One of the central areas of focus for those who engage in “cancel culture” is the notion of “cultural appropriation.”
This refers to the adoption of parts of one culture by members of another culture, and is viewed as especially controversial by many when members of a “dominant” culture appropriate from “disadvantaged” or “minority” cultures.
This has devolved into condemnation and outrage every time so-called “white culture” references or engages with any element — real or otherwise — of another “non-white” culture.
Last week, model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner was accused of cultural appropriation after she launched a tequila brand, with her announcement criticized as “gentrification” of Mexican culture, with Jenner guilty of “taking from local Mexican artisans and profiting off our traditions and agricultural business,” despite only visiting “Cabos and Puerto Vallarta for vacation spots.”
More recently, the Cherokee Nation said it had “requested that Jeep ‘retire’ the name of its best-selling sport utility vehicle and called for a discussion with the automaker on ‘cultural appropriateness.’” Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. wrote in a statement, “I think we’re in a day and age in this country where it’s time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general.”
When it comes to cultural appropriation, the counter-argument usually focuses on the idea that the usage of names or products deemed to be solely owned by one culture is not, in fact, cultural appropriation. For example, tequila isn’t uniquely Mexican, with some arguing that it was the Spanish conquistadors who first distilled agave.
However, in some ways this argument accepts the premise of the radical Left, in that cultural appropriation is bad, but that these aren’t valid examples of such appropriation. Instead, we should understand and advocate for the truth: that cultural “appropriation” is both natural and good.
This is the case for three reasons. Firstly, the entire concept of cultural appropriation relies upon the false view that cultures are distinct and separated, with every element of each siloed culture unique to its one society or civilization. In reality, the lines between human cultures are irredeemably blurred, with multiple cultures sharing multiple traditions, items, and ideas. Some cultures grew out of others, and some — as is human nature — engulfed others. With the constant movement and interaction of humans on a global scale, there is simply no such thing as a single “pure” culture from which to appropriate. More accurately, cultural appropriation is how cultures develop in the first place.
Secondly, it’s false to argue that one single culture “owns” anything which can then be appropriated. Unlike land or physical objects, it’s impossible to take — with or without permission — words, traditions, or concepts. Tequila, for example, is not owned by any one person or culture, and so there is no-one from whom it can be appropriated. Similarly, outside of copyright law, no culture can claim single ownership of a word or collection of words.
Finally, the “appropriation” of positive elements of another culture should be viewed as a sincere form of developmental flattery on a global scale. As a species, we have developed as the single greatest power on the planet because we built upon the culture of others. Was it appropriation when the first early human discovered tools and his neighbors soon followed? Was it appropriation when the Romans developed indoor plumbing and areas never conquered by their empire adopted this revolutionary sanitation concept? Is it appropriation when one part of the world becomes famous for creating a certain form of beverage and someone else decides to enter the market?
These three reasons show both that cultural appropriation in the form condemned by the radical Left doesn’t exist, and that the interaction between cultures is uniquely responsible for everything we enjoy as a species today.
Most reject supposed cultural appropriation out of guilt or historical ignorance, viewing it as a power struggle or an example of cultural disrespect. While we should unanimously condemn disrespect in the form of bigotry — for example, overtly mocking cultures and their traditions — we should also accept that the adoption of cross-cultural elements is not only a reality of humanity, but an entirely positive one.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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