Cultural appropriation is why we have pizza

So this has been bothering me for a while, and it seems to be building into a culture war climax on college campuses, Twitter feeds, and YouTube reaction videos everywhere. It’s the alleged scourge of “cultural appropriation.”

For those who haven’t been following, cultural appropriation is the act of members of one group adopting elements of another group’s culture, like white people using African American slang, or getting tattoos of Chinese characters. This is described as extremely offensive, and deeply harmful.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, a stolen church that Turkey needs to give back to…Rome, or…Greece, or someone?

And although clearly everyone borrows from everyone else (just look at how many countries have “appropriated” jeans), an often-cited second part of the definition specifies that it only qualifies as cultural appropriation––or that it only matters––if the culture is taken by an oppressive group, from an oppressed group.

In other words, given the current balance of global economics and so forth, the entire planet can steal from white people, but white people can’t steal anything from anyone else.

Brushing aside the assumption that white people form a cohesive, monolithic group that’s all the same (while many often complain, correctly, that Africa’s many cultures shouldn’t be lumped together into a single group), it still doesn’t make any sense.

I was prompted to write this based on several things, but was finally pushed over the edge by a Persian-American woman shouting into a camera about how offensive it is to see “her” clothing worn on white skin. I’m choosing not to include the video, as I have no intentions of identifying specific people, and I expect she will eventually be deeply embarrassed by how hypocritical and contradictory it was. Because while she was busy shouting at white people for stealing Persian culture, she was busy stealing British culture, by wearing an Oxford shirt. In the video.

While it’s true that British (and American) administrations have done horrible things to Iran (AKA Persia), for which there is no reasonable excuse, part of the general understanding of cultural appropriation is that it’s offensive and unacceptable to appropriate elements of culture from historically oppressed groups. In other words, the oppression doesn’t need to be current. It can be from whenever.

If you payed any attention in history class, you’ll remember that Middle Eastern empires have repeatedly conquered and ruled over European territory for centuries, such as the Muslim conquest of Spain, or the Ottoman rule of pretty much all of southeastern Europe, including Greece, often referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. They even kidnapped the children of non-Muslim families and forced them into slavery to serve as the personal bodyguard of the sultan. If that’s not oppressive, nothing is.

As for Persia specifically, Persian dynasties conquered the Greek city states in Western Anatolia during the Achaemenid Dynasty, and later ruled over Greek-at-the-time Alexandria, the world’s greatest repository of human knowledge (and literally named after a white person), during the Sassanid era. Might as well throw in the Iranian hostage crisis, too.

I mean, come on, people. If you’re going to get ferociously upset that historically oppressive groups are “stealing your culture,” you’d better not be doing it while wearing clothing from a culture you’ve oppressed.

It gets worse. Not only are people hypocritically complaining about stolen clothing, but they’re also arguing about how “disrespectful” it is when the cafeteria at the Oberlin College was serving a “gross manipulation” of “traditional” Vietnamese food, by serving Banh Mi sandwiches on Italian ciabatta bread, rather than preparing it the correct way, which requires French baguettes.

French baguettes.

Yes, the students were upset at how the “traditional” and “authentic” Vietnamese sandwich was being “culturally appropriated” when the dish itself is an example of cultural appropriation.

Even the word “sandwich” comes from Sandwich, England, which is allegedly the origin of the term in the first place. So even if Vietnam deserves a pass for being colonized by the French, which allows them to steal as many baguettes as they want, they still can’t eat or sell any sandwiches, because they’re from England. And remember, if you group every minor ethnicity of “white” into one big supergroup, then it’s also okay for white people to steal whatever Asian tradition they want, because the Mongols conquered Russia and Eastern Europe and brought the Black Death right along with them. See how self-contradictory this is?

It keeps going. Students also complained about inauthentic General Tso’s chicken, a dish virtually unheard of in China, even by the descendants of General Tso himself, and its origins remain controversial. So the dish itself is already inauthentic, and they were complaining about how inauthentic it was. Quick, someone tell the Italian students about Hawaiian pizza! And the French kids about California champagne! And the Russians about Texas vodka!

And while we’re on the subject of pizza, this is a good time to mention that pizza itself is culturally appropriated, because tomatoes came from the Americas, along with a million other things. They didn’t exist in Europe until after Columbus got lost and accidentally found a new continent or two. So no more pizza!

Fireworks in Ukraine
Fireworks stolen from China, fired in Ukraine. So offensive!

While we’re at it, we can’t drink beer anymore either, because it’s stolen it from the Middle East, along with wine. No more drinking ever again, people! It’s culturally insensitive!!!

Perhaps someone out there is saying “but how would you feel if someone served your traditional food, or failed to produce it authentically?”

I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s exactly what happened when I was studying abroad in Spain, and the staff organized a Thanksgiving dinner for everyone. We were American students, thousands of miles away from our homes and our families, so they wanted to get us all together, throw us a dinner party, and give us a little taste of home.

And you know what? It was great! They wanted to surprise us with comforting, familiar, lovingly-made dishes that we, as Americans absent from our homeland on a beloved family holiday, were probably craving. Sure, they didn’t get everything just right. But so what? They were on the other side of the planet, and they were making do with the ingredients available, and had probably never made it before.

You know what I didn’t do? I didn’t shout at them and write letters to the administration telling them it was a “gross manipulation” and “disrespectful” to my heritage to be served such “inauthentic” and “stolen” cuisine, and you know why? Because that would be disrespectful, you ridiculous morons! If someone tries to serve you a meal, just eat the damn thing! Shouting at people for not doing it right isn’t defending your heritage. It’s just being a jerk.

It gets worse. Not only are they complaining about “stolen” cultures, but they’re also getting them banned, like when the University of Ottawa shut down a yoga class because of “cultural genocide.” I am not making this up.

Minor public service announcement: If you’re going to throw around the word genocide, you’d better be doing it right. It means destroying. And you know what happens to authentic Indian yoga when skinny white American moms do it just for exercise and fun? Absolutely nothing! Authentic yoga is still in India, no matter how many fitness-focused yoga studios open up on the other side of the planet.

You know what’s a lot closer to “cultural genocide” than a yoga class? Shutting down a yoga class.

Chess in Bosnia
Quick, Bosnians are playing chess! Call the appropriation police!

For a lot of people, their first experience with exploring other cultures may have been something as simple as eating in a Chinese restaurant, going to a Cinco de Mayo celebration, attending a French film festival, or doing yoga. Shut those down, and what happens? You keep people stuck in a bubble of ignorance. Americans are already pretty sheltered from the world as it is, and I’d be willing to bet that the ones most ignorant of Indian culture live someplace without any yoga studios.

