The Confusing Thing About Appropriation

So, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately about our current political

climate here in the U.S. Specifically, I’ve been wondering about the things

that have led us to this unique juncture that we have now. Have certain

things in the ecosystem enabled certain thoughts & behaviours to persist &

escalate to this point or have they caused those thoughts & behaviours to

remain at a standstill? What about the thoughts & behaviours that prevent

toxic thoughts & behaviours? But more importantly, how have a contributed

to , exploited , remained neutral or stood up to those behaviours ( given my

own unique set of advantages & disadvantages ) ? In other words, how

culpable have I been?

These questions have only beget even more questions. And so, I am

exploring them here to share, think out loud & open up the

dialogue to you, dear reader. I’ve observed lately, instances of

misappropriation ( and the subsequent indignation & offense ) . And up

until now, those have included ( but are not limited to) ideas & terms in

economics, history & interpretations of our government documents. Would

this, then, reveal a shallow understanding or respect for the above

mentioned topics combined with the lack of effort in bothering to learn

before speaking? What about the environment in which attributions were

possible? Were they? If so, why weren’t they made?

But most importantly ( to me ) , would these occurrences be disrespectful to

those that actually had made the necessary sacrifices ( time, energy &

resources that otherwise could be devoted to focus in other countries,

relationships etc, ) to fully research & understand the above concepts? The

cost. And would other misappropriations ( whether in the same industry

with the same stakes or not ) perhaps have paved the way, enabled and / or

normalised these behaviours?

I’ve always been a great fan of music. And lately, this soft-spoken blogger

has been listening to music when she doesn’t feel like talking. There’s value,

I think, in listening. And so, I go to my usual suspects. My two constants

have been Itunes & Youtube ( though when I do break out of my habits, I’m

always delighted by the Amazon Music app ). I have also explored

Soundcloud & Spotify. The music I listen to, really depends on my mood &

the tasks that I’m doing. This can range from classical ( my background ) ,

to dance / EDM , rock, pop, hip-hop, rap & ambient music.

For my musical inclinations , I have regularly listened to the music of Katy

Perry, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Iggy Azalea ,Macklemore , Justin Bieber ,

Beyoncé , Lily Allen , Lorde & Gwen Stefani ( these days I think any

appropriation would be that of Blake Shelton, with his permission ) .

And in further exploration of appropriation, I have come across a collection

of interesting parts here. This is from the Huffington Post :

It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed. “

“ If you are a sensitive and respectful individual, the only time it is OK, is with permission or authorization by the origin culture.”

The implications of her performance are most accurately read by those on the receiving end of the stereotyping; Katy Perry might be the sweetest person in the whole Midwest, but she doesn’t get to decide if she was being offensive.”

This from Vice :

“ …their humanity denied and art mimicked. “

“ The protests in the States and abroad — and the wildly uneven, unnecessarily brutal police response to them — have been symptomatic of a disease, the acuteness of which has been revealed in the wake of high-profile cases of state violence against people of color with no resultant culpability. If you’re going to dress like us and rap like us, you’re god damn right we’re gonna be heated if there’s no apparent effort to give credit where it’s due and acknowledge our dignity.”

“ By not breaking character and acknowledging the debt they owe to the culture, these artists are exacerbating the problem. They do not function in a vacuum. And what may seem like benign flattery in the form of imitation can be more accurately described as densely camouflaged anti-blackness that is part of a complex, if old-as-dirt, system of simultaneous whitewashing and othering.”

And this from The Atlantic :

“A Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface, I am just in acceptance over it, because something is better than nothing,” Cho wrote. “I am so sick of not existing, that I would settle for following any white person around with an umbrella just so I could say I was there.”

“ The performers’ make-up does little to combat Cho’s anxieties about blackface, and while Perry’s skin-exposing interpretation of the kimono could have been more sexualized, it’s these kind of stereotypical visuals that plays into white fetishization of Asian women — something Perry doesn’t have to deal with when she takes off her costume.”

