stillidealistic's picture

    Cultural Appropriation

    Hi, Guys! Stilli, here.

    I've known many of you for nearly 10 years. You've been my mentors in my political transformation from long time conservative Republican, voting for Barack Obama, to liberal Democrat. Remember the old TPM days when we'd stay up until the wee hours of the morning debating everything under the sun?

    I know I haven't been around much lately, at least not commenting, but I pop in and read a bit now and then.

    I still consider this a safe place. A place I can come to and ask for help, and know that you'll be there for me. A place where I feel like I can get good information.

    So here's the deal.

    I'm involved in a couple of political groups on facebook. Most were groups of Hillary supporters that stuck together after the election to keep each other sane as we suffered from TSD (trump stress disorder.) Lately the subject matter has changed, the latest being a discussion about the terrible cultural appropriation that white people are participating in by allowing their children to dress as Moana (the latest Disney princess who is a Pacific Islander.)

    When I first heard it was an issue, I was frankly, dumbfounded. Here we have Disney stepping up to the plate for like the 3rd time, coming up with a princess who is a strong female, giving our daughters and granddaughters princesses to emulate who are not waiting for their Prince Charming to "save" them. I bought my 3 year old granddaughter a costume (not for Halloween) and she wears it when she watches the movie and sings and dances. She just LOVES Moana, and I encourage her to be brave like Moana when something comes up that frightens her.

    And now I discover there is resentment withing the "community of POC" that we white people are coopting their culture by allowing our white children to dress as Moana for Halloween.

    I had 3 white women along with several WOC lecturing me about my insensitivity, suggesting that I suffer from unrecognized privilege by suggesting that Moana belongs to us all, not just to POC. Apparently, I'm being told, the princesses who are based on people of color should be reserved for them only - white little girls can LIKE her, but not dress like like her because it is being culturally insensitive.

    When I've seen little girls with brown skin dress in the gowns of "white" princesses, it never occurred me to think anything except how adorable they looked, not that they were "trying on another culture" then returning to their own. Yet this is what they are saying we're allowing our children to do.

    Is this seriously a thing? 

    I don't like blowing people off without doing my homework, so I've done a considerable amount of reading on the subject, but I just can't see how cultural segregation advances the goal of "colorblindness" which is now apparently considered racist.

    Anyone feel like educating me? It has me so upset I left the group, and I still just can't stop thinking about it. Am I really being a racist by thinking this is not something for liberal women to be beating each other up over? Curious to know what y'all think.


    One of the core issues is the idea that whites love being people of color for a day, but really don’t want the constant baggage that comes with being a person of color. Facing discrimination and condescension on a daily basis is not an easy thing. The argument about cultural appropriation is a surrogate for some pressing issues. Take the Women’s March, black and Latino women had to force themselves on the planning committee. Black women think white Progressive women take them for granted. In a recent example, black women feel that they speak out about the evils of Harvey Weinstein, but when Representative Frederica S. Wilson is called a “cheap, sleazy,  Democrat whore”, there is little response from white feminists. I don’t know your exact situation, but the argument may not be about the costumes but about a lack of connection etween white women and women of color.

    The Women’s March

    The Frederica S.Wilson story

    Radio bigot Bill Handel’s comment


    I'm sure it's not easy, and I certainly don't want to add to the distress. I can assure people until the cow comes home that this has NOTHING to do with "pretending to be a person of color for a day," but rather just enjoying what other cultures have to offer. I have no real cultural identity, being a mutt, but I can't imagine not wanting to share with everyone whatever culture I identified with, if I did. I would NEVER think they were trying to be white for a day.

    Thanks for the articles. I'm working my way through them.

    Again, I don’t know your particular circumstance but it may be people who are stressed by the age of Trump and take out frustration on you since they can’t get to Trump, Huckabee-Sanders, Kelly, etc. 

    I hope that's all it is. At a time when the Repubs are doing their very best to divide us, you would think we would cling more tightly together, not let something like Halloween costumes divide us. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I flew!

    Generally, unless blackface or something as offensive involved, people take pictures at most. They then complain about it on Twitter or Snapchat.

    Edit to add:

    If you have been reading about cultural appropriation, you notice that opinions among black people are all over the map. Most folks are focused on other things. You may have simply run into the wrong folks.

    Pat Boone stealing the late Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”, now that was cultural appropriation.

    Well, that's a bit silly, if I can be blunt. It's hard to dress oneself or one's child up as a character to admire without improving respect for that character's attributes.

    Would David Duke or Jeff Sessions undergo the leap to be black for a day.

