Alt-Right wingers love to make fun of woketavists or social justice warriors like me. They love to taunt us by calling us things like snow-flakes. These are the ones who both peddle the lie of white superiority and deny white privilege. Less extreme version of these openly hateful people are the younger, more sophisticated variety who do things like host Cinco de Mayo parties at their all White sororities, or wear Native American headdresses to Coachella. The two groups may be at opposite ends of a spectrum, but they have a few things in common. Primarily, they both get very upset if you accuse them of cultural appropriation. Now, before I go any further I will openly admit that there have been times I intentionally and unintentionally appropriated culture (e.g., wearing a bindi because I saw Gwen Stefani do it and thought it was cool–I was maybe 12 years old). All of us appropriate culture, it’s just part of human nature. That said, we also need to talk about the fact that it is just wrong.
If you think I get upset about the History channel’s mistreatment of the Mexican-American war (see Day 4), how do you think I feel when I see a bunch of sorority sisters donning sombreros to celebrate a “holiday” they don’t understand? I’ve learned not to say anything though. I don’t participate, but I also try to hide my side eye which says a lot because I know how to give it in a very obvious way.
The thing that’s personally so angering about cultural appropriation, when done by very WASPy White people, is that it’s done by the oppressor. The same person who thinks every cleaning person is named Rosa, or who thinks that agricultural labourers are dirty Mexicans, is also wearing a traditional Mexican hat and talking about how much she loves Mexican food. It’s the two-faced nature of the beast that kills me: a group happy to consume the culture, but refusing to appreciate the people that it comes from. It’s really no different from the people who profit off the backs of the marginalized and then try to get away with paying less for more.
Chapters 5 & 6 of “How to be an Antiracist” brought up a lot of these feelings in me–things I’m usually too afraid to say and am even now I’m shying away from. Chapter 5’s discussion on Bodily Racism sets the stage for Chapter 6’s breakdown of Cultural Racism. This was the first time I had read a formal presentation of either idea. I was saddened to learn of how as a Black teenage boy, Kendi was being taught to fear his and others’ Black bodies. The entire world had been subjected to political programming that Black people were inherently violent.
“We, the young Black super-predators, were apparently being raised with an unprecedented inclination toward violence–in a nation that presumably did not raise White slaveholders, lynchers, mass incarcerators, financiers, drunk drivers, and war hawks to be violent.”
Important to note that Kendi presents critical evidence that debunks this idea, showing that once neighborhoods are normalized to unemployment rates, Black neighborhoods are actually safer than White ones. This is an important time to add that it is well documented that even in the scientific community, supposedly full of bright and rational people, it is harder for someone with a “Black sounding” (whatever that means) name to get a call back for an interview than for someone with a “White sounding” name. Not to mention White kids are more likely to have a family member who is willing to provide a summer work experience. Either of these factors is an example of White privilege. All together, you have a system where Black youth have a harder time finding work, and thus resort to violence, making it seem like Black youth are more violent.
This is the reason Kendi inspired the formalization of my own anger over cultural appropriation. Black culture is voraciously consumed by White Americans. Yet simultaneously, Black people are being demonized and beaten down by an entire society that ignores any evidence that doesn’t support their racist claims. If I have to hear one more Alt-Right winger talk about how “White privilege doesn’t exist because they worked their a** off to get where they are and that anyone else could do the same because this is a great country full of equal opportunity” (this rhetoric is called the Myth of Horatio Algiers by the way–it’s an idea based off a children’s book from the 1800’s).
America is not the land of equal opportunity, because not everyone has the same opportunities. If you are a Black youth from an inner city neighborhood, you are more likely to be unemployed. This is because potential employers judge your appearance, your speech, you mannerisms–things that are inextricably linked to your culture. They judge your culture, and judge whether or not your culture fits their culture. If you’re not a good fit, they don’t hire you. The fact that White culture has demonized Black culture is precisely why we need antiracism. The only remedy for cultural racism, is cultural antiracism. We must respect and honor each other’s differences in culture. We need multiculturalism. This is the real danger of assimilation. Assimilation is just yielding power to the oppressor, backing down and saying, “you win.” And I say that as a half-Chicana woman in STEM who has a history of trauma. I’ve done my fair share of assimilating to fit the norm and try to not make waves. I guess I’d rather advocate for multiculturalism and antiracism than telling others they need to assimilate. That’s how we protect diversity.
Moderately easy day today. I took the climbing at a slow and steady pace. Trying to conserve some energy for this weekend. Another 2805 vertical feet down. 14810 to go.