If I Can't Wear Cornrows, You Can't Have Blonde Hair!

If I Can't Wear Cornrows, You Can't Have Blonde Hair!

The Misconceptions of Cultural Appropriation

originally posted on www.onlyblackgirl.com

I learned about cultural appropriation way back in community college, back before it became a buzzword for everyone with a twitter handle to use. I don't say that to try and sound like some old geezer whining about "BACK IN MY DAY, WE DIDN'T HAVE AIR...!", but rather to point out that before the internet started to use it for everything, people actually had to study the facts and learn what it means. Now, the internet uses it so commonly that, the average person using it, doesn't even know what it means. They just blurt it out because they know it's "bad" and that it throws people into an immediate fit of rage. Like most things overused on the internet, its actual meaning has been lost and people are using it without fully understanding what it means. As a result, those who participate in appropriation don't take it seriously, because y'all don't know what you're talking about and just start blurting out random shit that don't make no damn sense. I wanted to take some time to really lay out what exactly cultural appropriation is and how it works.

First thing I want to address...

What Is Culture
We can't fully understand appropriating a culture if you don't really understand what culture is. There's this great thing called a dictionary that can answer all your basic questions such as this one. Merriam Webster provides several explantions, as culture has many meaning depending on context, but the two I want to focus on are these:
a) the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time
b) the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization a corporate culture focused on the bottom line

Pretty self explanatory. Culture basically just means a shared set of beliefs, practices, customs etc. Culture exists in everything and everyone. It's not just racial. Church is a culture, specific religions have different cultures. Southern vs northern culture. Dating culture, internet culture, blogging culture, age, technology, business, specific business fields, television, movies, the list goes on. Anything you can think of, probably has a culture. I also want to make a point that many racial cultures (especially those in America) are developed from survival tactics. We all (except Ben Carson) know that black people were brought over here from Africa as slaves, so naturally in the beginning years, our culture was still that of whatever African counties those slaves came from. However, after awhile, we have to adapt to survive here in America, which is where African-American culture comes from. Parts may have originated in Africa, but a whole lot of our values and customs come from what we as slaves had to do to survive under the white man's reign. Jazz, for example, is derived from Negro spirituals, negro spirituals were songs that were derived from old religious hymns that also doubled as a secret code slaves used to communicate. Slaves would quite literally encode messages in Negro spirituals to communicate to each other plans of escape. Obviously they weren't able to hold town slave meetings and discuss their rebellion plans, so they had to get creative. Negro spirituals was one of those creative solutions. Harriet Tubman used this method quite often, when she would make trips back to rescue slaves. I bring all that up to make the point that our cultures are not just something we pulled out of our asses and said "Hey this shit is cool, let's make it part of our culture!", No, our cultures are rooted in blood, sweat, tears, murder, injustice, brutality and every other adjective you can think of to describe the struggle. So when you do appropriate cultures, you're basically shitting on us and our history, saying we and everything we built for ourselves does not matter.

What Exactly Is Cultural Appropriation?
The term actually comes from Anthropology, it isn't just some term pocs made up to get annoying things like justice and rights (the nerve). In fancy words, cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. In more regular people speak, it taking something of cultural value and exploiting it and/or not giving credit to those you stole it from. It's wearing native headdresses, dressing up as a geisha, wearing black hairstyles and pretending you invented them (also see columbusing).

"Twisted Mini Buns", they're fucking Bantu knots, and black people have been doing this shit since before y'all knew how to bathe, ingrates.

What Cultural Appropriation is NOT
It is not simply participating in another culture. I'm going to address appreciation vs appropriation in my next point, because there is a way to participate in culture without appropriation. The key factor in appropriating is taking things of cultural significance or value. Not necessarily something someone of a certain race invented. When I see conversations about CA, brought up, there's always some obnoxious person who just names random shit that has nothing to do with culture and says it's appropriation. "YOU CAN'T WEAR JEANS, BECAUSE IT'S WHITE!", or 'DON'T EAT PIZZA THEN, BECAUSE ITALIANS CREATED IT!", that's all cute or whatever, but please provide me with factual evidence that pizza is a cultural value to Italians. What weight does it hold? What is it's meaning? How are jeans a part of white culture? Honestly, if you can give me answer, with facts and APA cited sources to back it up, I'll never eat pizza again, but you can't, because you know you're full of shit. My personal favorite is the "blonde or straight hair" argument. First, blonde hair is not exclusive to white people, there are people of color, black people included, who have naturally blonde hair meet Melanesians.

