This isn’t a new phenomenon among Asian youth. There are Korean pop stars sporting Black protective styles as a way to follow trends and fit an image with their music, Japanese youth transforming into their own versions of Black people with a sub-culture of “B-Style,” Indonesian rapper Rich Chigga using the n-word both as a combination with his stage name and in the song that skyrocketed him to American fame, and a “Vine” star turned “Love and Hip Hop” cast member using Black culture to her advantage (and taking on a racist stereotypical Asian caricature for comedy) and then attacking Black people for calling out her use of AAVE and protective styles.
Trust me, Black people want for all POC to get along and fight White supremacy as a collective, but y’all don’t know how to act! Black culture shouldn’t be an outlet for anyone to express their rebellion, as if blackness is inherently deviant.
This use of Black culture is a disrespect not only for the Black and Latin creators of hip-hop, but to your fellow Black POC, who only have hip-hop as the last standing thing that is recognized as unequivocally Black in nature and creation.
Museum of Northern Arizona exhibit challenges views of Native American art
“You Are On Indian Land” exhibit at Museum of Northern Arizona addresses cultural appropriation, stereotypes and sovereignty
A white person I know and love once sent me a Bitmoji that said “Bye, Felicia,” and I stared at it for a minute, wondering what I had done wrong. The blonde cartoon posed with hands sassily on hips, the catchphrase spread playfully beneath. I felt my stomach freeze up. Slowly, it dawned on me that my friend thought she was just saying “goodbye.” I asked her about it. She had no idea at all where the phrase originated.
Not knowing where something comes from is not a crime. But before responding, I spent some time thinking about how moments like this come to be. A person who never saw Friday, whose relationship to black culture is tangential at best, uses an app that furnishes lots of cute sayings. Maybe she’s seen #byefelicia in a comment on Facebook or Instagram, typed by a black woman she knows from college under a particularly ridiculous Trump quote. It seems fun and harmless, so she starts using it herself and never thinks about it again. “Bye, Felicia” is no longer a pointed moment from a meditation on hood life. It is no longer from anywhere. By the time it reaches her, it’s just something from the internet.
This is what happens when bits of a culture are snatched up, repackaged, and separated from their context. It’s as though people are buying stolen goods from a reputable store. The initial crime of theft is scrubbed away, hidden behind whimsical fonts and bright colors. It is, in essence, the fencing of pilfered intellectual property. And it’s a key part of how our cultural order is maintained. If everyone in America started being really honest about how and where the language we use came from and how it got here, where would it end? What else would we have to admit was stolen?
This thought came back to me the other day when I heard Meghan Trainor’s megahit single “NO” in my car. It starts with a sung intro setting up the song’s narrative theme, namely that the dude fixing his face to holler at Trainor in the club is about to get all types of rejected. In fact, the scrub can’t even get a word out before she sings, “But let me stop you there.” Trainor delivers this line in a noticeably weird tone. She actively chooses to leave off the “t” sound in “but” and replaces the “th” in “there” with a “d,” making the line sound closer to bu lemme stop you dere. It sounds forced coming from her, as though she were practicing a language she just recently learned.
Learning more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter is cool until it
becomes the wizarding world of cultural appropriation. These new houses
from the magic school in North America? Yeah they all get their names
and traits from indigenous culture and religion. J.K. Rowling has no
right to these narratives and no business encouraging non-native people
like myself to identify with the Thunderbird, Great Horned Serpent,
Wampus, or Pukwudgie.
month, we talked about the techniques of erasure that fandom uses to
decentralize people of color in popular media and prop up white (and
often male) characters. We covered techniques from rewriting the
relationships between characters to distancing characters of color from
white characters they’re often shipped with.
It’s been a long month full of conversations about shipping and race.
Many of these comments have been insightful and almost all of the
responses that I have received so far have been positive.
This month, we’re looking at aspects of cultural appropriation in
fandom and the ways that fandom frequently takes the culture and history
of real and marginalized people and applies them to white characters.
In addition to defining cultural/historical appropriation and
discussing why they’re not cool, we’ll also be looking at specifics like
the use of horrific events in history (the Holocaust and the
Transatlantic Slave Trade) as background/scenery for ship within fandom,
and the Alpha/Beta/Omega trope and how fans tend to coopt and mutate
actual history in order to manufacture gender/race –based oppression for
cis white male characters.
Remember to read the content notes! I’ve tried to be inclusive and respectful but if I have missed the mark in any way, please get in touch with me and we can talk! If you need to get in touch with me over something in the piece, using the contact form on my blog is the best way to get a response!
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