And that’s really the problem I have with all this. The very same people that purportedly care about cultural understanding are smashing a powerful avenue of cultural exposure. By shutting down yoga classes or shouting at people for making their food wrong, they’re participating, far more ferociously, in the same sort of “cultural erasure” they get so angry about.

It also draws identity exclusively along racial boundaries. It says “You’re a white person. That is all. You can only do things invented by white people, and nothing else.” Can any good come from dividing the world this way? To consider race not a heritage, but a restriction?

To be fair, I can see the frustration in some cases; white people wearing Native American feather headdresses at music festivals, for example, seems to be in rather poor taste. But I don’t see any Chinese people complaining when someone dresses up as a Shaolin monk. And why would they? Nothing happens. People often say cultural appropriation is hurtful, but how is it hurting anyone?

It reminds me a lot of the opposition to gay marriage, when people kept saying it would damage their lives, so no one should be allowed do it. But really, what damage is there?

Though I can see the problem with fraternities throwing racial stereotype parties, or offensive stereotypes appearing on TV, it’s really not the appropriation that is the problem. It’s the mockery. Just look at the opposition to the Washington Redskins compared to the acceptance of the Atlanta Braves. Mockery and racial slurs should be rightly condemned, but embracing other cultures should not.

Imagine a world without cultural adoption and experimentation. We wouldn’t have British rock, Korean pop, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. No one but white people could enjoy classical music, or the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, or the polio vaccine. Only France could use the metric system, only China could use paper money, only Croatians could wear neckties, and only Scottish people could wear plaid.

And maybe while we’re at it, we’d have to ban democracy, because it’s Greek.

See how silly this is? Come on, guys. If someone’s treating you like garbage because of your racial background, go ahead and kick him in the shins. But if people enjoy the artwork, music, fashion, and cuisine of your homeland, go ahead and let them enjoy it. Even if they’re not doing it quite right.

Because no one wants to go back to Roman numerals.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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32 Comments on “Cultural appropriation is why we have pizza”

  1. i’m torn about this, because the line between appropriation and appreciation is thin. e.g., i’d never wear a native american headdress, but i went as tiger lily from peter pan to a costume party last week, which is pretty damn close. i don’t think it’s wrong of anyone to wear a headdress; i think, like you, that’s it’s in rather poor taste. but i’ve heard a lot of valid arguments explaining why it’s actually humongously offensive to native americans. i think what i’d modify from your post is that it’s appropriation if oppression is current, which i’d have to say applies to native americans.

    i also think you really hit the point with “it’s not the appropriation that is the problem. It’s the mockery.” miley cyrus twerking is appropriation to me because she also denigrated black women, in an offensively visual way, in the same performance. me pretending i’m tiger lily, who was an animated caricature of a native american woman, is not, because i’m not making fun of anyone. right??

    in any case, i love your blog and thank you for attempting to call a halt to all this pc bs :)

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I agree that if the oppression is current, then it makes a lot more sense, but that’s not what I often hear from people. As long as it took place in the past, then they get to steal culture. What’s weird is that they only bother saying it’s fine for non-white people to do it, citing historical oppression, and omitting any historical oppression that went in the opposite direction.

      As for costumes, I think it’s pretty clear that if you want to dress up as someone because you like that character or type of character (like dressing up as a ninja), then it’s completely different from dressing up to make fun of it. A kid dressing up as Superman isn’t doing it to mock white people. And although I can see why someone might get annoyed if someone dresses up as a Native American, because they might be doing it simply because it’s a neat costume and don’t care about the culture at all, it still just…doesn’t…do anything. I can see people getting mildly annoyed, but “offended” seems like a bit of a stretch.

    1. Yeah, the definition has been “corrected” to mean systematic or institutionalized oppression, therefore only the oppressors can do it. Individual prejudice or discrimination can come from anyone, but sexism and racism are said to be possible only for the oppressor group.

      What bothers me about this is that if they have to convince people about the “real” definition of the word, then maybe it’s not really the real definition. If the vast majority of the country defines racism as “treating people differently just because of their race,” then that’s the definition. It also seems pointless to get into a vocabulary debate instead of just getting to the point. For example, instead of saying “women can’t be sexist, because sexism means systematic discrimination,” well then they could just say “systematic gender discrimination” instead of “sexism.” That means it’s a widespread problem with an entire system, which is certainly true in certain cases. But why not just say that? Seems like this whole predicament could have been completely prevented with a simple vocabulary switch.

    1. Hmm, and here I thought I had gone on way too long to be described as “to the point.” Oh well though. There was a lot I wanted to address, and I think it’s important. Thanks for enjoying it!

  2. As always I am very impressed with your articulate ranting. And I don’t even agree with the “current / historic” division. In my view, if appropriation is not meant to offend but it offends you, then you explain politely how and why it offends you and ask them nicely not to do it again. Most people will take it into consideration, but if they don’t then there’s still no actual harm done. If it is done with the intention to offend then it’s another matter but no different from any other intentionally rude or offensive action. I live in New Zealand and Maori are particularly protective of anything even remotely identifiable as “Maori”. You can’t even genuinely show your appreciation for their culture in your own design or artwork without running the risk of offending a Maori group when you are not one of them. And incidentally, the Dutch should stop growing tulips. They’re Turkish.

    1. Yeah, I can definitely see the Native American or Native Australian or Native New Zealand population getting upset at things like that, but it seems odd to take offense. If someone were to do that to me, I would mostly find it silly more than anything else. I don’t bother dressing up as other people, but that’s partly because I’m too lazy to do it, and it just feels awkward.

  3. I find it offensive that an American is posting articles in a language he appropriated from England. This needs to stop.

    1. Yeah, I’m not even descended from one of the original English settlers, so there’s no way I should be allowed to speak it. I’m mostly Eastern European. Total language thief. I even learned Spanish in school. Oh no!

    1. Yeah, I love thinking about that. The entire European wine industry was saved by the Americans. Not so high and mighty now, are they?

  4. The problem is not necessarily people wearing “other culture’s” clothing or eating “their” food, but in the case of the US, dressing in “Native American” costumes because it reduces First Peoples to the status of mascots and perpetuates a racist power structure. The academic use of cultural appropriation refers to the inappropriate use of a cultural element for personal gain, such as casting white actors in yellowface, or when a dominant group “discovers” a practice, popularize it through their privilege, and then pass it off as a new invention of their own.