Or this from Rolling Stone :

“ Svati Kirsten Narula wrote, “ Whether people ‘ should ‘ be offended by it or not doesn’t matter; the fact that some people are offended by it does.” She wasn’t writing about pop music — she was actually writing about backlash to the Washington Redskins’ team name. “

From Jezebel :

“ Yes, you can appreciate a culture that you didn’t grow up in. Yes, you can pay homage to a culture that you didn’t grow up in. But that does come with a certain responsibility, especially if you’re going to use that culture to profit you and you alone.”

I mean, it’s one thing for kids who fight in the comments section of YouTube and who use “gay” as an insult to take offense at what you’re doing; but when it’s highly intelligent writers, all of whom you respect, you start to question what you’re doing and if you have done something wrong. I have grown up in a time when rap music is pop music, and I do think people were maybe a little bit selective about the parts of that song they used to make those arguments, because a lot of it is examples of rock excess, or just standard pop culture “rich kids of Instagram”-type excess. But I’m glad that people are having discussions about it and informing me about it.”

Also, perhaps relevant, this from Harper’s Bazaar :

But here’s something utterly puzzling that happened simultaneously during

this strange phenomenon of “ appropriations .” A posted gym video from

someone I don’t personally know, curiously timed within a few hours after I

used a hashtag on Twitter that I was excited about , something like

“ National Rollercoaster Day “ to which I enthusiastically gushed that a

friend of mine was a dancer/ performer at Disneyland & I always enjoyed

learning to dance from him & supporting his endeavors. ( This was at a time

when my mother’s health took a turn & it was a comfort/ consolation prize

that I hadn’t seen him. So I did the best I could to support him to the best of

my ability).

The video, as reposted by me on my Instagram account 13 week ago

( although it was originally posted by artist Mia Moretti of Chez

Conversations in August of 2016 ). A day after, I found out my mother

needed heart surgery. A few days after that, it was my mother’s birthday.

She had a nice surprise video for her birthday which brings new meaning to

the saying “ wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

What is especially puzzling is that not only is it not me, but it’s also not

anyone I know, nor is it at any gym I recognize…and I don’t go to gyms, I go

to yoga & dance studios. But…some of the comments on that original post

included comments along the lines of “ If only this were ( Insert the name of

gym where my friend worked ) .”

Other similar interesting posts found :

Here’s something I posted in remembrance of those affected by the Holocaust :

And something found on the web not long after :

And a lack of attribution/ appropriation from The Royal Opera House, Royal Ballet School & National Ballet:

Here are some interesting news in politics :

http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36832095

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/19/melania-trumps-speech-appears-to-have-cribbed-from-michelle-obamas-in-2008/

Which leads me to this interesting question from Complex :

‘ Xu cites academic Lisa Nakamura’s theory of “identity tourism”: “Is someone playing at an identity in a way that makes it inaccessible for the people who actually have it?’

This assertion from Complex made me more curious as to the details as to

the what, how & why of a trend :

“ Consider the rise of supposedly anti-Muslim hate crimes perpetrated against Sikh Americans and immigrants.”

It led me to this Washington Post article :

And some more perspective/ angles :

http://www.teenvogue.com/story/katy-perry-slammed-for-posting-instagram-meme-of-hindu-goddess

And this from the Jewish Journal :

And in exploring the whole picture/ illustration ( ecosystem) right down to

the soil that nurtures us, it made me wonder too, what benevolent reasons

would there be for these ideas & behaviours? I find this Washington Post

podcast on Itunes intriguing . ( The context is that my high school in terms

of diversity was almost uniform in that the few people who were different,

specifically the mixed race students were adored & very popular. Meaning,

they went to prom were given titles).

But complementary to this context that reveals the place, time &

circumstances of my personal story, is the question of who decides whether

something bothers someone or not? ( In retrospect , after learning of

extraneous feuds, after the fact that your friend’s business was impacted &

moves out of country . The friends that did see the posts, get upset & stop

wanting to use the platforms & see it as “ Oh well, I’ll just stop going on

these platforms & email if I have to.”

