Cultural Appropriation Bingo: proving your comments are unoriginal and ignorant

April 22, 2010 — 16 Comments
 (Awesome bingo card made by Dr. Sheila Addison)

On all the fantastic articles on cultural appropriation that have been making the rounds these past couple of days (Threadbared has a awesome round up here, I definitely recommend a look), the comments are getting heated. People are getting defensive, people are throwing the “omg it’s just fashion, get over it!” card, and people are getting downright nasty. I think the worst offenders so far have come on Jessica Yee’s post over at Bitch Magazine–I couldn’t even make it through the whole comment thread I was so angry.

a couple of highlights:

Oh please.
This is like saying its not cool to eat pizza unless you’re Italian. Or only the French can drink champagne. Learn to share your heritage. Stop holding on so tightly.
My ancestors weren’t even around before the 1900′s. They didn’t kill your ancestors. Get over it.

ugh. I get that one a lot. and my new favorite response (thanks jezebel) “Dear anonymous commenter, YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE IS SHOWING.”  By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally so your ancestor who came in the 1900′s could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to you. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a white, suburban community? yes. absolutely. but by dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today. This could be a whole post in itself, so I’ll stop there.

..ok, you know what? I’m not even going to post any others. These people aren’t worth it. head over to the thread if you really want to read it. The article is here.

I’m proud of Jess. Her points are things that bother me everyday. She has every right to be angry, and she doesn’t need to apologize for her article, her tone, or her points. It’s a voice that needs to be heard. 

So why am I posting this? Not only to point out the ignorance of commenters on the internet, we all knew that already, but to point out how cliched and cyclical this conversation is. That awesome bingo card? made at least a year ago. This, sadly, isn’t new. These arguments continue to be brought up, and marginalized voices speaking out continue to be dismissed.

That’s why I’m so glad there have been so many articles out on the internet, even in the few months since I started this project. It seems like the issue is being raised again and again, and the word is getting out. But how outrageous and offensive does it have to get before people stop and take notice? Rolling on the floor in a sacred war bonnet on national television (looking at you Ke$ha)? giving yourself a fake “Indian” name for the sake of publicity (that’s you Speidi)? Mocking religious practices and calling them “Bro Therapy” (thanks Details)?

It’s not ok. It’s just not.

So go ahead, pick an article, any article, and head over armed with your brand new “Cultural Appropriation Bingo Card”. Believe me, you’ll be a winner in no time.

Threadbared roundup: http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/linkage-the-feather-in-your-native-cap/

Jessica’s Bitch Magazine article: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/to-the-hipstershippies-on-native-culture-%E2%80%93-please-stop-annoying-the-fuck-out-of-me

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04310239386507062248 Marshall B.

    Thanks so much for posting this- I’ve recently started reading up on Native culture, partially because a roommate from Montana gave me some of Sherman Alexie’s books, and partially because I feel personally at a loss, as a history student, for the narrow view of American history I’ve received at college. it strikes me as sad, but not at all surprising, that other people’s opinions are, “just get over it, “etc. It seems very reactionary and unreflective- it’s clear that they’re displacing their own guilt (or even the option for feeling guilt) by telling YOU its YOU’RE fault, as well as compartmentalizing white power and privilege as something in the past (why can’t you just get over it, etc). Until I read this blog, I didn’t think much of native appropriations, I have a pair of moccasins, I dressed up as Pochahantas for halloween (we were disney princesses), but reading your blog with an OPEN mind has taught me to challenge that- if other white people (and other non-native people) could approach this topic FIRST by admitting how LITTLE they know, and how inaccurate what they do know is, maybe they could begin to learn, rather than re-immerse themselves in white privilege.

    I am also sorry that it falls you you and other bloggers, not the school system, to try to educate these people- confronting not only the dominant culture and what it says about your culture would be tiring alone, but also dealing with combative white people who insist that its “no big deal” is a double-whammy.

    As someone who grew up playing “cowgirls and indians” with her sister, and read all the Little House books, I will think very long and hard before I pass on ANY images of native culture onto my kids. Thanks for all that you do-

  • http://www.thedeviatednorm.blogspot.com/ TheDeviantE

    Hey, (came from Shakesville), thanks for this. I’ve been meaning to write a post about my own struggle as a white person to acknowledge that certain hairstyles (dreads, mohawks) are appropriative. This is the reminder I need to get off my ass and just do it already.

  • Dreidel

    Adrienne: How can you honestly claim that the knee-jerk, silencing, and dismissive yell, “YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE IS SHOWING!!” is any less unoriginal (or less ignorant) than any of the items you have listed on your “Cultural Appropriation Bingo” card?

    One could just as easily create a “Race Faux-victim Whining Bingo” card with variations of boring statements from your own side, such as, “You can’t understand my culture, so how dare you try,” followed by “How dare you not try to understand my culture, are you a racist?,” etc., including an all-capital letters square reading “MY FAUX-VICTIMIZATION MINORITY PARANOIA IS SHOWING BADLY.”

    Believe me — being a jerk who thinks you can silence, dismiss, erase everyone with an opinion different than yours by trite putdowns on a silly card works both ways. Your side, no matter how self-righteous, has no monopoly on that.

  • Tesria

    Dreidel – While I do think someone saying they’re trying to appreciate the culture possibly deserves a more gentle “then LEARN about it first”, because a lot of people may do it with good intentions and not know better (not that it’s another person’s job to educate them, but I see this kind of thing mostly from young people who need it pointed out that their information is WRONG), I think everything else on that bingo card pretty much deserves Adrienne’s response. They’re not questions, they’re statements, brought to a blog where someone is speaking their mind and intended to silence. They’re not looking for dialogue, so not engaging them is the best thing she can do.

