaz wrote, ‘Eventually the past finds you’. As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behaviour has arrived.

“Sydney Writers’ festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult. Such conversations have never been more timely.

“We remain committed to ensuring they occur in a supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences alike.”

We may ask what on earth was supportive and safe for Diaz in those words? Who had the power at that moment – the writer, who had publicly confessed to being raped as a child only a few months before, or the festival?

The Wheeler Centre, meanwhile, emailed ticket holders to announce that Diaz had also cancelled a scheduled appearance in Melbourne with similarly self-serving cant:

“We always take seriously our responsibility to ensure that our platform and our spaces are safe for our guests and audiences alike,” its statement said. “The Wheeler Centre is inspired by the bravery of those sharing their stories and is committed to an accountable and responsive literary community for everyone.”

None of this is to argue for or against Junot Diaz. But is it to be the case that Australian writers’ festivals will abandon any writer once social media turns against them? And what if the mob have it wrong?

The judgments against Greer and Carr are more clearly misguided, and completely inimical to the freedom of discussion that should attend a literary festival. Flanagan is particularly acerbic in his criticism of the BWF’s disinvitation of these two. I’ll give some quotes, which I agree with completely. Note first, though, that Flanagan himself says that he “[doesn’t] overly care for the recent thoughts of either, and I am confident they would feel the same about me.” I am with Flanagan on this, too. But he adds, “And surely that is the point—that other people’s thoughts are worth listening to.”

Flanagan:

If the BWF is a writers’ festival concerned not to get publicity they are unique on this earth. And perhaps they are, because McLean, in a moment of clarifying folly, says that Bob Carr’s invitation was being withdrawn in consideration for the brand alignment of several sponsors we are securing for the festival”.

Does this mean money chooses which writers you hear – and don’t hear – at the BWF? Exactly when did the Brisbane Writers festival become the Brisbane Corporate festival? And since when did writing in Australia answer to corporate dictate?

There are questions that should be answered by the BWF. Why were Carr and Greer blackballed? And by whom? When did the BWF stop seeing its role as supporting writers ahead of corporations? Is Greer being dropped because her views on rape are not those of the prevailing orthodoxy? Is Carr being dropped because of his views on Israel or population?

This is not an article I wanted to write. But as forums for public debate and discussion vanish throughout the country, in a week when Nine has announced the takeover of Fairfax, the importance of community events like writers’ festivals only grows in importance. They should not answer either to the mob or to corporations. They should be there for writers and writing, and all that these represent: tolerance, debate, difference.

Ponder all that we now know about how social media is manipulated by power, both national and corporate. Why, with that knowledge, would a writers’ festival ban writers because of fear of a social media backlash?

Beneath their determined, if dreary, attempts at funkiness and fashion, beyond the latest New Yorker sensation imported for our provincial enlightenment, past the wearying social media feeds with their ersatz excitement, writers’ festivals now run the risk of running with dogma, with orthodoxy, with the mob – with fear, in other words – and with money. It’s the new Victorian age wearing a hipster beard.

Indeed: I see this in my local bookstore: 57th Street Books, once a great bookstore but now largely dedicated, at least in the books they push, to Control-Leftist dogma. I of course agree largely with their position on the political spectrum, but why do they refuse to call attention to other points of view? I’ve never seen a book by a conservative advertised in their window; everything is devoted to literature by purportedly oppressed minorities. The Kingdom of Words is rapidly being balkanized. And the balkanization is largely due to social media, which functions at once to create tribalism and to demonize those whose points of view differ from yours.

I see no point in rewriting Flanagan’s eloquent words in my own style, so I’ll finish with a few other bits from his essay:

Of course, not all writers’ festivals are like this. But the large ones are increasingly becoming that way. If they were to rename themselves “Festival of Safe Ideas”, or “Celebration of Conventional Thinking”, or “Festival Approved by Twitter Bots” I wouldn’t mind. But having dropped two writers because, it would seem, of what they have written, for Brisbane to call itself a writers’ festival smacks of false advertising.

The individual examples of Shriver, Diaz, Carr and Greer, all point to a larger, more disturbing trend. Writers’ festivals, like other aspects of the literary establishment such as prizes, have in recent years become less and less about books and more and more about using their considerable institutional power to enforce the new orthodoxies, to prosecute social and political agendas through reward and punishment.

. . .McLean is quoted in the Australian as saying the BWF was “fully prepared to embrace controversy”.