People ( general I know) that aren’t technologists aren’t going to

understand, see, or care about the competition between this or that

platform. Especially if their immediate circle isn’t that proficient. They’re not

under the same peer pressure to know how to use it . If you were dsylexic (

I’m not, some entertainers are though ) & you were more charismatic in

person or got more attention on the beach…wouldn’t you spend more time

there? What about after long rehearsals , behind stage where people were

swarming you? How likely is it that the person is going to say “ No dear ,

hold on , I’ve got to check my phone?”

I’ve been to dinners with friends where we were required to turn off our

phones. I was surprised. So they might not care about feuds between the

pop stars in popularity contests . In application to this incident, if they

barely wanted to use the device & app in the first place, the immediate

reaction will be to block, disengage & conflate with “ This is the problem

with the internet. I don’t have time for this. I have 8 hour rehearsals & a 30

minute break for lunch. Accounting for traffic, I might just have time to ask

out that person that passing by me .”

And in the long term, as was applicable here, even see it as “ This is how

America is. I need to move.” And when my mom got heart palpitations after

seeing a video of a stranger, I felt it unfair & in my humble opinion not

productive to drag other people unknowingly into your feuds & punish

people for talking about their own friends online the day before the doctor

tells their mom they need surgery). Anyways, If I’m a public figure , do I

only have to listen to my son in law’s views of policies ( and the behaviours

that ensue in reaction ) to that regarding the population of the Jewish

diaspora? Or does that extend to other family members , friends & those on

my payroll/ that I’ve partnered in business with? No one else right? Would

those involved be considered guilty by assocations or accomplices? Since I

do have quite an imagination, let’s try a thought experiment. Disclosure:

great patience is required in humouring me in these because these are

things I wouldn’t have in me to do.

What if…one day I posted a photo of fish & chips online. Then another day,

I post bangers and mash. Someone then either reposts/ interacts with me

online or walks up to talk to me. So I react. “ No, not you. Here. Here’s a

unflattering photo of a person unrelated to you sitting in a pub.” BUT, it

would be OK because I had a British friend and/or someone who was on

payroll, but they were not offended & approved/ agreed that it was not

unwarranted nor did it prevent justice & tolerance. Just a joke/ being goofy.

Right? I could also try interacting with them in public to show that I only

reserved that kind of behaviour for some people, not all.

Or how about this. What if one day, I posted a photo of shakshuka. Then

another day, and they were not offended & approved/ agreed that it was

also fair/ in good fun did it prevent justice & tolerance. Right?

Or…this. What if one day, I posted a photo of Shakshuka. Then,

another day, Challah. Some similar resulting reaction to which I would

respond with “ No, not you, but here’s a photo of graffiti on an

unrelated location to you graffiti on the wall. BUT, I would have a relative

and/or someone on payroll that decreed that it did not hinder justice or

tolerance. I guess everything would be fine?

Or, me this time, posting a photo of curry, then a lassi, then a Hindu

goddess. Again, same thing, would have a relative and /or friend/ person on

payroll.

Last but not least, same type of scenario, but with chicken & waffles, grits

me posting a photo of an unrelated person to you, hanging out with your

cousin. In the thought experiment, onlookers would buy that right? If people

like my neighbour ( who maybe through a combination of her experiences in

China combined with experiences here were politically apathetic , even

harboring toxic resentment ) saw interactions like this, what would be the

imagined effect? Would it make them more politically engaged or react &

engage with another political party ? Or what about the unique situation

Eddie Huang talks about re: his mom not voting in this past election? ( I

read his book, like his show & concede re: his own appropriations in the

Complex article. I think that is for another post though, if any of you would

like me to explore that).

Here’s the podcast where he talks about that & how he views empathy from

different people:

https://www.acast.com/themashupamericans/eddie-huang-would-like-a-word

Back to the above scenarios I imagined though. The onlookers wouldn’t be

emboldened in any way if they had these inclinations in the first place? The

social epidemic ( I have observed some ambivalence with Malcom Gladwell’s

works but still think worth mentioning here) wouldn’t extend to other

persons of color and/or religions to say, mosques in Quebec? And there

would be no mixups & detrimental implications for other persons of color at

the airports?