    White appreciation of rap and hiphop undoubtedly increases white tolerance and understanding of people of color, even though there' more to PoC than music culture and these genres aren't pre-defined when blacks leave the womb.

    "Appropriation" can also be respect and influence. The Stones hosted Chuck Berry's All Star 50th Birthday blowout, unlike Led Zeppelin who stole Willie Dixon's work mercilessly without credit.

    I think the Stones acknowledged blues and roll and roll from the beginning. Vanilla Ice is another matter. 

    I thought it was fantastic when the Thor movie included a black Asgardian. It drove white supremacists crazy.

    ​Marvel comics director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now black

    We have black Vulcans like Tuvok in Star Trek the Next Generation

    ​We have an island of black Kryptonians, Vathlo Island in the Superman universe

    And everybody with a brain knows that Santa Claus is black.


    Yes, the Stones were gracious to all blues players from the start. So when black bluesmen/women showed up in London, they drew a crowd that they didn't expect. That's how Keith ended up hosting Chuck Berry later on, even though Berry was a total ass to him.

    Anyway, I'd be happier if people were more playful with the racial mixes. Denzel Washington in Shakespeare is just fine - you cock your head to the side for a moment and then get on with it. Similar with all these other roles - it's become awfully stereotyped, where if there's one 48 hours, then there are twelve 48 hours lookalikes, while everyone holds their breath re: anything more "outrageious".

    Frankly it pisses me off this thing that a white person can't play a Chinese now, when the core of acting is playing something you're not and moving yourself there - British Vivien Leigh playing southern gal Scarlett O'Hara for example - while I understand very well that Chinese can be pissed for getting 0 roles while an Anthony Quinn will play everything from Chinaman to Arab to Mexican to Greek.

    [ps - it was nice reading an interview with Merry Clayton, who was a high school friend with Billy Preston, and how they talked their parents into going on the road with Ray Charles when only 17, how Ray despite his reputation as a huge womanizer was totally a dad/uncle to her, how she got out of bed at mdnight to sing background to Gimme Shelter while pregnant and didn't even know who the Stones were at the time and how polite they were....]

    Yes, for crying out loud, people-who-are-driving-Stilli-nuts:

    it's respect and influence in this situation! We are 100% sure of that.

    HELLO HELLO  HELLO The Disney Co. created a person of color heroine in order to be pleasing to politically correct audiences !!!!!!!!!! People of color fought for this and they won!!!!!  Instead of just creating little white princesses, Disney is now creating a rainbow of heroines

    And then it has the intended effect: little girls of all colors think the character is cool and want to play the character on Halloween, and that's not good enough?????

    Think of what you are promoting: segregation now, segregation forever. Would you be happier if little white girls were not allowed to see the movie? So that they do not idolize the character and want to imitate her?  Is that it?

    Next it will be: animal rights people find it offensive that children are dressing up as cat and dog characters? How can they know the true suffering that pets have as human playthings?

    As Jolly Roger says Precious Blood of Sweat Baby Jesus!

    They don't sound like liberals, they sound like nuts Gone as mad as Trump. All into their own little fantasy world. No wonder conservative pundits get such mileage out of ridiculing the politically correct! They don't even have to make it up!

    SO ABSURD! SO RIDICULOUS! I'm with Stilli 100% and more, she's too mild. What are they thinking? How have they gotten so crazy about raising children that they can't even think straight? I'm sure as shooting glad that I don't know any parents like that, I'd be screaming and tearing my hair out.

    Special note for Stilli: are you absolutely sure these are actual real people you know and not Russian trolls imitating American liberals? wink

    p.s. Guess who: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

    As sure as you can be these days. It was a "by invitation only group" of supposedly "like-minded women" who supported Hillary. We shared articles, supported each other through the craziness of the election, then consoled each other in the aftermath. This was just WEIRD. One of the admins posted an article from Redbook magazine about NOT letting your daughters wear Moana costumes for Halloween, for discussion and we were off to the races. I found it offensive that I was encouraged to just listen rather than contribute to the discussion, and to stop thinking about myself and what I was losing, and instead pay attention to the POC who are the ones who get to decide what is offensive, not me. The rhetoric was getting so heated the admin shut down the comments over night to let tempers cool. I knew better than to put up a defense, but I couldn't help myself. I HATE being accused of things that are contrary to how I feel. Finally I had enough and just left the group. It seems so short-sighted to alienate people who are ON YOUR SIDE! Before leaving (and I didn't make one of those good bye posts, just quietly disappeared) I mentioned to the admin that she might want to stop marginalizing the opinions of people who are TRYING to understand. Anyway. Then I started doubting myself.

