The Appropriateness Of Appropriation

in Culture by
   

You, the humble reader, might have noticed that race relations in the United States (particularly between blacks and whites) are at something of a nadir-not THE nadir of race relations, as that is an actual name given to a period from the end of Reconstruction to some point early in the 20th century, but pretty close to it-certainly the nadir of race relations in the last 30 years.

There are a variety of reasons for why this is case, depending on who you ask: police shootings, media denigration of (insert race here depending on your viewpoint), white privilege, black criminality, “The Cathedral” stoking resentment of white people, the political class supporting any of the above, the internet giving millions “the red pill” and, of course, Donald Trump. These alleged reasons also vary in terms of accuracy.

One of the most common charges leveled at the scions of Europe-and indeed, often cited as a reason for POC resentment towards the pale devils-is the charge of “cultural appropriation”. This concept, which I will assume arose from the Frankfurt School alongside critical theory (as a major aspect of critical theory is to criticize Western culture as one of dominance), essentially states that white people routinely “take” aspects of culture from non-whites and repackage it in a way to be palatable to other white people. Harsher criticisms along this line allege that whites, all ~800 million of them, have absolutely no culture at all, and everything that they claim is “theirs” was, in “fact”, taken from the poor benighted POCs.

Now, just to clarify, I’m not denying that white people have, at various times, taken aspects of non-white culture: of course whites have, from Orientalism and Picasso’s African influences to team names like the Washington Redskins. The point that this article will attempt to make is that non-whites have taken just as much from whites.

I will not be considering technology of any kind when considering the appropriations that POC have taken from whites-frankly, it’s inarguable that a disproportionate amount of technological innovations have come out of Europe or European offshoot countries (the United States, Canada, et al), particularly over the last 400 years or so, and to list all of them would take 5 articles.

Of course, I do not feel that all technological innovations come from white people, nor do I feel that whites are the only ones to have the proverbial creative spark-merely that, due to many factors-most of which are not genetic-more scientific and technical innovation comes from the “Ice People” (note on the map below which shows the amount of scientific papers published by country, that East Asian countries are quickly playing “catch up” thanks to thousands of years of Confucian piety slowly eroding and being replaced with/incorporating the scientific method). If you’re interested in a more detailed analysis of human biodiversity, look elsewhere.

No, this article will strictly deal with what the title refers to: cultural appropriation-innovations of art, style, and behavior of all kinds. As a note, this will not be an exhaustive list, the examples below are just a few that I thought of, mostly from the perspective of my own country the United States, fittingly as the concept of cultural appropriation, much like every other odious concept of the new left, originates here. As a result, the bulk of these allegations of cultural appropriation will deal with relations between black and white Americans, as within the US, that seems to be where the oldest and most numerous accusations arise (well, that and the eternal Old World allegations of American culture being naught but the creation of “ghetto niggers”, and yes I have heard that directly):

When I decided to write this article, the very first example that instantly came into my head was a white man who has quite possibly had more influence on African-American culture than any other Caucasoid, a man who only died about 50 years ago, and a man most readers have likely never heard of: “Gorgeous” George Wagner.

George Wagner was a professional wrestler who started his vocational grappling career in the 1930s and wrestled until his death in 1963. He is considered by historians of everyone’s favorite pseudo-sport to be the first wrestler to have any sort of “gimmick” at all-namely, his character was that of a bragging, swaggering, dandy who dressed flamboyantly, acted dishonorably, won fights, and filled arenas from coast to coast. Does that sound familiar? It should, because Muhammad Ali has explicitly gone on record stating that he based his whole public persona on this white professional wrestler. Many other famous black entertainers and public figures have done the same, notably James Brown. And I scarcely think I need to explain the influence that Muhammad Ali and James Brown have had on African-Americans, be that influence stylistic, musical, or philosophical.

