Cultural Appropriation

A day or two ago the utter stupidity that is “cultural appropriation” raised its ugly head on Twitter, triggered by this post:

A Chinese American bleated about how his culture was being disrespected, and a giant pile-on ensued. Now the whole notion of cultural appropriation is so inherently dumb it’s not even worth explaining why, but it’s interesting to see who is complaining of it and why.

The vast majority of Chinese and Chinese Americans did not care one whit about this young lady’s dress, and there was an outpouring of support from those demographics when they saw what was happening. I suspect most of the vitriol being directed at Keziah Daum was driven by women wanting to put a pretty young woman down; if she’d been some obese creature with a face full of fishing tackle, tattoos, and purple hair with all sorts of woke tweets in her timeline, nobody would have said a word. But instead she was a pretty young thing looking to have some fun, and that will never do. Complaints of cultural appropriation are just an excuse to bully people and force them into submission, and this most recent case is no different.

However, there is a little more depth to it than that, which these two tweets hint at:

In short, the children of immigrants have an identity crisis and often a giant chip on their shoulder as well. Here’s a picture of the dickhead who started it all:

He’s dressed like a white boy who’s just smoked some hash and is thinking of eating a Tide pod to impress just the sort of girl who looks cute in a prom dress. Like most teenagers or young men, this kid doesn’t know who or what the hell he is, and he’s latched on to his parent’s culture in order to give himself some sort of identity. I expect a mainland Chinese would laugh in his face if he tried to pass himself off as Chinese, yet Americans probably don’t think he’s all that American either – not least because he probably insists he isn’t whenever he wants to look cool and edgy.

I saw a similar thing when I was at boarding school in the UK, when the intensely privileged offspring of powerful Africans would act as though they were from the New York ghetto, and talk about their countries in a way which made one think they were from Wakanda. In a way it was a defence mechanism, having found themselves (in many cases) dumped by their families in an unfamiliar environment. One lad was the umpteenth son of Zambia’s Frederick Chiluba, a highly charismatic lad with a good heart, but whose behavioural problems led to him being expelled (unfairly, IMO). Half the time he seemed to be living in a fantasy world in which he was a gangster or rapper, and a lot of the younger black kids looked up to him and emulated his behaviour, changing their accents when appropriate. It wasn’t just the Africans: a spectacularly thick and spoiled Korean kid who was fortunate enough to have rich parents would talk about his life in Korea as if he was member of their version of the Yakuza. He had a rather camp Spaniard for a mate who would start every bloody sentence with “Ina Thpain…” and told us all about he would go knife-fighting in gangs in Barcelona during the holidays. These kids had serious identity crises, even more than normal teenagers, and would cling to elements of their culture like a lifebelt, filling in the yawning gaps to the point their lives as described to others were mostly fantasy.

To be fair, all teenagers live in a fantasy world to some degree, and exaggerate ethnic or cultural ties if it gives them a slight edge in the interesting-ness stakes. Hell, I went through that boarding school making out Wales was very different from anywhere else making me oh-so special, simply because there were no other Welsh-born people there. Thankfully most people grow out of it, but in modern western culture people are encouraged to nurture grievances both real and imagined and blubber about them on social media. A feature of modern society is that so many adults seem stuck in adolescence; sensitivity over one’s supposed “culture”, and how others perceive it, is just another example of that. The furore over Keziah Daum’s dress was a symptom of this, not a problem in itself.

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28 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation

  1. What an arsehole that Chinese kid is. The young lass looks lovely in her cheongsam.

    Re black/white/mixed-race kids acting all “ghetto” – seen it in the UK . Got verbals off one of them on the Tube once. My reply: Iya khuluma isiZulu. Zonke falagili inja emhlophe. Buyela kimi lapho ungakhuluma ulimi lomuntu omnyama.

    Basically, I speak Zulu, you are just a fucking white dog. Get back to me when you can speak a black man’s language.

  2. ” I went through that boarding school making out Wales was very different from anywhere else making me oh-so special, simply because there were no other Welsh-born people there. ”

    Yes I can relate, supporting Wales at Rugby between 9 and about 12 in order to be different and because I am 1/4 Welsh or something, even though my Mother was Scottish and I was born and brought up in Oxfordshire.

    Yes the number of ‘Irish’ people I knew growing up who had one grandparent from Ireland or even (this is better but not really) just one parent from Ireland and the other parent/family from England, born and raised in England with an English accent, just couldnt accept that who you are is where you find yourself and what you do, not who other people who arent you are.

    Culture is something you do, it is alive and living, this guy has a culture and its probably just standard suburban middle class american male, which is what he is, perhaps with a few instances of non-American influences due to extended family or marking a few holidays. I doubt this guy wears any type of national dress or does anything ‘his culture’ performs. He was just having a pop and it went viral.

    People banging on about ‘their culture’ and authenticity are usually the most inauthentic people going. I dont understand why people them at face value.

  3. Basically, I speak Zulu, you are just a fucking white dog. Get back to me when you can speak a black man’s language.

    Heh!

  4. Curse you Henry Crun – I was going to make a point about speaking English being the ultimate cultural appropriation but you beat me to it.

    All I have left is to point out that what she is wearing is called a QiPao in Mandarin. Cheongsam is Cantonese.

  5. Patrick, I have used that a couple of times. Best one was when a lefty twat (one who had never left these shores ever, I might add) at a firm I was working for had a go at me for leaving Mandela’s rainbow paradise. There was much hilarity from my other colleagues when one asked me to translate.

  6. What’s sad about this is that normally, Chinese immigrants are too busy studying and making money to get involved in this sort of nonsense. I suspect that as China becomes more important on the global stage, we can look forward to more of this.