    As to your “faux-victimization minority paranoia” argument, I threw up in my mouth a little reading it. I mean seriously, do you think racism doesn’t exist or something? I’ve got some news for you: Your priviledge is showing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09143718419173352054 Cosine

    Dreidel? Your privilege is showing.

    This is often where I get stuck, as a white person who wants to be an ally. Most of my efforts seem to be in pointing out, “I’m not of of those white people.” But being an ally isn’t about proving to marginalized people that I’m an ally. It’s about actually doing the things that an ally should do, like avoiding all the things in the cultural appropriation bingo card or pointing out to other white people when they’re saying or doing something that contributes to oppression.

    So, I repeat: Dreidel, your privilege is showing, as is your total assholery. “Race Faux-victim Whining Bingo”, are you kidding me? That was disgusting.

  • Dreidel

    Tesria – Sure, racism exists. So does self-righteous paranoia that sees every innocent remark or harmless action as an excuse to explode in anger. You’re correct that the responses on the “Cultural Appropriation Bongo” aren’t looking for dialogue, but who wants to attempt further dialogue with an aggrieved “victim” (or their self-appointed spokesperson) who’s screaming “racist” or “privilege” in your face? Calling someone (or their status or even their entire race) “racist” and “privileged” is itself silencing, dismissive language. As I noted in my earlier post, these techniques work both ways.

    As for my “privilege,” I’m part Cherokee, raised as and recognized as white, just like Adrienne. I could also call myself a “We,” if I chose to make that small part of my heritage the end-all, be-all of my life, and go on a crusade against everything and everybody that “offended” me. If choosing not to go that route is a “privilege,” I’ll take it without guilt. I have other, equally noble battles to fight.

    Cosine – So you feel the need to implicitly apologize for your race. (After all, you’re “not of THOSE white people.”) It’s interesting how you’ve combined a sense of moral superiority with a neurotic guilt over a past for which you had absolutely no control.

    BTW, the term “faux-victim whining” doesn’t refer to genuinely marginalized people. It’s a description of the behavior of their smug, hate-filled, self-appointed, privileged “saviors.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09143718419173352054 Cosine

    Dreidel – That’s the point: There’s no such thing as ‘those white people’ as opposed to ‘these white people’. Some may be more bigoted in certain ways than others, but a lot of that stems from classism, the sense of “Shh, don’t say such things – we’re not white trash,” or “Only hillbilly rednecks would use that word, and we are so much better than that.”

    All white people contribute to oppression simply by enjoying the benefits of our privilege. I may have no control over what happened in the past, but I benefit from the legacy of that past.

    While Cherokee might be a ‘small part of’ your heritage’, nevertheless your privilege is showing. If you actually look at the bingo card, and then re-read your comments, you might notice that you’re close to shouting ‘BINGO’ and collecting your asshole prize.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11598226634064177736 Athenia

    Urgh, I hate it when people bandy the word “privilege” around like it’s some dirty secret–like it’s the equivilant of calling someone a racist.

    Different people come with different privileges.

  • http://mightydoll.livejournal.com/ mightydoll

    My ancestors weren’t around before 1900? So at some point this person’s great (or great great) grandparents sprung forth out of the ether, with neither mother nor father?

  • Anonymous

    mocking religious practices = always okay

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07094893585913178810 Kayleigh

    I think that a lot of my fellow European Americans are prisoners of their own culture and upbringing. A lot of modern white culture is very hollow, and looking back to what our own cultures were like before Christianity broke Europe requires a reversal of harmful mental programming. (We’re told that our ancestors were promiscuous hicks who sacrificed babies in the fields, you know.)

    I’m sure that liaising with feel-good Hollywood stereotypes is much more pleasant and that those comments are just rationalizations of some individuals’ inner weaknesses. Speaking out against it is really important, but maybe educating people about similar traditions in their OWN marginalized cultures would mitigate the awful behavior.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02093754152700969546 lesliekate

    Thank you for posting this, and actually for addressing these issues on a regular basis with this blog.

  • http://elusis.livejournal.com/ elusis

    Hey, my pic seems to have disappeared from my LJ gallery, possibly because of hotlinking (I’m not sure – I opened a support request about it). In the meantime, there’s a hosted version here and maybe you could grab a copy and host it on your own space so it would stay with your great post? I’m really glad for you to feature my Bingo card and send people here to read your post often.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04901157820779687718 Adrienne K.

    @Elusis–I’m so sorry, I didn’t even realize it was hotlinked! That is so not my style. I re-posted the image, thanks so much for letting me know, and for letting me use it! It’s the best teaching tool on the internet about the issue, in my opinion. :)

  • K8

    Yargh. Listen, I’m sorry I’m white, OK?

    Is there anything I’m allowed to do or say or wear without offending someone?

    What if “white culture” doesn’t represent me? Should I wear GAP clothes and go to Friday Night football games because they represent my culture? Yuck.

    Please explain to me how I can learn from people who are different than me without offending them.

  • K8

    Yargh. Listen, I’m sorry I’m white, OK?

    Is there anything I’m allowed to do or say or wear without offending someone?

    What if “white culture” doesn’t represent me? Should I wear GAP clothes and go to Friday Night football games because they represent my culture? Yuck.

    Please explain to me how I can learn from people who are different than me without offending them.