Questioning Cultural Appropriation, by Jonita Davis
This is a book written out of fear. It almost goes without saying that the author and I have diametrically opposite views when it comes to matters of cultural appropriation. What for the author is something akin to the threat of genocide and erasure is for me the sign of appreciation and adaption. The author appears to be of the opinion that only white people can appropriate the culture of others and that anyone who is black or brown can appreciate without being in danger of appropriation. White people, though, be they people who have been taught something by others or have chosen to take something and make it more palatable to others “with a dull palette,” are definitely always guilty of appropriation because their fondness for something that has a hint of other cultures but reflects our own tastes and preferences is a threat to the survival of other cultures and their ways. If you think this is absolutely ridiculous than you are like me. If you think the author is actually reasonable in being afraid of the power of white people to destroy cultures though, we are probably going to disagree on a lot of things as they relate to politics and identity.
This is a short book of about 70 pages long that is part of a terrible series on related subjects like assimilation, institutional relationship, privilege and power, intersectionality, microaggressions, all standard fictive aspects of the fevered leftist paranoid imagination. The book contains seven chapters. After an introduction the author discusses how one can identify cultural appropriation (1). After that the author talks about cultural appropriation in food (2) as well as fashion in clothing and accessories (3), bemoaning how cool people of color do something and then white people copy it for profit. The author then talks about the appropriation of religious or spiritual practices (4) like yoga in mindfulness. After that the author posits a duty for people to question (5) and challenge (6) cultural appropriation by others, rather than simply to enjoy it and appreciate it like sane people would. Finally, the author talks about a story of Navajo army blankets as a complex example of cultural appropriation (7) before closing the book with chapter notes, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
This is not a good book at all. Again, given the panic that the author views white people adapting the culture of others, there was no change that with my own favorable views to this that I would view the author’s thoughts as anything more than leftist virtue signalling. The author’s attempts to tie herself in a pretzel to say that someone like Bruno Mars can appreciate but someone like me could only appropriate only demonstrates the sort of rank hypocrisy that passes for the beliefs of the contemporary left. Likewise, the fact that even the most sincere white person who appreciates someone’s culture cannot help but appropriate simply by being white signifies the sort of power trip that the author and others of her ilk are in blaming whitey for all of the problems of cultures and all of their fears of assimilation into the average. This is so even though there exists room for both artifacts that appeal to white culture as well as those things that are authentic and thus have hipster appeal to those on the left or those more interested in “authenticity.” The author’s fear that mass appeal threatens the survival of culture suggests her lack of confidence in the appeal of authentic ways to white people and that is perhaps her biggest crime against the willingness of any people to appreciate what others offer.