    1. I agree that whitewashing is a silly problem that needs to go away. I remember watching a movie from the 50s about a “Chinese” guy who was played by a white actor, and he kept saying lines about how proud he was of his Asian heritage, and it was just silly.

      As for discovering and popularizing an invention from another culture…either we can look at practices and inventions as culturally specific and off-limits, or we can view the human race as a collective species working toward mutual progress. And I think the second one is the better option.

  5. Snarks,

    This was a well-thought out post and I appreciate you writing it. I can also how it can come from somebody who is very well travelled and has a nuanced, educated approach to appropriation; when you travel you see so much hybridity and mixing.

    However many people who use your line of argument can lead to a slippery slope, when they are blind to the power dynamics that came out of that hybridity. When immigrants mix in a Queens neighborhood and borrow recipes and create new cultures, thats one tihing. When people are forcibly removed, their people physically wiped out, yeah thats another. And the argument doesn’t stop there; there’s the “I should have all the power I want” argument (eg “bad words are bad, so anybody who uses them is discriminating”) which lets white people (full disclosure, i am one, well I am Jewish) argue that they want to use the n-word in the US, for example. they argue that since black people use it, they should be allowed to as well. This is a dangerous line of thought – sure the word itself is horrible – but that argument ignores 400 years of oppression, through to today in all forms of discrimination, and focusing on why a white person can’t use it is just another way to institutionalize power.

    1. I appreciate the thoughtful response, and I agree that it’s a slippery slope that leads toward allowing anyone to do anything; but the reverse is a slippery slope toward disallowing anyone from doing anything. I see it merely as an either-or situation, where it’s all okay, or none of it is, and I can only see one of those as right.

      I can see why oppressed cultures would be more frustrated with their culture being used by another one, but I also don’t think it’s as strong of an argument as most people seem to think. If I go to China, all of a sudden I’m in the minority, and I’m living under a dominant culture. Am I all of a sudden allowed to steal whatever I want? Are Greeks permanently allowed to steal whatever Turkish culture they want, because they experienced 400 years of oppression during the Ottoman era? But the Turks can’t borrow anything Greek, because they were the oppressors? What happens when the oppression is over? Does everything instantly become fine, and everyone can borrow from everyone? Or do the Turks have to wait 400 years to start stealing Greek culture? Or would it have to be that Greece conquers them and rules over them for 400 years, to balance it out, and then they can start borrowing?

      I think the people who say it’s all about power dynamics are only looking at it as a static moment, looking at the way things are now, and saying what’s okay and what isn’t, but I think it’s actually motivated by race more than anything else. They just don’t like it when white people do it. And that’s not going to change, even if China overtakes the US as the world’s #1 economic power. They’re still going to say white people can’t do Asian things, no matter how far ahead China gets.

      As for racial slurs and racial humor, I think there’s a line between observation and mockery, and when you’re a member of the racial group, it’s generally well-understood that it’s not mean-spirited, which is why Asians can make Asian jokes that white people can’t, and so on. But on the subject of racial slurs specifically, I’m going to hand it off to Richard Pryor, who went to Africa for a few weeks and then had this to say about it.

      1. Salutations Snarky! Recently found your blog and learned so much about gear and packing in just a few days that I found myself wishing I could offer useful information in return. Being a complete noob to travel, I had nothing worth contributing until I stumbled upon this post and this comment of yours in particular. I know the topic is pretty old, but you strike me as someone who always welcomes new information that helps you better understand and respect people from all the cultures you encounter and enjoy. Bear with me, as things will get very tl;dr to the point where I considered sending an email instead, but I wanted all your readers to have access to this information as well.

        Let me begin by saying that your knowledge gaps are not your fault. Judging by your OP’s mention of “Twitter feeds” and “YouTube reaction videos”, everything you know about the issue of cultural appropriation comes from the progressive-left equivalent of Trump supporters, who have conflated their genuine frustration over certain societal problems with their person anger management issues. However genuine their concerns may have initially been, at this point they’re less interested in finding solutions than in venting spleen, which is why they’ve ditched nuanced discussion in favor of us-vs-them rhetoric that grossly misrepresents the actual issues at hand and prevents sane people like you from truly understanding let alone caring about those issues.

        It’s exactly the situation you describe in your post on Trump and why the left needs to look beyond Trump’s rhetoric to find the far more nuanced and complex reality of the issues fueling his support. And just as everyone with a stake in the U.S. November election should understand the real version of the Trump constituency’s concerns, so everyone with a stake in multiculturalism should understand the real version of the concerns about cultural appropriation and its intersection with intercultural power dynamics. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to find the real version of these concerns than it is to find the real version of the Trump constituency’s concerns. Googling “cultural appropriation” gives you pages and pages of the rhetorical version, and even some of the more nuanced explanatory top results have moments of falling into “good vs evil” hyperbole.

        Fortunately, a brief but insightful summary of the real issues surrounding cultural appropriation can be found here: http://www.orchestratedpulse.com/2014/11/cultural-appropriation-is-dead/

        You’ll notice that the article begins by soundly refuting the very same idea you debunk in your OP. But wait, if the act of cultural appropriation in and of itself isn’t a problem, yet the act in and of itself seems to be the only thing that the Angry Internet Left is up in arms about, then what, if any, actual problem exists around cultural appropriation? Again we find the answer in the real version of the cultural appropriation issue, exemplified by the article’s Amiri Baraka quote: “The problem is that if The Beatles tell me that they learned everything they know from Blind Willie [Johnson], I want to know why Blind Willie is still running an elevator in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s that kind of inequality that is abusive, not the actual appropriation of culture because that’s normal.”

        In short, cultural appropriation isn’t inherently bad, but depending on who’s doing the appropriating, it can lead to bad things such as exploitation. This exploitation-by-appropriation can be more specifically defined as valuing the products of a culture while devaluing the people of the culture – basically treating them like sweatshop workers who produce culture instead of T-shirts. Note that devaluing the people encompasses everything from simply disregarding their existence as with Blind Willie (the Beatles may have credited him, but everyone else credited the Beatles and forgot Willie), to actively abusing them as with some aspects of China’s ethnic tourism: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/commoditizing-ethnicity-southwest-china (“a young Li researcher is quoted as saying that all development in the autonomous region is for show: in areas away from the visitor’s view, ‘the central government is not providing money to improve the standard of living.'”)