What nonsense. The BWF embraces conformity, and two who threaten that conformity it punishes by banning. In doing so, it’s an enforcer, not an enabler; a punisher, and not a promoter.

. . . now, more than ever, we need places and forums where we can listen, reflect and discuss different perspectives and ideas that are not our own. This is not to suggest promoting propagandists and provocateurs to an equal footing with serious writers – but it is to argue that writing worthy of the name is not always comforting or reassuring, but that it does matter. The alternative is a Trumpian world of mindless Milo Yiannopoulos provocations on one side, and conformist clap trap on the other, both serving only to deliver power to those who would destroy us.

As this kind of banning and deplatforming spreads, nearly always promulgated by the Left, I find myself no longer surprised at the kind of censorhip and demonization practiced against those whose ideas are deemed ideologically impure. This is what religions like Islam and Catholicism do; it should not be the practice of writers and literary festivals.

Why white people aren’t allowed to sing along to rap music

July 30, 2018 • 12:45 pm

The latest invidious and Pecksniffian raid by the Culture Police is this article in HuffPo by Brandi Miller, a columnist described as “a campus minister and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest.” (I presume that the “justice” means social rather than legal justice.) Click on the screenshot if you want to read about the multifarious ways that whites are practicing cultural appropriation by trying to “access” black culture via attending concerts by black musicians.

Miller:

A few years ago, I went to a Chance the Rapper concert in Portland, Oregon. It was his biggest show of the year in one of the whitest cities on the tour. About 12,000 people packed into the stadium, most of them not black, and the majority of the room loudly sang the word “nigger” along with every track that played during the pre-concert and Chance’s performance. The majority-white audience clearly felt the freedom to abandon decorum and fully participate in blackness because they had paid $60 to be there.

. . . Now, as a black person, being in a space with 10,000 or more non-black people yelling/singing “nigger” is not a neutral experience. White people being that free is terrifying. If they feel free enough to yell the N-word as loud as they please, who knows what other things they may feel, believe or do when their inhibitions are gone.

Let’s stop right there. The word “nigger” is in many rap songs, but somehow it’s become taboo for white people to sing that particular word (this isn’t the first time that ludicrous demand has been made). But it’s part of the song. Is singing the words of a rap or hip hop song “fully participating in blackness”? How? And if it is, so what?

Look, if black people want white people to stop using that word, then they need to stop using it themselves. If they want to reserve use of that word for themselves, then they’ll have to put up with other people using it when they sing rap songs. Are we supposed to just hum when we get to that word?  And as for the experience being “terrifying” for Ms. Miller, I simply don’t believe her. She’s making that up to cast herself as a victim.

It’s always puzzled me that a word considered odious when used by whites—and it is odious—is somehow innocuous when blacks use it. As a secular Jew, I don’t call other Jews “kikes”, “sheenies” and “Hebes”; this is not customary, and it would be seen as offensive if were used to greet fellow Jews. So if black people want to call each other by a slur, and use that word in songs, I really can’t see anything wrong with singing along. After all, you’re not being a racist if you’re singing along with a lively rap song: you are appreciating the music.  This kind of Pecksniffery need not be countenanced, nor would I feel I was a racist by singing that wordI suppose it’s a good thing, then, that I’m not a fan of rap and hip hop!

I’ve about had it with this desire to build border walls around cultures. Yes, black people have been terribly oppressed historically, and still are, but they can’t demarcate their culture as their exclusive territory, by implying, as Miller does, that jazz can’t be be played by whites because “it’s participating in black culture”.  Is she aware that jazz bands were one of the earliest forms of artistic racial integration in America? Liking black music is almost always a vehicle for mutual understanding, not hatred. So when Miller says something like the following, she’s trying to cast herself simultaneously as a victim and also claim that her culture must remain off limits for that reason:

This [cultural] experience is not unique or new. It has long been the operating posture of white people, particularly at festivals and concerts, to assume that minority culture itself is up for grabs. Blackness, though, is not something that can be sojourned into for the price of concert or festival ticket. With the approach of Afropunk, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, all featuring prominent black artists, it may be time for a refresher course on the implications of loving and mimicking black culture while still operating in rampant anti-blackness.

I find that paragraph both risible and offensive, especially the claim that white people who like black music are “operating in rampant anti-blackness.” Really—we’re all racists? But I guess Miller thinks we all are, and so her hyperbole knows no bounds:

Outside of concert arenas in the real world, black people cannot have a bbq, mow a lawn, sell water or have a pool party without a white person feeling threatened. The reality is this: White people love to participate in black culture, but seem to feel threatened by black people who they don’t pay to perform for them.