Since we’re on the topic of professional wrestling (something that oscillates in and out of being a guilty pleasure of mine), there are certainly more examples of wrasslin’ showing its influence on black Americans-observe this article citing another article which explains the influence that another famous bleached-blonde wrestler, Ric Flair, had on hip-hop. In no uncertain terms, it states that the Nature Boy is “one of the greatest white men to ever live”. And like a ripple in a pond, the influence of another professional wrestler influences early rappers, and influenced every rapper since then.

More specifically, the various hand gestures of pro wrestling can be seen amongst rappers and athletes. But pro wrestling certainly isn’t the only form of white popular culture that minorities have appropriated. Indeed, hip hop goes hand in hand with all sorts of pop culture!

Let us look at Staten Island’s own Wu Tang Clan, to cite one example. Numerous songs of theirs are named after comic books and films starring white people, not to mention many of the “personas” that the members of the group take (here’s a primer). And this article won’t even discuss the obvious appropriation of Asian cultures that they’ve done-while I understand (and have discussed) the appeal of kung fu films-and superhero comics-to poor minority children, to say that this is somehow not appropriation would be wrong. And that goes for the many, MANY other instances of black people trying to shoehorn themselves into martial arts media.

No, let’s focus just on white media that rappers have appropriated. Let’s focus on things like  2 Live Crew repeatedly referencing films like Star Wars and Full Metal Jacket. And is it even possible to count how many rappers have referenced films like Scarface and The Godfather?

Speaking of superheroes, there has recently been a massive push to turn traditionally white superheroes into minorities, women, homosexuals, and all the other pets of the modern left. While I feel these are largely motivated less by ideology and more by the desire for publicity, this is another clear case of appropriation of traditionally white characters.

It’s now that a critical reader will likely bring up music, pointing to the numerous musical styles and themes that whitey has plagiarized from the black man. And, for the most part, I won’t argue that-speaking as a guy who was (very) briefly in a professional jazz band, music is probably the biggest (or at the very least, the most publically visible) contribution blacks have made to America on the whole. But with that being said…

The first jazz record ever made, including that ubiquitous standard “Tiger Rag” was in fact recorded by a band fronted by a white man, Nick LaRocca and made entirely of presumably Brylcreem wearing white men. Undoubtedly, there were black pioneers in Dixieland playing at the same time as the ODJB, and I do not intend to scoff at their contributions, nor do I intend to ignore that, yes, there were hysterical old white people getting the vapours at this wild negro music. I write this paragraph only to dispel the notion that all contemporary white people were dullards clutching their pearls at this black innovation—in actuality, jazz music can be considered a collaboration of black and white, rather than any one group appropriating anything. Indeed, there is a pretty solid influence of European parlor music in American styles of music such as the blues.

But speaking strictly in terms of appropriation, we can find cases of black musicians being influenced by white musicians, just as the reverse occurs. From Chuck Berry being influenced by Jimmy Dorsey, to Michael Jackson being influenced by Queen, to cite one example of African-Americans being influenced by non-American whites. Or is it only called “appropriation” when the evil white man does it, and “influence”/”inspiration” when it’s the other way around? Since we’re asking questions: as “white music” (polka, country music, etc.) is mocked and deemed inferior, why shouldn’t white people listen to the “superior” “POC music”? This leads to something of a paradox, where white people are admonished for listening to music that isn’t “theirs” and mocked for listening to their own music: What, exactly, should white people listen to? Forgive me for assuming that the intended answer is for white people to quietly go into a corner and die-I don’t know where I came up with that idea.

And those last questions really sum it all up: the phrase “cultural appropriation”, which in actuality can be considered the inevitable result of multiculturalism (whether or not that’s a good thing is a matter of debate), seems to me to be a bludgeon used to shame white people, and only white people. Once again, in the interest of fairness, I implore that either everybody should be judged equally for this alleged “sin”, or nobody should.

But we all know that won’t happen any time soon.

Larsen Halleck is best known as the fitness and nutrition writer for Return of Kings, but also writes at his own website The Barbaric Gentleman, and also makes Youtube videosYou can follow him at his aforementioned website and Youtube channels, as well as on Twitter, and on Gab