        Also note that while non-dominant groups frequently appropriate the cultures of their local dominant groups, the non-dominant groups simply do not have the social, political, and/or economic resources to devalue the people of their local dominant group, since the people of the dominant group have the lion’s share of those resources and can therefore decide the fate of the non-dominant groups at any time. Since the non-dominant groups’ people are incapable of devaluing the dominant group’s people, the former by definition can never be exploitative in their appropriation of the dominant group’s culture.

        Additionally, most cases of a non-dominant group “appropriating” the culture of their local dominant group are not cases of voluntary cultural borrowing like we see with dominant groups voluntarily choosing to borrow from non-dominant groups – in most cases the “appropriation” is forced upon the non-dominant culture by the dominant culture. This situation is also the only time the Angry Internet Left’s cultural appropriation rhetoric actually sounds less ridiculous than your attempts to counter it. They like to call a dominant group’s appropriation of a non-dominant group’s culture “stealing,” and to be fair to them, if I freely decide to borrow your stuff without asking you, you might have grounds to accuse me of stealing. However, if you force me to use your stuff even when I didn’t want to, you have no grounds to accuse me of stealing. Hence why they can potentially argue that a colonizing country “stole” some aspects of their colonies’ indigenous cultures, but you cannot reasonably counter-argue that the indigenous groups also “stole” aspects of their colonizers’ culture when it was the colonizers themselves who forced that culture on the natives.

        All hyperbole about “stealing” aside (since we’ve established that cultural borrowing is not inherently bad and therefore any moral equivalency with stealing is false), even in cases where a non-dominant group’s appropriation of a dominant group’s culture is voluntary, there is some degree of survival-based necessity to the appropriation, which cannot be said for dominant groups choosing to appropriate non-dominant cultures. The Persian-American lady freely chooses to appropriate western clothing, but consider what an Islamophobe might do to her if she decided to switch to more traditional garb. Maybe he’d beat her up and then drive his car over her, like some guys did to a Sikh man just for wearing a turban: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article68858142.html

        As the Orchestrated Pulse article so eloquently articulates in its contrast of The Beatles appropriating Blind Willie’s music versus African-Americans appropriating European Christianity:
        “One appropriation exploited and another attempted to emancipate — failure to distinguish between the two at the level of both intent and impact demonstrates a crucial shortcoming within most leftist articulations of cultural appropriation. Again, it comes down to a question of power.”

        This is what some of your commenters, including the one at the top of this specific comment thread, were trying to explain to you by bringing up power dynamics: not all appropriation is created equal. To be fair, I understand why you either overlooked their point (the one commenter who said “when a dominant group ‘discovers’ a practice, popularize it through their privilege, and then pass it off as a new invention of their own” and you only responded to the harmless “discovering and popularizing” part while completely ignoring the harmful “passing it off as their own” part i.e. exploitation) or dismissed it as being too close to the tactic of using “power dynamics” as a buzzword to justify blanket condemnations of white people. As the Pulse quote confirms, almost all complaints about cultural appropriation only bring up “offensiveness” and never exploitation, and on Twitter and Youtube most of those complaints also inevitably turn into “white people suck.”

        But now you know that the real significance of power dynamics on cultural appropriation is about exploitation rather than mere “offensiveness,” and has nothing inherently to do with race. Yes, it just so happens that in many places a “white” group has more power over a “non-white” group than vice versa, but again, using my example of China, exploitative appropriation is perfectly possible with imbalanced power dynamics between people of the same or very similar races (in this case, both exploiter and exploitee are East Asian).

        Tl;dr of all the above plus conclusion:
        1) Cultural appropriation in and of itself is fine.
        2) Exploitative appropriation that only values the culture and not the actual human beings in the culture is what’s bad.
        3) Not all cases of a dominant group appropriating a non-dominant group’s culture are exploitative, but all cases of exploitative appropriation involve a dominant group appropriating a non-dominant group’s culture.
        4) Therefore if you’re aware that you’re a member of a locally dominant group (e.g. WASP in the U.S.) appropriating the culture of a less-dominant local group, try to do so in a way that won’t harm (not merely “offend” but actually make their lives more difficult and/or dangerous) members of that less-dominant group.

        P.S. This should also answer all the questions you posed about you “stealing” from Chinese culture or the Greeks/Turks “stealing” from each other’s cultures, but if you’d like to see a point-by-point response to those I can do that too.

        1. A few things:

          1) I think you are incorrect in your assertion that I got my information exclusively from extremist liberals complaining incessantly. No one out there views themselves that way, and probably every site would describe itself as reasonable, as would its fans. I also get a great deal of information from those on the opposite side, arguing that cultural appropriation is fine. So I think pointing out the “gaps in my knowledge” is not a fair assertion.
          2) You are using the term “exploitative” incorrectly. Using someone for labor and not paying them is exploitative. Learning something from someone and using it yourself is clearly not. Steve Jobs learned about science from a school teacher. Was he “exploiting” her? Learning things is not exploitation. Using what you’ve learned is not exploitation. Using PEOPLE is exploitation, but simply learning lessons from them is not. The Beatles did not “exploit” any mentor any more than you “exploited” anyone who ever gave you advice on anything. The reason they made money and someone else didn’t is because they recorded a bunch of records that featured spectacularly listenable music that everybody wanted to buy. If you spend all your time telling other people how to play music, chances are someone’s going to do it, and perhaps even quite successfully. This is not “exploitation.” It is good teaching.
          3) If you’re going to use the word “harm,” you need to use it correctly. Westerners cooking Mexican food is not “harmful” to anyone. But I’ll give you an example of something that could be perceived this way. YKK is a Japanese company that makes zippers. Zippers were developed by American companies, by American or Swedish-American engineers and inventors. YKK then decided to start making these American inventions themselves, and did it so remarkably well that they were able to build up a mammoth position in the zipper market. One might argue that this is a perfectly good example of appropriation, which then harmed the original inventors of the product. But no one cares, because it’s happening to white people. The argument of “it’s all about power” generally goes right along with the claim “white people have all the power,” which is demonstrably false. There are plenty of situations in which non-Western companies have succeeded brilliantly in upstaging Western manufacturers and driving them out of business (just look at the Made in China ubiquity) or of providing invaluable resources and gaining massive bargaining power in the process (as is the case with Middle Eastern oil). But nobody cares, because as long as it’s happening to white people, people can steal whatever the hell they want, whether it’s harmful or not, whether it’s cultural or not. They can say it’s about power dynamics all they want, but if all they ever do is complain about white people doing it, then it’s pretty clear that racial dynamics are their primary focus.