Concerts and festivals become training grounds for this sort of problematic behavior and a place to practice defensiveness. They are freewheeling spaces, where, in the busyness and hype of everything going on, cultural appropriation gets a special pass.

Here she conflates real racism—calling the cops on people just because they’re black—with cultural appropriation, which is at worst neutral and at best an appreciation of another culture.  The mutual interchange of cultures has been a good thing, and, as I’ve written before, I can think of very few examples where cultural appropriation has really been damaging. In the main, we’re all better for it. Each culture appropriates the others, and it’s simply not possible to devise a hierarchy of cultures and say that “appropriating upward” is okay but “appropriating downward” is not. Is a Chinese businessman who wears a suit appropriating Western culture? Or is that okay because Chinese are “appropriating up”?

You can’t get more divisive, or more engaged in maladaptive identity politics, than this:

Proximity to black people seems to transfer blackness for a few nights, but at the end of the day, it is the highest mark of privilege to systematically oppress people for hundreds of years and then to mimic, perform and market everything within their culture. Racial propriety is ejected in the name of letting loose and being free.

Some might try to argue that because black art is now mainstream, the culture belongs to everyone. The mainstream popularity of black art and life doesn’t transfer to the highest bidder, nor does it mean the end of oppression for black people. Black people are the authority on what should and can be done with our culture. [JAC: Really? Did Benny Goodman need permission to play jazz?] In 2018, white people cannot seem to fathom that there are limits to what they can do. They act as though, through small acts of claiming black culture, they are exempt from the harmful implications of racism on black people.

The cultural appropriation trope is simply divisive and xenophobic, and almost never a sign of racism. Yes, of course there’s still racism, and we need to root it out, but the hill you want to die on is not named “Mount Dreadlocks.”

More about cultural appropriation of cuisine

July 2, 2018 • 1:45 pm

The Washington Post has an article on cultural appropriation of food (click on screenshot to read it) in which people agonize about whether it’s okay for people of one ethnicity to sell the food of other ethnic groups, or write cookbooks about it. (The title refers to the shutting down of a Portland food cart in which two white women sold burritos from recipes they’d garnered in Mexico. They were faulted for not compensating the Mexican women whose recipes they’d adapted.)

In general I agree with author Tim Carman, who thinks that cultural appropriation of food is okay so long as a modicum of cultural sensitivity is exercised. There’s not much new here, including what Carman see as “The Problem”:

The problem, of course, is not that a white diner falls in love with an immigrant cuisine. It’s that a white person profits from the cuisine or, more troublesome for many, becomes the leading authority on it, rather than a chef born into the culture. I’m thinking specifically about chefs and/or authors such as Rick Bayless (with Mexican cuisine), Andy Ricker (with Thai food) and Fuchsia Dunlop (with Sichuan cooking). Bayless, a James Beard Award winner multiple times over, has faced the question of cultural appropriation so often, he once wondered aloud if it’s a matter of reverse racism.

I don’t even have that much of a problem. Of course white people will profit from appropriating cuisine if they produce something good, and I don’t care if they become the leading authority on it, given that most cookbooks in the U.S. are written in English. We can’t guarantee, for instance, that the leading authority on Szechuan cuisine in America happens to be from Szechuan.  But I do agree that one might ponder the origins of the food while you’re eating it, and that alone might increase cultural sensitivity. It’s hard to hate a group whose food you love.

But it cuts both ways, of course. I cannot say that it’s okay for minority groups to appropriate the food of white people, but not the other way around: that’s too much like saying that only white people can be racist because racism equals prejudice plus power. Nor do I demand that the expert on French food in, say, Hong Kong, be a French person rather than a Chinese person (there’s a fair amount of French food in Hong Kong, and widespread cultural appropriation of food). Who cares, so long as people get what they like to eat? The situation in which serving ethnic food leads to exploitation of a culture is vanishingly rare, and it seems to me that it enriches every culture to adopt the food of others.

One disturbing part of the Post article is this:

One writer has stated, flat out, that “Portland has an appropriation problem,” going on to explain (the boldface emphasis is the writer’s):

Because of Portland’s underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.

