Look at me, all brave. Stealing the IP of Kenan Malik. Or is this the property of the New York Times? Gosh, it’s so hard to tell who owns what these days. Anyway, below is a defence of cultural appropriation typed by Kenan Malik. By the time I’m done, my blood pressure will be up twenty points and I’ll look like an idiot in public, but I suspect I’ll look less idiotic than Kenan Malik. For this witless motherfucker has done the classic, classic, classic bait and switch on the topic. He says we’re all richer for cultural mixing. He’s wrong. Having your cultural markers stolen for profit makes somebody richer, and wanting to prevent that is not gatekeeping, it’s survival. He says that all cultural practices are up for grabs because anything else may prevent the privileged from having compassion for the underprivileged, which is a narrow case of special pleading aka bullshit. And he skates by colonialism as if it isn’t the SINGLE BIGGEST ISSUE facing all content creators these days; it’s the issue that palimpsest-wise underlies his argument, and he avoids it the way a cab driver just doesn’t see you when he’s booking off shift.
LONDON – It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
yeah, well fuck you. You start out from a position of privilege and you want more.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.
yeah, well fuck you. They were unprofessional, racist and FUCKING STUPID <<<<<<—– the way elites never get how fragile their blessed state is ——-> and gloriosky, they lost their jobs.
The controversy began when Hal Niedzviecki,
A man with a history of racism and stiffing writers, oh yes. …. gosh, is this a trend? A trans woman of colour told me he stiffed her for solicited writing. It wasn’t much money, but honey, when a first nations content creator thinks she’s selling me something I FUCKING PAY FOR IT. SO … right off the top, a racist asshole with holes in his pockets is represented as being ‘besieged’ ‘beleaguered’ and ‘besmirched’ for having a problematic opinion in public. Will Robinson is getting the danger page from his puckering butthole at this point, at least in the universe I inhabit.
editor of Write, the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union, penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority or indigenous backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced him to resign. The Writers’ Union issued an apology for an article that its Equity Task Force claimed “re-entrenches the deeply racist assumptions” held about art.
OKAY LET’S JUST STOP RIGHT HERE. What Mr. Malik, administering his homeopathically weak smackdown of this ‘defence of racist writers for getting shit wrong’ aka ‘horrible censorship event’ fails to mention is ANYTHING LIKE CONTEXT. THE WRITE ISSUE WAS SPECIFICALLY AN ISSUE ABOUT INDIGENOUS WRITING. Okay, let’s go again. THE WRITE ISSUE WAS SPECIFICALLY AN ISSUE ABOUT INDIGENOUS WRITING. He could have put his feelings in his blog. He could have penned it for another publication. That would have been gruesome, but in the era of Doubledown Douchenozzledom, Racist Edition, he used a position of privilege to kick the living snot out of the people who were being represented in the mag. Gosh, folks, you should have seen my twitter feed when this all went down. Indigenous activists and writers were foaming, and justifiably so. Niedzviecki knew up front he was going to get shit, and for the first little while he laughed at the shit he got. Then he went OH SHIT, which is what you do when that college kid “just for a lark” smirk gets wiped off your face by real life.
Another editor, Jonathan Kay, of The Walrus magazine,
A man who, ha ha, is well known as being a Joseph Boyden supporter (another riproaring case of mighty whitey, writing himself into native history with his very well reviewed (by whites) book “Orenda”). He only writes about native issues to talk about how racist natives are, let’s just skip all the decolonializing reasons Mohawk peoples might want to get white people off their land on Canada’s dime. Here’s the link. http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/jonathan-kay-the-one-place-in-canada-where-racism-is-still-tolerated-native-reserves. Now that’s not inflammatory at all. He could be talking about any kind of racism that happens in Canada. He could talk about how the city of Thunder Bay has more racially motivated hate crimes per capita than any other place in Canada; the hate crimes are overwhelmingly committed by white people on FN people. But the most racist place in Canada is a reserve. No hon, the most racist places in Canada are not reserves. They’re prisons. But I’ll stick the ‘and in conclusion, fuck you’ pin in that for the time being. WHY IN THE EVERLOVING FUCK would we want to take this asshole seriously about race issues, SPECIFICALLY about First Nations. The multiple appropriations of land, language, people, culture have no emotional content for him; FN are just getting upset because they’re special snowflakes. No hon, you’re the special snowflake, thinking Canada is 150 years old and that makes the First Nations 150 years old too. This kind of racism I call “Measuring the universe with a tapeline the same size and shape as you.” It’s another example of “I’m not racist but we should talk about how all injuns are alcoholic jailbirds,” but tidier… prettier… publishable by the Capitalist Choir of Discordant Twaddle responsible for the National Post.
