The concept of “cultural appropriation” is not the most pernicious of the current left-wing dogmas, but I consider it the most ridiculous. Cultural appropriation is defined by Wikipedia as “the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.” Another description for that phenomenon is world history.
It’s the most natural thing in the world for members of one culture to “appropriate” from other cultures that which they find attractive and/or useful. It’s also one of the main ways in which progress occurs. To condemn this practice is anti-progressive (or at least anti-progress) and, arguably, morally indefensible.
It is also spitting into the wind. Any intelligent person who has traveled, or simply read, extensively knows this.
I recently visited Japan. No people I know of “culturally appropriates” better than the Japanese. They achieved great things when they “appropriated” wisely.
Moreover, it’s odd, but also telling, to find the left opposing “cultural appropriation.” Leftists traditionally have been highly sympathetic to “one worldism” and highly antipathetic to tribalism.
Sophisticated leftists must be biting their tongues as they see the infantile left moaning about white students wearing hoop earrings, and so forth. The left needs shock troops, but troops like these aren’t just an embarrassment, they are a danger. At some point, they are bound to turn on their more sophisticated superiors. At that point, the left will complete its descent into stupidity and know-nothingism.
Michael Barone lampoons the concept of culture appropriation with “a modest proposal.” He writes:
[W]hat if Italian-Americans started objecting to cultural appropriation? What if, for example, Italian-Americans began complaining that Americans of non-Italian descent are appropriating Italian culture by consuming pizza and pasta?
The logical corollary would be to stamp out this hijacking of cultural heritage. In school lunchrooms, pupils would be required to show proof of Italian ancestry before getting a pizza slice. Supermarket checkout counters would require similar proof from putative pasta purchasers. Similarly for paninis at Panera Bread, chicken Parmesan at Olive Garden, etc.
Fortunately, modern technology makes this possible. Schoolchildren and supermarket shoppers could display their Ancestry.com profiles on their smartphones as readily as they already brandish student IDs or credit cards. Others, however stereotypically Italianate in appearance, would have to be politely but firmly informed that their ancestry bars them from partaking of cuisine their ancestors had no part in concocting.
Admittedly, this would be tough on proprietors of Italian restaurants, whose potential customer pool would be reduced by 95 percent. It would be tough on parents trying to raise children without serving the pizza and pasta they see their Italian-American playmates enjoying.
But you can’t make a frittata without breaking eggs. If appropriation of one culture is wrong, then appropriation of any culture is wrong.
I will leave readers to imagine all the possible extensions of this principle. Irish pubs, franchised worldwide by the Guinness folks, would find their clientele shrinking. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations would be smaller — and possibly quieter. Greektown festivals would disappear.
Today’s stern enforcers of the ukase against cultural appropriation will not, I suppose, be amused by this modest proposal. (Oops, I forgot that “ukase” is a Russian word.) They miss the irony that many of the folks who assure us that race is just a social construct, with no genetic significance, also insist that your genetic ancestry should determine what you can eat and wear, how you can exercise and style your hair.
Barone concludes with these words of wisdom:
American history is the story of one cultural appropriation after another, from English law to Thai cuisine, to our great mutual benefit. You shouldn’t have to submit a DNA sample to partake.