Someone in the City of Roses has even created a Google doc, listing the white-owned restaurants that have appropriated cuisines outside their own culture. For each entry, the document suggests alternative restaurants owned by people of color. One “Appropriative Business” is Voodoo Doughnut, the small doughnut chain accused of profiting off a religion thought to combine African, Catholic and Native American traditions.

The Google document seems to have vanished, but it sounds pretty ridiculous. And I’ve been to Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, which makes an awesome bacon/maple donut. Those who practice Voodoo come from several cultures and lands; it’s not an ethnicity but, more or less, a form of quasi-religious woo. I have no problem with the name, but I do have a problem with those Leisure Fascists and Culinary Pecksniffs who spend their time policing places like this.

A maple bacon donut from Voodoo Donuts in The People’s Republic of Portland

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center goes after cultural appropriation

May 7, 2018 • 11:00 am

How far the mighty have fallen, and how well the termites have dined! I am, of course, referring to the odious Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), once an important voice against racism and a major player in dismantling it in America. With tons of money but not so much work to do these days, they’ve taken on a distinct Authoritarian Leftist cast, making lists of “anti-Muslim extremists” that include Muslim reformers like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (The SPLC quietly took down that list when Nawaz, a Muslim, threatened to sue.)

They also stash their millions of saved bucks in offshore bank accounts, which is legal but sleazy. You can see my posts on the SPLC here.

But now it’s not enough for the SPLC to make little lists of “Muslim haters”, for they’ve decided to start tut-tutting about cultural appropriation. Get a load of their recent tweet and the website they run:

I don’t think anybody who celebrates Cinco de Mayo thinks or intends for their celebrations to encapsulate “all of Mexican culture.” Yes. there can be stereotypes, and I deplore those, but I don’t know who has the right to distinguish between good or bad cultural appropriation.

If you go to the page they link to at “tolerance.org,” you find first that this is a project of the SPLC, though it’s in small print at the bottom of the page. Then you get a snooty little lecture about cultural tolerance that touts one incident of Mexico-bashing (an unwise attempt by Anglo students at a California high school to exacerbate tensions with Mexicans by wearing USA-flag teeshirts on Cinco de Mayo), but that also gives us the usual but bogus definition of cultural appropriation as “borrowing + power” (my emphasis):

Most of the festivities surrounding Cinco de Mayo in the United States are textbook examples of cultural appropriation, relegating the vast history and culture of Mexican people to a few novelty items. Mexican culture cannot be reduced to tacos, oversized sombreros and piñatas.

Cultural appropriation occurs when a person or other entity—a sports franchise, for example—claims as their own an aspect of a culture that does not belong to them. Doing so can, knowingly or unknowingly, deny the authenticity of that culture, particularly if it belongs to a marginalized group, and it can send harmful messages rooted in misinformation, prejudice and stereotypes.

Well, the incident the SPLC describes is manifestly not cultural appropriation but instead simple bias against Mexicans, despite the SPLC saying it’s an “example that shows how far the celebration of Cinco de Mayo has come from its original purpose of honoring Mexicans.” And yes, there can be cultural appropriation that is bigoted and harmful, but the Cinco de Mayo celebrations by non-Mexicans rarely cross that line. And why is the SPLC lecturing us on these things? It’s a task far removed from what they used to be good at.

And there’s a lot of stuff like this, too, which is meant to apply not to colleges, but to secondary schools:Should the SPLC be lecturing schools on the urgency of amplifying LGBTQ Asian identities in the classroom, and constantly? I don’t think so.

If you want to donate to an organization fighting for civil rights, I’d suggest the ACLU, not the SPLC. I wouldn’t give a penny to that offshore-cash-stashing pack of Pecksniffs.

h/t: John B.

The Cinco de Mayo “cultural appropriation” warnings begin

May 5, 2018 • 10:45 am

At many sites, including the Spokane (Washington state) newspaper The Spokesman Review, there are reports that a Vice President of Gonzaga University (a Jesuit school in Spokane) sent out an email to students warning them against cultural appropriation and inappropriate celebration on Cinco de Mayo (today), a day that often serving as an excuse for Mexican-themed parties with boozing. Here’s the VP’s email, which appears at Campus Reform:

The Unity Multicultural Center is in fact a Gonzaga University organization. On their Facebook page cited by Vice President Garbuio, you’ll find this list of dictates, including the last one suggesting donations to a social-justice organization. Your’e also supposed to call out your friends if they don’t celebrate with proper respect:

More from the Spokesman:

After Ben McDonald, a Gonzaga student, penned a story about the email for Red Alert Politics, a horde of other popular conservative websites, including the Daily Wire, followed suit.

