Cultural Misappropriation: Much Worse Than You Thought

Some Americans are steaming about the shocking incident in Salt Lake City when a young Utah white girl demonstrated her white privilege and scandalous racism, imperialism, consumerism, colonialism, narcissism, egocentrism, materialism, highbrowism, astigmatism and even touch of isomerism and dimerism, a loathsome cornucopia of vice all wrapped in one egregious act: wearing a Chinese dress, the elegant qipao. Sadly, most folks here in China don’t have the advanced education that is required to get so frothy over someone’s dress, as the Southern China Morning Post reports. Chinese mainlanders tend to think Keziah Daum’s choice of prom dress was a cool decision and don’t understand the vitriol, which is why we need more elite American tourists to come to China and help educate the natives over here. Feel free to educate me, too, when you visit. And then after your lecture, I can show you some of the better places to get nice tailored Asian clothes cheap.

You’ll need to know where those places are so you can tell Chinese people where to go after you vent about just how offended you are at their cultural misappropriation of Western dresses, pants, shoes, shirts, and suits, even down to specific Western brands like Nike and Boss. If you enjoy venting, there are bigger fish to stir fry than a Utah prom dress.

Meanwhile, another Westerner who has lived for years in China, Mark Cohen, the US government’s former liaison to China from the US Patent and Trademark Office, wrote an article on this incident that helped me realize that cultural misappropriation among Americans is far worse than I imagined.

Critics of Mormonism (another offensive -ism to stir up sensitive souls) will be pleased with the shocking news that scandalous cultural misappropriation is taking place every Sunday in almost every Mormon chapel around the United States and perhaps all over the world. See those men sitting on the stand as if they are some kind of leaders or something? How many of them are genuine Croatians? Almost none. But there they are, egregiously and ignorantly misappropriating the classical Croatian attire. Mark Cohen seems way too calm as he explains this scandal:

One need not travel far to see evidence of cultural borrowings.  Whenever a man wears a tie, he is following a tradition set by Croatians
during the Napoleonic wars.  Indeed, the French word cravate is a
corrupt French pronunciation of Croate.  The origin of the tie is a
source of some pride to the many Croatians
I have met over the years.

It’s time we stand in solidarity with Croatian pride! So next time you see some white Mormon male  wearing a tie, ask him about his genealogy and see if he’s got at least 50% Croatian roots. Once he’s admitted that he doesn’t, you’ve got him! Then get on your high horse — wait, that would be misappropriating Apache and Mongolian horsemanship skills — or rather, throw down the gauntlet (totally OK if you are descended from medieval French knights), and let him know just how morally superior you are. Eat your heart out, or his — if you come from an authentic cannibal culture, that is, and if local laws and regulations permit.

Best to keep that Asian-themed tattoos covered up while you do this, just to prevent misunderstanding (especially the kind that comes from understanding, if he understands Chinese — sometimes those cool Chinese characters people get for tattoos actually say some pretty awkward things).

By the way, happy Cinco de Mayo!

Author: Jeff Lindsay

7 thoughts on “Cultural Misappropriation: Much Worse Than You Thought

  1. Well, I'm glad no one tried to shame a potentially insecure teenage girl because of something she wore, prompting a online mob to bully her…oh wait.

    Let's try this again.

    At least a man didn't try to tell a woman not to wear a symbol of female empowerment…oh wait.

    How about…

    At least someone who was concerned about racism and xenophobia didn't react in such a way to paint an entire group of people as paranoid potty-mouths who complain about insignificant perceived sleights, thereby increasing mutual distrust and xenophobia…oh wait.

    Come on…

    At least someone who tweets about removing toxic people from their life didn't spread toxicity…oh wait.

    There has to be something that was done right.

    At least people all over the world didn't react with pettiness over something that someone did somewhere that they have never heard of and never would have if it weren't for the fact that we have amazing technology that should help us learn more about everyone in the world and not treat each other with suspicion and contempt…oh wait.

    How about…

    At least people celebrated the fact that two major cultures can meet and peacefully exchange culture and work together to make the world a better place and not act with anger, suspicion, and hatred when ideas and things are exchanged…oh wait.

  2. I agree, Jeff, that the outrage here is pretty ridiculous. Cultural appropriation is not automatically wrong, though it can be wrong, as in the case of minstrelsy (though even here things are complicated, as Spike Lee demonstrates in his film Bamboozled). Intent matters. Underlying assumptions matter. It all depends on whether it's based on admiration and respect, or mockery and prejudice, and so on.

    This incident reminds me of what I consider one of the worst aspects of the Church's history, namely, its long-running practice of miseducating Native Americans about their ancestry. For many generations the Church told Native Americans (1) that they were the descendants of ancient Israelites, and (2) that the Book of Mormon contained the history of their people.

    The Church now knows that both of these claims are wrong. Yet as far as I know the Church has made no public acknowledgement of its error, nor offered anything remotely like an apology to those it so egregiously misled. For that to happen would require a level of introspection and contrition of which the Church seems incapable.

    — OK

  3. This is Communist 101. Culture appropriation, PC, Projection, the left gets to define hate speech and control everything, etc

    Read the book by the god of the left……Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. The left is following Alinsky and Karl Marx to a T.

    To many Mormons and other people who claim to be Christian support this evil ideaology.

  4. Robert F. Smith: "I was surprised at the end by Dr Southerton's shallow assumption that modern DNA testing of hundreds of Maya Indians tells us anything meaningful about ancient DNA. He knows very well that the Maya are not considered to have been Lamanites or Nephites by Mormon scholars. Moreover, he also knows that the bottleneck effect, genetic drift, etc., in ancient times could affect whatever DNA is available in modern tribes in any case. The best plan for genetic research on the Book of Mormon is to examine ancient skeletal remains for DNA in the Chiapas, Mexico, area (a non-Maya area).

    As Southerton himself correctly said on more than one occasion:

    “In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2,000, or even 20,000 years later.” Southerton, March 10, 2005, on Signature Book website, later removed.

  5. Just curious, does the Broadway musical hit "The Book of Mormon" fall under cultural (mis)appropriation because the intent is mockery, prejudice, etc? Or should we just take it in as fun and games and not let our feathers get ruffled? Personally, I'll just take it in stride because at the end of the day, I have bigger fish to fry namely making sure my family is loved, making sure my neighbors are loved, etc.


  6. Since you're not much concerned about cultural appropriation can I assume you have not problem with the temple garments showing up in public?

  7. I guess it would depend how that's handled. Are people mocking, or are the garments shown respectfully. As someone said above, the context matters

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