          So I respect your comments, but I completely disagree with them. No one is “harming” anyone else merely by borrowing cultural elements. No one is “exploiting” anyone simply by learning from them, especially if there was no expectation of payment in the first place. You could theoretically make the argument that harmful appropriation can occur when one business drives out another (which could only be stopped by allowing monopolistic business practices, which are objectively terrible), but if you were to concede that business competition is in fact harmful to certain people, you would have to admit that anyone can do it, and it’s not just white people who are in charge of everything in the universe. The fact that your jeans are probably made in China or thereabouts is indisputable proof of that.

          These people who say it’s all about power really don’t care about power. They’ll complain about white people no matter what happens.

          1. Whoa there Snarky, seems like you completely ignored all the important parts of what I said in order to harp on a strawman point about “white people” that I not only didn’t make but explicitly refuted through my term definitions and my examples. Let me point out what you missed.

            1) The reason I brought up gaps in your knowledge is because your understanding of what’s allegedly “bad” about cultural appropriation – as revealed by your OP, in which you characterize the concern over cultural appropriation as solely the belief that appropriation in and of itself is bad – clearly comes from left-progressive extremists. Only left-progressive extremists claim that cultural appropriation is bad in and of itself. If at least some of your knowledge on the issue had come from more nuanced progressive sources like the Orchestrated Pulse article I linked (or even something like this article
            http://racerelations.about.com/od/diversitymatters/a/Native-American-Influences-In-Fashion.htm
            that clearly says “It’s certainly not a crime to wear these fashion items” and even offers buying suggestions), you wouldn’t keep insisting that “borrowing from other cultures is bad” is the ONLY argument that people make when concerned about cultural appropriation.

            2) I am not using the term “exploitation” incorrectly as I had established it, namely “valuing the products of a culture while devaluing the people of the culture – basically treating them like sweatshop workers who produce culture instead of T-shirts.” But I will grant you that my Beatles example was a little confusing, so let me clarify:

            The Beatles themselves didn’t exploit Blind Willie, because they credited him and acknowledged the human being behind the cultural contribution. This is the same situation as you and your teacher, and yes, this is just learning, not exploitation. They didn’t pay Willie, but by crediting him, they ostensibly opened the door to better opportunities for him and other same-genre black musicians.
            Unfortunately that door was slammed shut by more socioeconomically dominant Americans who enjoyed the Beatles’ music. This dominant group DID exploit Willie by ignoring his very existence, as well as the existence of other African Americans who helped create the rock’n’roll that this dominant group enjoyed (Elvis also credited African Americans for his music, yet dominant society gave him all the credit for pioneering the style, a problem that Elvis himself tried to correct: “A lot of people seem to think I started this business, but rock’n’roll was here a long time before I came along”). The same Americans who loved the Beatles also loved segregation because they didn’t give a shit about the black people whose music the Beatles were playing (the Beatles themselves found this appalling and refused to play segregated venues). This is the same situation as consumers and sweatshop workers – consumers buy the shirts but refuse to acknowledge the existence and suffering of the people who made those shirts. That’s not learning, or borrowing – that’s exploitation, because it means you only care about getting the product and not about what happens to the people who make it.

            Meanwhile, I find it interesting that you harp endlessly on the Beatles example while completely ignoring my other example of far more egregiously exploitative appropriation, i.e. the Chinese government appropriating the culture of China’s Li tribe for economic gain and then intentionally building shiny tourist-bait facades on the Li people’s land to mask rather than alleviate their actual suffering and poverty. The fact that I call this exploitative appropriation doesn’t fit your narrative of “people only complain when white people do it” – is that why you ignored it?

            3) Where did I use the word “harm” incorrectly? I even specified, “not merely “offend” but actually make their lives more difficult and/or dangerous.” Of course Western people cooking Mexican food doesn’t harm Mexicans. But you know what does? Insinuating that all illegal Mexican immigrants are morally bankrupt and vowing to keep them out with a wall while claiming to “love Hispanics” and their taco bowls. If you or I eat a taco bowl, we aren’t exploiting Mexicans because we aren’t valuing their culture over them as human beings and using our power over them to make life harder for them (we know taco bowls aren’t really Mexican and we harbor no ill will against illegal Mexican immigrants). If Donald Trump eats a taco bowl, he’s exploiting Mexicans because his mentality is “I’m gonna enjoy your culture (he believes taco bowls are genuinely Mexican) while using my power to make life harder for you.”

            You say you completely disagree with me, but then you say “No one is ‘harming’ anyone else merely by borrowing cultural elements” which is exactly what I said multiple times in my own comment:
            “cultural appropriation isn’t inherently bad” – paragraph 6, line 1
            “we’ve established that cultural borrowing is not inherently bad” – paragraph 9, lines 1-2
            “Cultural appropriation in and of itself is fine.” – tl;dr point 1

            So what exactly do you actually disagree with from my comment? You disagree with the notion that “cultural appropriation is only bad if white people do it,” but where did I assert this? In my China example of East Asians exploiting East Asians? In my carefully-worded definitions that make power dynamics (which I clarified as unequal access to political, social, and economic resources – paragraph 7, lines 2-5) the ONLY criterion for determining potential exploiters, thereby excluding race as a criterion? What part of “exploitative appropriation is perfectly possible with imbalanced power dynamics between people of the same or very similar races” sounds wrong to you?

            Also, given my above clarifications, I think you can see why your zipper example is not a valid example of nonwhite-on-white exploitative appropriation. If it’s still unclear, let me explain by directly contrasting your zipper example with my rock’n’roll example in terms of how well they fit the 4 tl;dr points I laid out about how power dynamics determine cultural appropriation vs. exploitation:

            1) Cultural appropriation in and of itself is fine:
            YKK appropriated American invention, no problem. Beatles/Elvis appropriated African American invention and through them the general population of western society appropriated the same, also no problem. The act of cultural borrowing by itself is fine regardless of power dynamics.

