Cultural appropriation: okay if done by another oppressed minority?

Continuing the discussion from Cleveland Indians retire racist logo:

This reminded me of black (Black?) folks getting dressed up as Indians for Mardi Gras:

The history section of the wiki article seems to imply that the origin of this tradition isn’t respectful, but there’s no mention of any controversy over it.

What’s the deal, is there any controversy?

IIRC the results of extended threads here on appropriation is that it’s a crime that can only be committed by persons of European extraction. For everyone else: it’s cool.

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Well yeah; that’s my impression - it seems to be fondly regarded as the result of a melting pot.

More accurately: the harm of racism usually stems from a powerful majority oppressing a disenfranchised minority. That’s why “reverse racism” isn’t an issue that warrants any real concern; even if a disenfranchised minority wanted to oppress a powerful majority it would be a logistical impossibility to do so.

If the descendants of two groups who were royally screwed over by white people decide to engage in cultural appropriation then it’s not really my job as a white guy to put them in their place unless at least one of the groups asks for my input.


I don’t think that’s exactly it relative to appropriation, since often the people being “victimized” are majorities in their own homelands, such as “The Case of the Purloined Tortilla Recipe”.


I have no idea what you’re referring to. I’m discussing the implications of relative power dynamics between White Americans, Black Americans and Native Americans and how those power dynamics effect the context of cultural appropriation.


Well, I caught it earlier, now you’re the one being chided “there’s other countries”! The discussion ranged to include global cultures, not just the US ones. Don’t remember the 2 women crucified for opening a Portland(?) shop selling tortillas that they boasted they had gotten the recipe for in Mexico?

EDIT: Ha, all it took was a search for tortilla, appropriation!


It is more of an intellectual exercise. it is fun to condemn and criticize the actions of others, but it only works if one can present an argument against being called out for hypocrisy.
It becomes an intellectual exercise sort of like those used for conspiracy theories or by flat-earth believers. Part of the fun is inventing arguments that cannot be disproved, or that fit preconceived beliefs. Not because they are necessarily sensible.
When you start to look closely at the arguments, whether it is burritos, hoop earrings, or feather adornments, they usually fall apart. Trying to establish hierarchies of past oppression does not help the issue at all.


chided isn’t just using a non-sequiter to change the subject. Chided is being compared to a moose. Moose would also make pretend worry about purloined tortilla. That how chide work. :wink:

But more seriously, you’ve missed a point in the tortilla thing that you’re also missing in the rest of the thing. I could explain it to you, but I couldn’t understand it for you. (funny chide, no?)


My rule of thumb: always okay to use other cultures’ practices, and never okay to lie about details thereof, including asserting your adaptation to be the real thing, or that your adaptation is not inspired by the real thing.

I’m sure people will take issue with it, but they’re wrong.


I think there is a difference in enjoying another culture and making money exploiting it.

It is cool for everyone to experience other people’s tradition.

Not cool to take aspects of a people you are not part of and use it for personal gain.

Perspective of a native Canadian


won’t someone think of the white men…


I don’t know if this counts but I’ll say if one party can clearly identify it as appropriation then it’s appropriation. It’s not so clear cut other than “you know it when you see it.” For example, someone wearing a traditional kimono as part of a tea ceremony in a Japanese household isn’t appropriation but wearing samurai armor just because is appropriation. The difference? One is part of the normal usage or purpose of the cultural artifact within its originating culture and the other is turning it into a cheap commodity for funsies. But that’s as close of a comparison I can give as a general guidance.

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A good kimono quote, which I am paraphrasing is " you do not earn a kimono after an initiation or right of passage, you buy a kimono in a department store".
Nobody in Japan cares if you wear a kimono every day. it does not matter who or where you are.
Some appropriation seems to me to be clear cut. Northern New Mexico and Arizona have lots of people who claim to be Native American healers, and make money performing what they claim to be Native rituals, sweat lodges, and initiations. Then there are the guys who walk around in fake uniforms, pretending to have been in the special forces. Those are both clear cut cases of people pretending to be what they are not, and profiting from it. A college kid wearing dreadlocks only becomes a problem when he falsely claims to be a Sadhu or something.


And the fact that European/white people can’t effectively make dreadlocks with their hair. Dirty, ratty hair isn’t what dreadlocks are. No one wants anyone else to cosplay Pig-Pin. >_>

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One of the things that bugs me about the whole “cultural appropriation” brouhaha is that it helps fuel the fire of actual racism. I’d be pissed off indeed if someone told me “no, you can’t run a taco truck because cultural appropriation” or “no, you can’t play in a blues band because cultural appropriation.” It’s not a far jump from that to “I hate so-and-so because I’m not allowed to do something I love, because cultural appropriation, so I might as well break out the torches and AR-15s.”

That’s “not a far jump?” Jesus, I guess it really doesn’t take much to set off white people.


Keep in mind that was a hypothetical. My own, preferred response would be to ignore anyone trying to tell me what to do.


Well, hang on a minute…

Is that a straw man, or a fair example?

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Well, we have the example posted by @Urbanacus with the tortilla shop. Is that good enough?

Seriously, why is it even an issue?