Today is Cinco de Mayo in the States. I live in a corner of West Texas; the country of Mexico is within three miles of my house. I did my Master’s degree at a program that was primarily concerned with social and cultural implications of borderland living, mixed-race literature, and that had a lot to say about cultural appropriation.
My ethnicity is Hispanic. My race is white. I grew up white, with all the privilege that is afforded a white person. I never had to deal with language barriers, ethnic barriers, familial or cultural barriers. Those were things my grandparents lived through – I only reaped the benefits.
Cinco de Mayo is not the only culturally appropriated holiday in the States.
Earlier this week I equated Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s day. My comment was deleted and replaced with a post about how the writer will not tolerate hostility. Let’s make the world a better place.
CRITICISM makes the world a better place. ENGAGEMENT makes the world a better place. Agreement does not make the world a better place. It feels better, short term. It’s nicer.
But it’s not BETTER.
Passive aggressive wrist-slapping does not make the world a better place.
SHAME makes the world a better place, actually. But shame takes guts. Making people feel shame for actions requires direct confrontation. And direct confrontation is, apparently, not an option.
I was trying to be entertaining and instead I was viewed as hostile. I made a contribution and it was ignored and rebuked. No direct contact, all very passive. No way to actually engage. Just an unspoken shut-out of what was perceived as a dissenting opinion.
An academic posts something controversial. A response is perceived as hostile and is (therefore) a dissenting opinion.
It’s fundamentally insincere to delete a dissenting opinion and replace it with vitriol about “engaging in a discussion about cultural appropriation.” You know what that is?
That’s silencing a voice and replacing it with your own.
That’s the heart of cultural appropriation.