            2) Exploitative appropriation that only values the culture and not the actual human beings in the culture is what’s bad:
            Since YKK had no power over the American companies at the time that it appropriated their invention, only sufficient respect for the individual western engineers (not merely admiration for the zipper itself) could allow YKK to hold its Japanese engineers to a high enough standard to produce a zipper that could compete with the well-established original; any attempted devaluation of the westerners would have led straight to failure. Take away the “compete” part, and this becomes Elvis’s situation: when Elvis began appropriating the style of his favorite black musicians, he was just a poor Southern white boy with arguably even less socioeconomic power than the black musicians he admired, hardly in a position to devalue the black musicians except to his own detriment. But even after he surpassed the black musicians in socioeconomic power, he still made sure to value them as human beings, as did the Beatles.
            So to recap – Elvis, Beatles, and non-dominant YKK (will get to dominant YKK later) all appropriated culture but valued the people as well; no exploitation here.
            That leaves only the general population of rock’n’roll-appropriating western society unaccounted for, and this is where most of them (the only exceptions being people like young Elvis who were on the same approximate socioeconomic level as most black rock’n’roll musicians and/or knew about said musicians) do qualify as exploitative. To exploit someone, you have to benefit from them while devaluing them. Did the majority of rock’n’roll-appropriating western society benefit from the black musicians? Of course, they enjoyed the black musicians’ rock’n’roll music. Did that same majority of rock’n’roll-appropriating western society devalue those black musicians? Absolutely, they remained willfully ignorant of those musicians’ very existences despite Elvis and the Beatles explicitly crediting said musicians. Did this rock’n’roll-appropriating society suffer any benefit-cancelling loss as a result of devaluing the black musicians? Nope, they were so far above the black musicians in socioeconomic standing that they could enjoy rock’n’roll just fine while giving all the credit to Elvis and/or the Beatles. Sure, the ones who further devalued black people by attending segregated venues missed out on a few Beatles concerts, but they could still easily enjoy Beatles music everywhere else. So the majority of rock’n’roll-appropriating western society benefited from the black rock’n’roll musicians while simultaneously devaluing those musicians, which means they exploited the musicians.

            3) Not all cases of a dominant group appropriating a non-dominant group’s culture are exploitative, but all cases of exploitative appropriation involve a dominant group appropriating a non-dominant group’s culture:
            As explained under point 2, it’s simply not possible for members of the underdog group to do anything but hurt themselves if they try to devalue members of the dominant group. They cannot benefit while devaluing the people who have power over them, and therefore they cannot exploit those people. But what about members of the dominant group devaluing members of the underdog group? Well we’ve established that post-success Elvis and the Beatles, both members of the dominant group, did NOT exploit the people whose culture they appropriated, while other members of this same dominant group DID exploit the people whose culture they appropriated. But what about YKK once it became the dominant over the American companies in the area of zipper manufacturing? Well it certainly didn’t stop making zippers, so it continued to benefit from its appropriated invention as a dominant power. That means the only thing separating appropriation from exploitation is its valuation of the western inventors/engineers it appropriated from, whom its own Japanese engineers are now dominant to at least in a broad economic sense.
            What would it mean for YKK and/or its Japanese employees to devalue the westerners they appropriated from? There are only a few ways to devalue someone/something: ignore, suppress, eliminate. If YKK chose ignore, it would have to act like it had no competition, and the only way to do that is to cut corners since no competition means high-quality production is now an unjustifiable expense. But unless YKK has an actual illegal monopoly, this ignore-type devaluation will eventually ruin even the biggest industry behemoths, as Borders, Blockbuster, and Kodak can attest. That leaves suppress or eliminate, both of which result in some manner of illegally sabotaging the American competition (monopoly, bribery, blackmail, etc.).
            Importantly, note that only these coercive illegal activities could give YKK the same kind of guaranteed dominance over American companies that the majority of rock’n’roll-appropriating western society had over black rock’n’roll musicians. The dominance that YKK earned through honest competition is not guaranteed since YKK could at any moment fall to a better zipper producer including one of the American companies it originally usurped – especially if it tries to ignore them. In that sense, “dominant” YKK is no more powerful than non-dominant YKK; it still doesn’t have enough power to ignore the westerners with impunity. The socioeconomically dominant rock’n’roll appropriators, on the other hand, absolutely could and did ignore the black rock’n’roll musicians without any risk of lost dominance – the power to disregard with impunity the existences of other groups is the only power that allows a dominant group to become exploitative, and again YKK could only achieve this power by using illegal coercive means. Until/unless YKK gains the power to ignore its competition without risking its position, it cannot exploit them even if it is dominant over them.

            4) Therefore if you’re aware that you’re a member of a locally dominant group (e.g. WASP in the U.S.) appropriating the culture of a less-dominant local group, try to do so in a way that won’t harm (not merely “offend” but actually make their lives more difficult and/or dangerous) members of that less-dominant group:
            Notice how I said “try” to appropriate without harm. We have established that YKK is not devaluing or exploiting the westerners it appropriated from, if only because it literally can’t do so without either risking its own success or engaging in highly illegal activties. However, it is also true that YKK has harmed some of those westerners even without exploiting them, simply by dint of honestly out-competing them. That’s where the “try” comes in – even with the best of intentions, a dominant party may be unable to avoid harming a non-dominant party, as in the case of Elvis and the Beatles being unable to avoid receiving all the credit for black rock’n’roll musicians’ work even though they repeatedly tried to give those musicians their due. What matters is that they themselves never devalued or exploited the musicians; this avoidance of devaluation/exploitation is the most meaningful form of trying not to harm the people of the non-dominant group whose culture is being appropriated.

            That said, I can give you an (admittedly hypothetical, but still semi-plausible) actual example of non-whites exploitatively appropriating white culture. Going with your “what if I’m in China” hypothetical from the comment I originally replied to, let’s say you are in China and some Chinese people convince you (maybe they got you hella drunk) to throw them a 4th of July party complete with American flags and Star-Spangled Banner. So far so good, but then the CCP comes to arrest people for spreading U.S. propaganda, and suddenly your Chinese “friends” all claim it was entirely your idea and they tried to stop you, etc. and even though you argue back, in the end you’re the only one arrested because a white American in China is not gonna be believed over actual Chinese. They got to enjoy your culture at your expense by taking advantage of their greater political and social standing over you. All they cared about was getting to eat apple pie and wave the stars-n-stripes; you were just the wrapping paper for those gifts, to be crumpled up and tossed aside. So you’ll never bake them apple pie again – who cares? They don’t need you for that anymore, and you can’t do anything else to them while you rot in jail. They’ve exercised their power to disregard your existence with impunity even as they benefited from you, which is the proof that they’ve exploited you.

          2. “To exploit someone, you have to benefit from them while devaluing them.”

            You do not know what the word “exploit” means. It is that simple.

            The reason I did not address each and every one of your points is that it would take more time than I would care to commit. Being ignorant of something is not the same as “devaluing.” That is just plain silly. “Benefitting” from something is not the same as “enjoying.” You “benefit” from the creation of the concept of zero, but you don’t necessarily know who invented it. Does that mean you’re “exploiting” them? It’s just nonsense. No one is “exploiting” anyone by eating food. No one is “devaluing” them simply by being unaware of their contributions. It is just complete nonsense.

