Cultural Appropriation Is Real

And There Is Nothing Wrong With It

Katy Perry Appropriating Japanese Culture — Still Image From 2013 Performance (YouTube)

Katy Perry recently sat down with DeRay McKesson, a civil rights/Black Lives Matter activist and failed Baltimore mayoral candidate to confess her past sins of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation, per the Oxford Living Dictionary, is defined as, “The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” Perry spoke to McKesson as if she was atoning for membership in the KKK rather than once wearing cornrows as a pop princess. She is apparently pretty woke now and beginning to understand her crimes.

Perry’s groveling is uncomfortable to watch. She lists her multiple culturally appropriated career fuck-ups, and one stood out in particular: She recounts her 2013 performance where she wanted to highlight her appreciation of Japanese culture by donning a traditional kimono, among other Japanese props for the performance. She apparently did not understand how “wrong” this was until people told her it was wrong. This left me wondering-who are these people?

Just last year, a popular Japanese YouTuber took to the streets soliciting the opinions of random Japanese citizens concerning Perry’s performance. What were their reactions? Disgust? Cries of racism? Condemnation of her despicable behavior? No. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, ranging from a young woman claiming she is glad that foreign people wear kimonos and adopt Japanese culture to a young man hilariously claiming that Japanese people are bad at expressing their own culture to the world, so he is happy to see foreigners doing it. Two young women described Perry’s performance as amazing and beautiful.

When these same people were told that the performance was criticized in the US, a few were able to vaguely guess why. When the concept of cultural appropriation was explained in further detail, they almost appeared confused as to why it is so controversial. While an eight-minute YouTube video is by no means a comprehensive study or overview of this issue and is admittedly anecdotal, it suggests what many already assume-charges of cultural appropriation generally originate from well-off Western liberals.

This is as equally stupid as it is embarrassing. Kylie Jenner was recently hit with charges of cultural appropriation for a camouflage tank top (why this is appropriation, along with who exactly Kylie Jenner is, remains a mystery to me). Two white American women were forced to close their burrito food cart in Portland because non-Mexicans making burritos is unacceptable. Last year, rock band Coldplay wrongfully appropriated not only Indian culture but India as a whole. Apparently treating India as an “exotic playground” for the filming of a music video is a major fucking problem. While I have not traveled to India, I have spent time in Laos, Burma, Cambodia, and other countries which certainly possess exotic landscapes and cultural aspects despite other areas plagued by poverty and underdevelopment. I fail to see what moral failing Coldplay is guilty of.

When people talk about “privilege” as a concept (often prefaced by the word white), and further claim that privilege is what prevents individuals like myself from understanding the harm of cultural appropriation, ironically, are the very ones bathing in privilege. It is only when someone’s life is so privileged that they possess the spare time necessary to feign outrage over Katy Perry wearing a kimono or white women selling burritos. This is peak liberal stupidity, and it needs to stop. For those participating in this stupidity, be careful what you wish for as culture that isn’t appropriated may very well disappear.