“Colleges have become havens for the easily offended on campuses across the nation to complain about people enjoying themselves as being ‘offensive to their culture,’ ” McDonald wrote. “Whether it was Yale students getting offended for Halloween costumes or Pitzer College students saying that hoop earrings are racist, Gonzaga is just the next addition to the many other universities who have caved in the face of ‘cultural appropriation.’ ”

Biggs Garbuio told The Spokesman-Review she was surprised to see so many websites sound off on her email. She said she wrote a similar email a year ago and annually sends emails during Halloween about avoiding racially insensitive costumes.

“The intent was purely to educate the students on the history of Cinco de Mayo,” she said. [JAC: No it wasn’t; it was mainly to control their behavior.]

After seeing some schools across the country dealing with the backlash of cultural appropriation in party settings, Biggs Garbuio said she wanted to get ahead of the issue.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are ways to celebrate the date that are inappropriate and offensive, at least to me: these include wearing fake mustaches or anything that mocks Mexico or Mexicans. Serapes and sombreros are a judgement call; I sure as hell wouldn’t wear one, but you can wear them without the intent of making fun of Mexicans. They are, after all, clothing worn by some Mexicans, and wearing them might be a celebratory rather than a denigrating move, like wearing green on St. Patrick’s day. (Believe me, lots of Chicago-ans without Irish ancestry wear green top hats and bow ties on St. Paddy’s Day—clothing not even worn by the Irish.)

What I object to is that a university takes it upon itself to give students cultural lessons, and even suggest donating to immigrants’ right organizations. That’s something a good liberal would do anyway, but it’s not a college’s function to police your behavior in this way. Let the students learn for themselves if they overstep boundaries, and where those boundaries lie and why.

This all reminds me of Erika Christakis’s response at Yale to an email from the Intercultural Affairs Committee telling students to dress in non-offensive ways on Halloween. Christakis, a housemaster at the university, wrote students an email saying that perhaps they themselves should decide appropriate dress rather than be dictated to by others. Well, you know what happened to her: she was demonized and ultimately hounded out of her job and Yale itself. What happened to her was unconscionable. So let me play Christakis to Gonzaga: Vice President Biggs Garbuio, stop telling students what “cultural appropriation” is and how to behave properly. Don’t police them; let them learn for themselves.

When I was in India at Christmas, there were many parties at which Hindu citizens celebrated the holiday by drinking and dancing. I even met a Santa Claus who was most likely not a Christian but a Hindu (see here). Would Gonzaga write a note to Hindu students, telling them to knock off the revelries at Christmas because, after all, it is a religious holiday celebrating an event sacred to Christians? I doubt it.

For other Pecksniffian policing of the holiday, see here, here, and here.

The Chinese are proud of the cultural appropriation of the qipao; liberal media criticize cyberbullying of its American wearer

May 3, 2018 • 1:00 pm

Amazingly, pushback in the liberal U.S. media has begun against the social-media nastiness heaped on Utah teenager Keziah Daum for wearing a qipao, a form-fitting Chinese dress, to her senior prom (see here and here). Although of course the New York Times won’t editorialize against cultural appropriation, they did publish this article, reporting the furor in the U.S. But that furor didn’t take place in China, as the Chinese were either baffled by the reaction on American social media or were proud of Daum for appropriating “their” culture. (It’s likely that the qipao was in fact influenced by Western fashion.) Click on the article below to see what the Times said:

An excerpt:

When the furor reached Asia, though, many seemed to be scratching their heads. Far from being critical of Ms. Daum, who is not Chinese, many people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaimed her choice of the traditional high-necked dress as a victory for Chinese culture.

“I am very proud to have our culture recognized by people in other countries,” said someone called Snail Trail, commenting on a post of the Utah episode by a popular account on WeChat, the messaging and social media platform, that had been read more than 100,000 times.

“It’s ridiculous to criticize this as cultural appropriation,” Zhou Yijun, a Hong Kong-based cultural commentator, said in a telephone interview. “From the perspective of a Chinese person, if a foreign woman wears a qipao and thinks she looks pretty, then why shouldn’t she wear it?”

If anything, the uproar surrounding Ms. Daum’s dress prompted many Chinese to reflect on examples of cultural appropriation in their own country.

 

h/t: Bill, Greg Mayer