            Go take a look at a diamond mine in Africa where they’re paid slave-level wages and then you’ll see what exploitation means. It has nothing to do with enjoying Mexican or Chinese food. Those miners probably wouldn’t care if people ate their food. Not even a tiny little bit. It doesn’t affect them at all. Exploitation does. And it’s something entirely different.

          3. Since I can’t find the “Reply” option on your last response to me, I’ll just quote it here to reply to it:

            > “You do not know what the word “exploit” means. It is that simple.”

            Okay, then let’s look at how the dictionary defines it:
            “use (a situation or person) in an unfair or selfish way.”
            “benefit unfairly from the work of (someone), typically by overworking or underpaying them.”

            My definition of exploit fits perfectly with the dictionary definitions. It explains what constitutes “unfairly benefiting” – benefiting while devaluing the benefactor.

            > “The reason I did not address each and every one of your points is that it would take more time than I would care to commit.”

            I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt that this is true, but if it were simply a matter of saving time by not addressing all of my points, couldn’t you respond only to the points where I actually disagreed with your assertions – like the examples about China that I used to disagree with your assertion that “people who say it’s about power only apply it to white people” – instead of addressing all my other points that didn’t actually disagree with you at all?

            > “Being ignorant of something is not the same as ‘devaluing.’ That is just plain silly.”

            I agree that being ignorant of something is not the same as devaluing it. And willfully ignoring something is not the same as being ignorant of something. If you choose to look the other way when the truth is presented to you (as Elvis and the Beatles presented the truth of black rock’n’roll musicianship to their audiences, who chose to continue ignoring that fact), then you are not being innocently and unintentionally ignorant; you are willfully and maybe maliciously choosing to ignore.

            > “ ‘Benefitting’ from something is not the same as ‘enjoying.’ ”

            Enjoyment is a type of benefit. Enjoying is a type of benefiting.

            > “You ‘benefit’ from the creation of the concept of zero, but you don’t necessarily know who invented it. Does that mean you’re ‘exploiting’ them? It’s just nonsense.”

            Again, there’s a difference between unintentional ignorance and willfully choosing to ignore. I’m not willfully choosing to ignore the existence of whoever invented zero, especially considering that it was independently developed multiple times in many different forms by many completely unrelated civilizations, all of which no longer exist. Even if I did willfully choose to ignore the existence of these zero inventors, I can’t exploit them because they no longer exist and so my devaluing of them can’t hurt them. If they did still exist today, and I had reason to believe that they may have invented zero but I chose to ignore that, THEN I would be devaluing them and potentially exploiting them.

            > “No one is ‘exploiting’ anyone by eating food.”

            Not by eating food in and of itself, no. Here’s the point I keep making and you keep ignoring: the act of appropriation must be COMBINED with the act of devaluation for it to be exploitative.

            > “No one is ‘devaluing’ them simply by being unaware of their contributions. It is just complete nonsense.”

            Indeed, which is why I did not use “simple unawareness” in any of my examples of devaluing. There was never any simple innocent unawareness at work in the failure to give black rock’n’roll musicians their due; the collective refusal to associate blacks with rock’n’roll was all very, very intentional:
            “Whereas artists like Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin were lauded for casting off the shackles of racial conformity, artists like those at Detroit’s Motown Records, whose R&B-to-pop crossover formula was the most significant American musical achievement of the decade, were often derided for being insufficiently black. As the 1960s wore on, cosmopolitan versatility among black artists was not heard as identity transcendence but rather as racial betrayal, in accusations that were frequently lobbed by white critics.”
            “when Jagger acknowledged that “it’s the system that’s sometimes wrong. Girl fans, particularly, would rather have a copy by a British group than the original American version—mainly, I suppose, because they like the British blokes’ faces.” Sexism aside, Jagger’s suggestion that the fans “like the British blokes’ faces” implies that the singer recognized that the Stones’ skin color had given them an undue advantage among audiences.”
            “The Stones’ embrace of satanic imagery was itself, of course, partly inspired by the blues tradition, where songs about the devil constitute a robust subgenre, although this lineage was often left out of mainstream press coverage that sought to portray the band as uniquely sinister.”
            (source: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2016/10/race_rock_and_the_rolling_stones_how_the_rock_and_roll_became_white.html)

            > “Go take a look at a diamond mine in Africa where they’re paid slave-level wages and then you’ll see what exploitation means.”

            Or, you know, those sweatshop workers I kept bringing up as an analogous situation to exploitative appropriation.

            Why do we call what happens to the diamond mine and sweatshop workers exploitative? Because, as per my definition, those who are benefiting from them are simultaneously devaluing them as people. And the devaluation takes the 3 forms I specified in my previous post: ignoring, suppressing, eliminating. The people who buy the commodities produced by the workers devalue those workers by willfully ignoring their existence and hence their entire predicament. The people who employ those workers devalue the workers by suppressing those workers’ existences through slave-level wages and eliminating their existences through preventable mass deaths caused by mine collapses or factory fires.

            > “It has nothing to do with enjoying Mexican or Chinese food.”

            It does if the Mexican food is the commodity and the Mexican people the producers of that commodity. Just as it’s possible to enjoy Mexican food without exploiting Mexicans, it’s also possible to enjoy diamonds and cheap clothes without exploiting Africans or Bangladeshis (fair trade, anyone?). But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also possible to enjoy diamonds and cheap clothes at the expense of Africans and Bangladeshis, just as it is also possible to enjoy Mexican food at the expense of Mexicans. Here’s a real-life example of the latter:

            “In the San Francisco Bay Area […] recent transplants to the area write Yelp reviews in search of “authentic Mexican food” without the “sketchy neighborhoods” […] The Yelpers are getting what they want, at least in terms of the neighborhood, as gentrification rapidly pushes people of color out of their homes, and white-owned, foodie-friendly versions of their favorite ‘ethnic’ restaurants open up.” (source: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/)

            Wanting real Mexican food in your neighborhood while kicking out the Mexicans who gave you that food (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYNuR1oaQts) is the same as wanting diamonds while underpaying and overworking the miners who gave you those diamonds.

            > “Those miners probably wouldn’t care if people ate their food. Not even a tiny little bit. It doesn’t affect them at all.”

            That’s because, again, their food is not the commodity that they are being exploited for. Nobody is devaluing their existence while benefiting from their cultural cuisine. Their exploiters are devaluing their existence while benefiting from their labor. But if said exploiters were to ignore/suppress/eliminate the Africans’ existences over their food instead of their diamonds – as has happened with Mexicans in San Francisco – it would be just as exploitative.