    We discovered exotic India, Iraq and Vietnam through wars & colonization. Doing it through dressup seems a bit safer and kinder, no? People never quite seem to see what the real alternatives are.

    It sure does. 

    Well-meaning liberals worrying over the terrible injustice of a white girl dressing as a Pacific Islander, rather than decrying the reality that 1) over 20% 18% of American children are food insecure and 2) workers haven't seen real wages rise in 40 years, is why Republicans are in complete control.

    As shocking as it is to agree with you, Hal, I do. Seems like we have much larger issues to deal with than Halloween costumes. But, I was told because I'm white, I don't get to say what POC find important, so just listen and learn. I found it a little condescending and truthfully, like "I" was being silenced because I'm white. I've been silenced too much in my life, and I'm through with it.

    Thanks Stilli. I see no way to escape from the conclusion that we all have a duty to listen to each other on every issue respectfully and with an open-mind so long as we are afforded the same courtesy. No one individual or group has a monopoly on any truth. To be clear, I am not saying that we should not take up arms to fight against obvious oppression and injustice when other avenues of redress are closed. 

    Stilli, I'm right there with you.  There are plenty of things to be outraged about without dreaming up stuff.  What these people evidently don't get, is that when little kids admire and even see themselves (at play) as these heroines, they will continue to see others who are superficially different, as equal peers as they mature.

    The more we encourage them to see anyone and everyone as equally heroic, friendly, play-mate worthy, and honorable, the less likely it will be that someone will be able to come along (once they have grown up) and divide them from "the other" based on skin or national origin.

    What exactly do people expect you to tell your grand-daughter?  You can't be Mawani because her skin is darker than yours and you don't understand how much "people like her" suffer?  Great message, huh? For a 3 year old?

    My granddaughter will be Mawani tonight. She absolutely LOVES the character.  She is semi-brown (my son is of Salvadoran descent), but she is also Elsa, Cinderella, Pocahontas, and Ariel when it suits her.  Her parents have multi-cultural and multi-racial friends.  The friends she brings home are boys and girls, and black, white, and in-between.  I gave her a small stuffed mermaid with dark brown hair so she could see herself in the doll.  She held the pale skin up to her beautiful tanned arm and said it really didn't look like her.  I just said, "well, it really does because you both are so pretty."  She was happy with that.

    I think you are better off away from that group. I wonder what they say to little boys who like to dress as ballerinas?  That they are unworthy because of the glass ceiling that women face?  Somehow I doubt it.

    Stick to your guns, Stilli!  You are right.

    Thanks, CVille. It's really not that I need to be "right," but rather I was trying to get them to see that it's not about "using" their culture, and throwing it away, or mocking, but just enjoying it. I really hate segregation, and I hate to see us doing it to ourselves by culture OR race. It sounds counter-productive to me. But, they were firmly entrenched in the idea that unless you are invited into the culture by a person, it was a bad thing to do. Although for the life of me I couldn't figure out how you'd ever know by looking if someone had been "invited" into the culture. They were also dead set against "color-blindness" as it is yet another form of racism - pretending like the trials of POC are unimportant. I choose to see people as citizens of the world, not as "a" something. Can't I appreciate their challenges without defining them by them? I found the whole convo deeply disturbing.

    Okay, I've been thinking on this since this morning.

    Firstly, the three white ladies and the several ladies of color are probably being overly sensitive. Cultural appropriation is a thing, yes. It can run the gamut of a meh reaction to a full blown outrage.  Some of my activist Indigenous friends operate on this outrage all day, every day and when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  They have lost sight of the nuances and would rather fight than think.

    This is what I get from what you have written, Stilli: When you say you use Moana's bravery to inspire your granddaughter to not be frightened, well, this is a good thing. You cannot appropriate bravery from another culture and bravery is what you are instilling. That is an honorable endeavor.

    In other words, this Anishinaabe woman has no problem with little granddaughters running around in Moana costumes singing and dancing to their hearts content and learning that it is okay to be brave. (I have two granddaughters now, myself!)

    This is my simple answer, maybe a little simpler than you wanted. You don't sound like a racist to me.  You sound like a grannie that wants her grandchildren to be happy.