  7. The thing is that it’s not even his parents’ culture. It’s his grandparents’ or even great-grandparents’ culture. Such pre-Communist culture was all but wiped out by Mao.

  8. “Got verbals off one of them on the Tube once.”

    One thing that’s been nice about both NL and CH is not getting lip from random kids in public.

  9. One thing that’s been nice about both NL and CH is not getting lip from random kids in public.

    Years ago a British friend remarked after a trip to the Continent: “One thing was nice: there were no fucking chavs. Why is it in Britain we have so many fucking chavs?”

  10. Is a culture diminished by being “appropriated”? If not, where’s the problem?

    Also, technically what the girl is wearing is a “dress”. This is deeply offensive to the transvestite “community”.

  11. “Why is it in Britain we have so many fucking chavs?”

    When a particular lifestyle is subsidised…….

    There’s Dutch chavs too – and an entire long-running comic book series written taking the piss out of them entirely in Den Haag dialect – Haagse Harry: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ComicBook/HaagseHarry

    In CH there’s also what are sometimes nastily referred to as “Landesjugend”, and you get Bahnhofhänger in the towns hanging around rail stations, but the phenomenon is largely reduced by low unemployment, a general cultural desire to work, and a welfare system that, long-term, makes it almost impossible not to work if you are capable.

  12. What do kids in a monocultural environment do to stand out, if they can’t bleat about their ethnic culture? They take part in sports, music, or other displays of talent instead. Boasting about your background is just a means of masking (or excusing) failings elsewhere.

    I can understand why girls do it: to show off their feminine qualities: “Look how empathetic I am, I’m even nice to people in far away lands.” The boys doing it (and none of them are men) are just trying to catch the attention of those girls.

    Chavs in the UK – there aren’t as many as there used to be. It’s easier for the young to find jobs these days.

  13. There’s a general point here: this girl did not set out to offend. Hence, to accuse her of being offensive is to assume she had bad/poor/unpleasant motives when that is not the case. That assumption is, neatly, genuinely actually offensive.

  14. Wokeness: the crippling fear that somebody, somewhere, somehow, is so busy having fun that he or she is not thinking at all about matters of race or sex.

    (Illiterate college students, take note: the above sentence is an example of when the “he or she” construction is actually appropriate.)

  15. What’s really sad here (Sam Vara) is that a child has been brainwashed into thinking this way. The public schools (US version) / state schools (UK version) have become cesspits of PC justice warrior identity politics indoctrination. They’re supposed to prepare kids for their real lives when they hit 18. Instead their heads are filled with shit. Western civilisation is going down. I blame the teachers.
    Actually I feel very sorry for Jeremy Lam – he probably really thinks his comment was a right on good thing to say. He has been dreadfully failed.

  16. What’s even funnier is the dress isn’t Chinese. Manchurian conqueror force Hans to conform to their culture for 250 years. It’s cultural oppression.

  17. Marxism poisoned West just forgot basic truths.

    Culture is not art or music. Culture is enforcing everyday things somebody likes on the somebody occupied territory. Cultural institution is not art gallery or symphony orchestra . It is army, who controls territory and enforces rules.

    Culture is the only thing where violence is unavoidable. In the economic or technical issues you can appeal profit, rationality, science or else. But because in the culture the only argument is “because I like this way”, then confrontation in some form is unavoidable.

    The problem is very simple. Because this Chinese thinks that USA is she`s country, she enforces what she likes or forbids what she does not like. No reason whatsoever. Just stronger enforces it`s will. That how culture works. And that`s why inclusion and integration does not work.

    And because liking and hating is deep in our genes and different ethnic groups like different kind of things, then only destiny of multiethnic country is war.

  18. Highly recommend the new Chinese exhibition at the British Museum. Absolutely astonishing how many “Chinese” things were nicked not just from the Mongols we all know about but various Siberian tribes, the Indians, the Greeks… As with all but the most insular cultures.

  19. Highly recommend the new Chinese exhibition at the British Museum. Absolutely astonishing how many “Chinese” things were nicked not just from the Mongols we all know about but various Siberian tribes, the Indians, the Greeks… As with all but the most insular cultures.

  20. Surely, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..
    I note Mr Lam flatters the West with his choice of clothing and language.

  21. Speaking from (sort of) China, no-one gives a shit. There is a small but vocal section of HK Chinese who get all touchy and nationalistic on the South China Morning Post comments section (you can tell they’re not wumao because their English is too good). The comments are a hilarious mix of racism and insecurity. But I don’t think they even care about this.

    Just to care about this nonsense shows that, whatever your ethnicity, you’re basically a Yank.

  22. About school my dad once told my brothers when they were watching coronation street. I didn’t send you here to learn plebeian culture. Make of that what you willl

  23. Very happy for white people to wear African attire my mother maid a few dozen outfits for friends of Mine at school

  24. “in modern western culture people are encouraged to nurture grievances both real and imagined and blubber about them on social media.”

    That insight is at the heart of about 90% of the shit we have to put up with.

    Rich people’s problems.

  25. About school my dad once told my brothers when they were watching coronation street. I didn’t send you here to learn plebeian culture. Make of that what you willl

    Good for him. I’ve noticed African parents take a very keen interest in what aspects of British culture their children pick up, and they’re the sort of things which would make a 1950s public schoolmaster proud. I think most African fathers would step in rather forcefully if their teenage boys started emulating gang culture in any form.

    Very happy for white people to wear African attire my mother maid a few dozen outfits for friends of Mine at school

    Indeed, I have two sets from Nigeria, both presents.

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