            > “Exploitation does. And it’s something entirely different.”

            Exploitation is, as the dictionary and I have said, unfairly benefiting from someone else by using them for your own gain while devaluing them. You can do this with diamonds and miners in Africa, clothing and sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, or Mexican food and Mexicans in San Francisco. The formula for exploitation is simple: value commodity + devalue (= ignore, suppress, eliminate) producers of said commodity. The commodity can be a culture-neutral thing like diamonds or T-shirts, or it can be a clearly cultural thing like ethnic dishes, and the formula remains just as valid either way.

            Here’s one more example of how a cultural commodity can be just as exploitative as a blood diamond:

            “several years ago scarves in the style of the keffiyeh, a popular headdress in some Middle Eastern countries, became a fashion trend and was suddenly wrapped around the necks of the young and trendy across the US. Yet, this happened at a time of heightened xenophobia and hate crimes against Middle Eastern, Arab, and Muslim people (and those thought to be so) within the US. While the keffiyeh is trendy in the dominant culture, if a man to whom it is culturally native had worn it as a headdress in the US, as it is meant to be worn, he would be marked as different and threatening, perhaps even a ‘terrorist.’ ” (source: http://sociology.about.com/od/Ask-a-Sociologist/fl/Cultural-Appropriation.htm)

            So non-Middle Eastern people in the U.S. get to wear keffiyeh because Middle Eastern people risked their personal safety to keep that tradition alive in the U.S. long enough for fashion trends to pick up on it, and yet the Middle Eastern people themselves still cannot safely wear keffiyeh. This is no different than people getting to wear diamonds because African miners risked their lives to extract those diamonds, and yet the miners themselves cannot own even the tiniest one of the diamonds. The benefit of the commodity goes entirely to one party while risk involved in obtaining the commodity goes entirely to another party; thus the former is exploiting the latter.

            —————————–

            Here’s the bottom line, Eytan:

            You are one of a minority of travel bloggers who isn’t afraid to openly connect your travels to your political and social views, and share the latter on the same platform as the former. That in and of itself is already extremely admirable, and I am well aware of the fact that my comments on the issue of cultural appropriation would not have been welcome on most other travel blogs. So thank you for not shying from contentious topics that are highly relevant to anyone interested in experiencing other cultures, and for giving others of us in the travel community a place to discuss such topics without being shut down.

            But you don’t just stop there. You take the next step, which is that the specific political and social views you express are views that emphasize respect for the people of foreign cultures, not merely enjoyment of the cultural commodities they produce. You have said in more than one post that the best part about visiting any foreign country is getting to know the locals; the people are what really make your trip. That makes you the polar opposite of the kind of people who appropriate culture exploitatively – you do cultural appropriation the right way, by valuing the people at least as much as if not more than you value their cultural products.

            And ironically, it’s the very mentality that makes you an ethical appropriator instead of an exploitative one that prevents you from acknowledging the existence of actual exploitative appropriators who are the polar opposite of you. Since you could never bring yourself to value a cultural product without valuing the people who gave it to you, you can’t imagine anyone else being able to do such a thing either, and therefore you can only insist that it is impossible, that people who value cultural products without valuing their producers don’t exist and therefore there is no valid concern about the potential for cultural appropriation to lead to exploitation.

            But it’s precisely because you’re such an ethical appropriator and such an outspoken advocate for treating the people of foreign cultures with kindness and respect that I feel you need to know that exploitative appropriators DO exist and that acknowledging their existence does not make you the same as them. The whole point of all my comments thus far has been to explain the existence of these people to you, and to clarify how their actions that seem on the surface identical to yours actually differ greatly in significant and often harmful ways.

            I firmly believe that you would want to stop or at least speak out against anyone who would mistreat the people of a foreign culture while reaping the benefits of that culture, but you can’t do that if you don’t acknowledge that such people exist or that such behaviors are even possible. So I’m just here to tell you that such terrible behaviors are not only very possible, but have happened and still happen today, and to prove my claim using both reasoning and specific real-life examples.

            You can of course choose to look the other way when presented with the factual existence of exploitative appropriation, but I believe that in the end you will discard your defensiveness and your fear of being lumped in with these exploiters, acknowledge their behaviors as antithetical to your goal of mutually-beneficial cultural exchange and understanding for all people, and challenge them to do better and be more like you.

            P.S. I just finished buying the tickets for my Europe trip in December! I still can’t thank you enough for your tips on packing light for cold weather. As someone who’s grown up in a very warm climate *cough*SoCal*cough* , I know next to nothing about staying warm in real cold (50F is icy to me), let alone doing it in a minimalistic way, but at the same time I really didn’t fancy the idea of paying extra to lug a giant suitcase full of coats around 5 countries. And then as if by magic, a single post or two from you immediately pointed me in the right direction for all of these issues. I’ve just about accounted for all the space in my backpack, and man does it feel good. Keep up the awesome work Snarks!

          4. I appreciate your comments toward the end, emphasizing the difference between appreciative and exploitative actions; however, I still disagree that using someone’s culture can be exploitative, in any way, ever. It is simply not possible. I’m 100% positive that all those blood diamond laborers would LOVE to swap their situation for one in which they don’t have to slave away in the mines, but someone wears a dashiki or whatever else as a fashion statement. It’s literally a strip of fabric worn on someone’s body. If you think that’s equivalent or in any remote way as damaging as paying terrible wages to reap enormous profits from that unappreciated and awful labor, then I can’t help you. It is so astronomically different that I don’t wish to address it further. I am fully aware of people who exploit other people for their labor. But wearing clothing or eating food…EVEN IF YOU THOROUGHLY DESPISE THE PEOPLE WHO INVENTED IT…does literally nothing to their lives. It’s the hatred and mistreatment that matter. The appropriation portion of it is beyond irrelevant.

  6. I’ve always enjoyed your article and I like this one as well. Sometimes this cultural appropriation thing just goes a little too far…
    Anyways, I just want to point out it’s Oberlin College, not University of Oberlin. It’s a very progressive and liberal college, so I’m not surprised this article came out.

    1. Yes, it’s very weird how far it’s gone…there’s even a whole movement to push against it now, who have anointed them the “Regressive Left,” which I think is a perfect title for them.

  7. Irish people appropriated corned beef from their Jewish neighbors in the lower east side of New York. It’s now considered a “traditional” St. Patrick’s Day meal!

    1. Also this little thing called MONOTHEISM. Gotta go back to worshipping nature spirits, and give up those potatoes you got from the Native Americans, too.

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