    Additionally, Moana listens to the voice inside her to chart her path (something she learned from her grandmother! And Lexi calls me Gaga Tala because she loves how much Moana loves her grandma, just like she loves me!) yet another admirable thing. And if she thinks it's a darling costume, and she gets to have long, flowing hair, instead of the short straight hair she was born with for awhile, what is the harm? She is mocking no one. She goes to a preschool with lots of children of color, and I have NEVER heard her say an unkind word to anyone. She asked why everyone isn't the same color and I said because God made us all just a little different, and that's a good thing! How boring would it be if we all looked alike!? BTW, just for the record, although she has lighter-colored skin than I have, she is actually 25% Mexican heritage, but no one would ever guess by looking. I guess we need our pedigrees tattooed on our foreheads. We'll deal with "culture" as she gets older, with a giant serving of appreciation for everyone and their differences, in addition to the things they have in common. Anyway, thanks for the "simple" answer. It's actually what I was hoping was more accurate, but they had me doubting myself.

    Am I wrong in thinking "wabby" is flowerchild from the olden days? Or do you just sound smart like her?

    Oh, I just sound smart like her, she said, with her tongue in her cheek.

    Yep, 'tis flowerchild. devil

    Woohoo! So much of the old gang still around! Great visiting with you!

    This is exactly the important point : She is mocking no one.

    Strikes me that what is going on is that these Redbook-reading parents cluelessly don't understand the difference between minstrel show type degradation of a racial or ethnic group and new politically correct role play.stories to try to learn something about another culture. It's not about painting your skin a different color, it's why you're doing that. One way is with the intent of reinforcing bad stereotypes, the other way is in admiration.

    Of course the stories written for children are not always going to get the history and culture stories perfectly right, even the grownup history books don't get it perfectly right. All that should matter is the intent. Role play with good intent is a good educational tool.

    The Jews have an ancient tradition of dressing up in costumes on the holiday of Purim to teach the lessen that: you cannot judge by appearances! You cannot judge people by how they first look to you.

    (Your comment here about hair makes me think how you could take the whole thing in another politically correct direction real easy and confuse the hell out of them. Some feminists and would advise not to allow your daughters to wish their hair was different and curl it and dye but be happy with the hair you have. Likewise the Afro loud-and-proud movement of old.)

    Role play with intent to ridicule is mostly bad and hurtful. I.E. modern minstrel shows. But for grownups even that gets complex. We know it when we see it. We get it that Eddie Murphy as his Buckwheat character is ridiculing the ridicule, but find a bunch of white cops in a Staten Island parade dressed to ridicule Afro-American gangstas as a pretty nasty thing..

     But most kids are not even going there on Halloween. They are just trying out roles, like they do in general when they play anything! Let them play unless they are making fun of someone with an intent to make that someone feel bad. In almost all cases they aren't even rising to the level of dressing up like Trump to ridicule him like some grownups do, they are simply choosing characters they'd like to play for a while, that they think they admire.

    I'd dream myself a princess,

    I'd make her beauty mine ...

    With riches, furs and treasures,

    Never paled by time.


    She's a princess, Still, because she is.  Don't let anyone make either of you doubt that for a moment.

    Thanks, Barefooted! It was the whole situation of being accused of being culturally insensitive, of "mocking" other cultures, of "making it all about me," and having unrecognized privilege that made me start doubting myself. I go to great pains to know myself and improve the things I discover about myself that I don't like, so it hurt to think I might be falling short. I know I will never know what it feels like to be a POC, but I do my very best to treat all people with dignity and respect, without any consideration to their looks. 

    Halloween costumes. For children. Who knew THAT could be an issue with LIBERALS? 

    I am late.

    But damn!

    This is the bullshite that wounds the left at every turn.

    For instance, this crap about 67 proper nouns to describe gay folks?

    Every farmer, every contractor. every considerate Christian in this nation just

    throws up. ha 

    Hell, if my little Pixies dress us as witches yesterday?  Oh there is some problem

    with the First Amendment protecting freedom of religion?


    We do not have to recognize nutsos.

    The Right spends all this time telling us that KKK or White Nationalists or....whatever have nothing to do

    with their party.



    that is what I say!

    You are fine.

    The nuts are nutso.

    As a matter of fact, as I see it  Stilli, you are the Dems only hope.

    I do however, as late as I am, hereby render unto you the Dayly Line

    of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of you from all of me

    for this gem:











    Well, thank you, Arthur! I do believe that's my first ever Dayly award (and it's for a borrowed - no, stolen, line!) But I'll take it, anyway.

    If we ever hope to advance our cause, we're going to have to pick our battles more carefully. This stuff that divides us has got to stop.

    Tessa Thompson is playing Valkyrie in the new Thor movie. Valkyrie is white and blonde in the comic books.

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