And we don't really need to address how literally every race on the planet has people with naturally straight hair. Furthermore, blonde and/or straight hair, hold ZERO cultural meaning or significance to anyone. So suck it. Just because YOU don't care that native war headdresses and cornrows actually have a cultural purpose, doesn't mean they don't.

Can POCS Appropriate Culture
Yes, absolutely. I mentioned before, everything has a culture of some sort and just because you're adjacent to that culture doesn't mean you are a part of it. Just because I am black doesn't mean I get to just jump into any other poc culture I please. In fact, there is a large debate within racial groups themselves about appropriating within each other. African vs African American being one of them. Many Africans feel that AA cannot participate in African cultures because we do not actually understand the significance and values. AA are born here in America, many never leave and most never have or will step foot in Africa, so does that mean we get to just wear dashikis and african tribal print? Well that's what the debate is about. One could say the same for Africans who come to America and jump into AA culture. But that's another discussion for another day. The point is, yes people of color can appropriate other peoples' cultures. There's something called horizontal oppression/racism as well.

when people from targeted groups believe, act on, or enforce dominant systems of oppression against other members of targeted groups

The idea behind this is that, while we are all minority groups, as in on the same power structure, our actions may not have a great of an impact in the grand scheme of things, but it does further contribute to the oppression of the groups by reinforcing these ideologies that were set in place by the oppressor. This doesn't just apply to racial groups either. There's a lot of outrage from the LGBTQ+ community about appropriating their slang "Yaaaaaaasss" "slayyyy" "hunty" "spill the tea!" etc, especially when so many pocs are still extremely homophobic, transphobic and in general against the whole LGBTQ+ community. So while pocs appropriating one another may not directly contribute to oppression, it doesn't help either. It's the equivalent of kicking someone when they're already down. Yeah you didn't start the fight or give them the beating that dropped them, but your kick did what? Sure didn't help them. It's just beating them for no reason at all, adding to the injuries that already exist.

Appropriation vs. Appreciation
As I said before, there is a way to participate in cultural without being an asshole. Appreciation can be done is many ways, but the basis of it, is that you are giving the credit to the proper group(s) and/or you were invited by a member of the group to participate in something specific. For example, in college, I was a part of many different student clubs, one of them being Pacific Islander Club. I was with them for 4 years and through that was taught many things about their different islands and cultures BY people of those cultures. I learned bits of the different languages, their history, songs, practices and more. Because of the work I did with them, and them with us (black students) we have had many mutual exchanges of cultural practices, items and clothing. Now had people not known I was gifted those things by the elders and asked to particiate, it could look like appropriation, but because I was invited by them to learn, it is appreciation. On the flip-side, I also don't take that knowledge and strut around like "Hey look at me, I know some islanders and their culture so I can do whatever island thing I want! Watch me do the hula!" because that is not my culture and I do not know what life as an islander is really like. It's simply something I can appreciate from the outside and when invited to participate, I do. That's it. Another example is someone like Bruno Mars. We all love him, he's a great artist, but his entire persona and sound is old school, funky 60s Teddy Riley, James Brown styles of black music. However, Bruno Mars has never claimed to created this sound, in fact he has always been vocal about being inspired by these older black artists, he works closely with black producers, writers, musicians etc, damn near his entire band is black. He is participating in black music while not stealing the credit. That is appreciation. Now had he done the same thing but came out stating things like "You know I just woke up this morning and had this great idea for funky soul music and I just moon-walked into the studio and let my creative thoughts flow and now I have created funk", that would be appropriation.

Appropriation vs. Assimilation
"Cultural assimilation is the process by which a person or a group's language and/or culture come to resemble those of another group. ... Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from members of the other group."

I don't know if you all know this, but white people attempted to strip all pocs in america of their culture. I mentioned a very few select examples of this previously. Even today, people are facing repercussions for simply practicing their own cultures, in an attempt to force them to assimilate to whiteness and white standards. Black people have been kicked out of school for having natural hair styles, I, personally have been told to straighten my hair or not be hired, the military banned black hairstyles not to mention things like Muslims being killed for minding their damn business and praying or just simply existing and many other horrid things that happen daily. I bring that up to make the point that, some people have just given in and assimilated to whiteness for the sake of their lives being spared. So yeah someone might "act white" or alter their appearance to look white, because Y'ALL FUCKING TOLD US TO! You don't get to then turn around and whine "appropriation" when for hundreds of years you, and your people have been forcing us to assimilate and leave our individual cultures behind.