And my questions get even more complicated now…what if I were a public

figure and actively made known that I was an activist here to promote

justice, diversity & peace ( these are all fine in & of itself) , but then engaged

in any of the above behaviours. Then paraded their token family member/

friend/ employee later, volunteered/ held fundraisers/ donated to another

group of people? Would that then warrant my other behaviours?

This blogger who grew up in an autistic household, genuinely wants to

know. Because from the limited information that I have , that would be as if

I kept on talking loudly about how I’m a great cook. Then once someone

made plans with me, I’d either not show up or present a store-bought dish.

That wouldn’t be puzzling at all, right?

Here’s another great read ( I saved my favourite for last ) . I read Sheryl

Sandberg’s whole series of articles for the NY Times with Adam Grant &

found them to be authentic, insightful & courageous. In this article, my

experience falls in the minority re: the not statistically true part ( thus far,

my worst boss was a woman). But I find this part particularly intriguing

“ Research shows that in male-dominated settings, token women are more

likely to worry about their standing, so they’re reluctant to advocate for

other women. A talented woman presents a threat if there’s only one seat for

a woman at the table. A marginally qualified woman poses a different type

of threat : “Hiring you will make me look bad. ”

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/opinion/sunday/sheryl-sandberg-on-the-myth-of-the-catty-woman.html

The context in which I’ve had these questions is that growing up with my

autistic dad ( and accomodating mom ) , I observed that the truth was the

truth. Example , if my mom was going to the doctor, it didn’t matter to her

if it was her neighbour who had already given her reason not to answer. The

“ The truth was the truth. Her answer to her neighbour would be the same

that day, as the answer would be to her sister, as it would be to her “ friend.”

And to my dad “ Two plus two makes four. Acid plus base makes

water plus a salt.” Referenced from this at Stanford :

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRBqtoEh7kQ/?taken-by=dslconnect

What this meant for me in adulthood was that when I was approached to

take care of high-maintenance clients by making appointments, answering

their seemingly shallow questions, etc. , I took care of them to the best of

my training & how I saw fit for their own personal growth. Same goes for

the friend who I told “ That show / telecast was too long, a lot of people

might not watch that.” Never has it crossed my mind to give (or obscure ) a

different answer than the one I would have given in the first place based on

whether I wanted to get from the situation. ( Nor has it occurred to me to

negate/ deflect someone else’s analysis or opinion or even engage in smear

campaigns based on what company the person happened to have ties to. I

also don’t even enable family members that are rude to ____ & don’t want to

be held accountable ) . Imagine a family that enabled so much that…

And when I volunteered ( politics ), I didn’t omit, angle, obscure,

persuade for my own self-interest, I was fully concentrated on the person in

front of me. And I took people at their word because I gave them mine in

the way I was conditioned.

In college too , the guy who asked about the guest list for this or that event.

And me knowing full well, that * Samantha would be there, I still responded

with the truth, combined with whatever I felt would be in his self-interest.

Because the truth is the truth. And anything or anyone that I could obtain

by obscuring/ misleading from that? I wouldn’t want that. It wouldn‘t feel

real & I wouldn’t be proud. And I probably wouldn’t able to sleep at night

living with that either. So, although I do feel that we’re not in high school

anymore & that our actions can be nuanced & complicated re: those that

actively seek the spotlight & those that haven’t & had previously been

focusing on their cancer survivor of a mom preparing for heart surgery &

autistic, diabetic dad & family , I‘d like to better understand what happened,

is happening & know how I can be a more authentic, responsible citizen that

actually contributes to justice & peace in the society which I feel are integral

to social responsibility in business. And given the random ( and probably

tangential misappropriations that we see in our current political climate, I

wanted to explore these questions in depth.

I look forward to learning any insight in filling out this coloring book. If you

have any suggestions on how I can edit this or have insight re: perspectives

on possible answers / your own personal anecdotes , I’d love to hear them.

Love, Diana.