Why You Need To Stop
It all boils down to something Paul Mooney (look him up) said,

"Everybody wanna be a nigga, but don't nobody want to be a nigga". In other words, everyone wants to participate in the "fun" parts of people's cultures. Take the hairstyles and clothes you think are cute, so you can get likes on Instagram, but you don't actually want to have to live life as us. You don't want to actually be treated like a nigger, you just want the cute fun parts of being a nigga. You don't wanna be killed every 28 hours by police, you don't wanna be kicked out of school for wearing your natural hair, you don't want to have lesser pay, you don't want to be called a nigger, you don't wanna be lynched, beaten, oppressed and every other struggle we deal with every single day. We don't get to leave our blackness behind. We don't to pretend to be white, it doesn't work both ways. We are black 24/7, 365 days a year. Our culture is something we live constantly, not when it's convenient. So you don't get to pretend to be black (or anything else) for fun, and then when shit gets tough and it's time to fight for black lives, all the sudden you ghost and hide behind your whiteness. Nah, we don't need to share shit with you, we don't need to get over it, because we still do not have equal rights or justice. So until YOU receive the same punishments I do for wearing cornrows, dreadlocs or walking into a store while black, you don't get to take part in my culture.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1125841/offensive-cultural-appropriation

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6 Things You Hear When You Move To America From Another Country As A POC

My mom is from the Philippines, I'm from Michigan.

I grew up the same as everyone else I’d say. I spent my evenings at the park playing with the neighborhood kids, I went to kindergarten and ate a bunch of snacks, ran after the ice cream truck numerous times, and learned to count to 7. The only difference that seems to make a significant impact on how others see me is that I grew up in a different country and am also a different race. Is it really that big of a difference though?

I was raised in a military family, so we were constantly moving from base to base, state to state, and country to country. I was born In North Carolina, my sister was born in Alabama, but we were raised in Japan for the majority of our early years. My mother would take us on mini vacations to the Philippines to visit her family quite frequently as well. So over the years we were most definitely exposed to several traditions, cultures, and more. To this day we still celebrate these traditions and our lifestyle can be a tad bit different than the average American. However, are we so different from everyone else that it gives people the right to make assumptions based on my race? No. No one deserves the basic stereotypes and racial comments regardless of who they are or where they’re from.

When you get into the nitty gritty of things in finding the differences between someone raised in America and another country there’s not a lot. Sure, there’s a slight language barrier sometimes, but is that any different? Sometimes we have more traditions to celebrate and handle things slightly differently as well, but when it comes down to it, we don’t have too many differences between us. Hell, I grew up in Japan and the biggest change I noticed when I moved to Michigan wasn’t the people- but rather how many damn trees are here.

As if growing up in another country isn’t enough, I am also Filipino and African American. A lot of people cut pretty quick to the chase in making assumptions when they see you’re from another country. However, once they see you’re a different race that’s not white AND you grew up somewhere else it’s basically a whole new ball park that’s full of questions and slightly offensive remarks. These assumptions are generally stereotypical and sometimes can come off as borderline racist (depending on how you phrase it). If you were born/raised in another country and found yourself moving to the country we know as the land of the “free”, or if you’re an ethnicity that’s not the “American Norm”, then you have definitely heard some of these questions/statements at least once or twice in your lifetime.

1. Where were you born? No, like where are you from? …where are you really from?

Well I spent the last 13 years here in Michigan, but I was born in North Carolina. But if you really wanted to know, yes, I’m half Filipino. Yes, I’ve lived there. Happy?

Almost everyone, regardless of their race, gets that question handed to them and it’s annoying enough to make your eyes roll out your skull.

2. What are you?

Human? What kind of question is that? Do I look like a breed of a dog or a vegetable to you? Just ask me what my race is, at this point I’m used to hearing that question so it wouldn’t bother me. Flat out asking what am I is a little more offensive than anything.

3. Basic racial remarks.

“Do you see as much as I do with your eyes that squinty?”

“Does your mom cook orange chicken really well?”

“Why are you so tall if you’re Asian, aren’t they usually shorter? Oh, that’s right, you’re also half black! That’s why you’re 5’4” instead of 5’0”!”

“You don’t have a stutter, that’s just your accent coming back to you I bet.”

Don’t even get me started on how many people have pulled their eyes back and said “ching chong ching,” to me and made fun of me with a fake Chinese accent. I’m not even Chinese.

4. Do you know how to speak their language? Can you say a sentence?

I know just as much tagalog as you know Spanish. All swear words and how they are. No, I will not say them either.

5. Common stereotypes.

These kinds of people just jump to conclusions and base their knowledge off television shows or the internet. There’s really no filter on them either, so they kind of just fire it at you.

“I bet you can do math really well, but watch out for her on the roads! She’s probably an awful driver!” Add the fact that I’m a woman on there too, that stereotype never ends.

No, I can’t do karate. No, I can’t do jiu-jitsu. I can barely touch my toes, let alone throw a solid kick.

6. How do you pronounce your name?

There are two types of people that ask this question: ones who say it in the most Americanized way possible, and then those who try to add an unnecessary obvious accent to it. Either they find new syllables and vowels in your name that you never saw, or it’s a giant slaughter altogether. Regardless, at least they asked right? They’re still going to pronounce your name wrong…but they still asked.

As much as I can go on this topic forever, the point I’m trying to get to is to please watch what you say. POC shouldn’t be used to hearing remarks like these. The things listed here are directed mainly towards the Eurasia side, this doesn’t cover what our buddies from other countries and continents endure. We are all human in every way possible. We may have different traditions and cultures, but we do not barge into your life and ask you irrelevant questions. If anything ask us in depth questions, not the simple black and white ones.

Cover Image Credit: Max Pixel

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I'm Bi And Dating Straight For The First Time Ever

And sometimes it feels weird. In a good way, though.

There’s a time in almost every bisexual’s life when the implications of actually being bi slam against them.

It’s usually the moment when you have to make two profiles on a dating app because it only lets you pick one gender. Or, typically if you’re a woman, all the worst threesome-seeking couples within the tristate area glom onto you like a starved barnacle on a 15th-century Spanish galleon.

For me, it was a Lyft ride. I was on my way home from a Tinder date.

The driver was friendly enough. She was middle-aged and built of soft, sweeping curves. Her car smelled like peppermint and a hand-sewn and very pink Christmas sweater clung to her shoulders. If she wasn’t a grandmother yet, she was already well-prepared for it.

Naturally, we chatted. She asked me what I had been up to. “Just got back from a date.”

“Oh, what was she like?”

I fired back the basics: she was a biochemistry major at Oregon State University, we had a lot in common, had a great time.

There were things I didn’t share: we’d hit it off so well that we’d missed out on plans to see the new Blade Runner and I’d ended up staying the night. That my date had soft, brown eyes with an understating gravity, strong enough that you barely realized she was wearing glasses. But the basic point was relayed.

It hit me as we pulled up to my place. Not once, in describing the idea that I had had a date, did I have to disguise the pronoun of my date to hide her gender.

Later, when I had a second date with Eve, and when we eventually decided to make things official and date for good, the culture shock echoed further: I was in my first-ever straight relationship.

Eve wasn’t the first woman I’d ever dated. However, she was the first woman I’d dated since transitioning to male.

My first relationship started in the 8th grade. I was out as bisexual to a handful of friends and relatives. She was an out-and-proud lesbian. We would stay together for three years, eventually ending up long distance after my family packed up and moved across the country.

Like the best of lesbians, she’d introduced me to the finer points of vegetarian cuisine and we’d write shitty fiction together, my fiction considerably shittier than hers. We’d even stayed friends, for a time, after an amicable breakup.

The entire relationship was spent in various closets. We held hands in the dark. I didn’t even tell my parents until we’d been together for at least two years. We’d ignore the sneers we’d get in public. I handily hid my gender issues.

Not long after I turned eighteen, I stopped hiding the gender issues and began working towards manhood. I’d like to think I did okay for a former girl scout. Along with that? I started dating (and hooking up with) other men.

Like my ex-girlfriend, my ex-boyfriend and I got used to keeping a couple inches away from each other while walking in public, especially in the shadier parts of town. I got used to calling him my “partner” just so I wouldn’t have to out myself as gay/bi to classmates or colleagues.

When I came to realize I would be a guy dating a girl, some small part of me finds I’m still amazed at the novelty of it. Another part of me feels a little guilty. And I feel that weird guilt, especially as I “pass” more and more as a male. I blend in, when I was used to sticking out. Sometimes it’s comforting. Other times I feel like a traitor selling out the gay agenda.

But that’s the thing about being bi. We date who we date. We love who we love. And hoping one of these days, it’ll only be love that matters.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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