was also compelled to step down after tweeting his support for Mr. Niedzviecki. Meanwhile, the broadcaster CBC moved Steve Ladurantaye, managing editor of its flagship news program The National, to a different post, similarly for an “unacceptable tweet” about the controversy.
I don’t suppose you’d care to guess what format this unacceptable tweetstorm took. A whole bunch of well-known, well-connected, mostly white writers and journalists, gathered ’round their beleaguered fellow lickspittle to mock the people who took offence and to pledge money for a “Cultural appropriation” writer’s prize. Steve was up for giving $500 but one thing I know about these folks is that they’re faster to pledge cash than cough it up, so I can well believe the fucker was kidding and I’ll give him my brightest and shiniest hall pass for that.
It’s not just editors who have to tread carefully. Last year, the novelist Lionel Shriver generated a worldwide storm after defending cultural appropriation in an address to the Brisbane Writers Festival.
Mr. Malik fails to provide the context, again. Shriver played the clueless and hectoring old white guy (surprise, she’s an American woman) in front of a group of people who mostly thought she was right on. Strangely, indigenous people and people of colour in the audience were horrified, oh puhleez. Them coloured folks and their identity politics, getting all mad about sombreros and such. They didn’t find her arguments about how white people should have unfettered access to all cultural traditions (so they can get the last word in, steer the narrative, drown out indigenous voices and get the fat stacks) convincing, mostly because saying that you mean well when you’re handing out the cultural equivalent of smallpox blankets just doesn’t go down as smoothly as it did two hundred years ago, who knew. Of course fiction is ‘fake’ Shriver but that doesn’t meant it isn’t real, and representation matters if the people being represented are being lied to and about
even more than when you get it right.
Earlier this year, controversy erupted when New York’s Whitney Museum picked for its Biennial Exhibition Dana Schutz’s painting of the mutilated corpse of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American murdered by two white men in Mississippi in 1955. Many objected to a white painter like Ms. Schutz depicting such a traumatic moment in black history. The British artist Hannah Black organized a petition to have the work destroyed.
I would have been happy with the painting not being publicly displayed, but I’ve read Hannah’s letter and I understand where she’s coming from.
Other works of art have been destroyed. The sculptor Sam Durant’s piece “Scaffold,” honoring 38 Native Americans executed in 1862 in Minneapolis, was recently being assembled in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. But after protests from indigenous activists that Mr. Durant was appropriating their history, the artist dismantled his own work, and made its wood available to be burned in a Dakota Sioux ceremony.
Which is a fine response. Works of art are destroyed by their creators all the time. I’ve torched my own shit, and why not, it was shit and it was mine.
What is cultural appropriation, and why is it so controversial? Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, defines it as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.” This can include the “unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”
It’s not just the permission. It’s the context. It’s the taking as if the act of taking ‘makes you native’ or ‘makes you black’ or ‘honours the traditions’ when it patently, replicably and reliably does not.
Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.
But the messy interaction is one-sided. Members of the dominant culture, with law, language, media and custom on their side, interact with the traditions of indigenous and creolized and ancient cultures from a mixture of fear, hatred, stark envy and jealousy, and call it art. Sure art’s theft; but it should also be thought made visible, and the thinking that’s made visible is DOMINANT CULTURE CAN STEAL ANYTHING IT LIKES AND IF YOU COMPLAIN you’re WHINY LITTLE BASTARDS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND THE BROAD SWEEP OF 2500 YEARS OF COLONIAL HISTORY. Urk.
Critics of cultural appropriation insist that they are opposed not to cultural engagement, but to racism. They want to protect marginalized cultures and ensure that such cultures speak for themselves, not simply be seen through the eyes of more privileged groups.
The tone here is like Saruman chiding Gandalf in The Two Towers. To be chastised is one thing. To be told that your feelings are going to go in a big stew of rhetoric and come out normalized and standardized… part of the dominant culture, acceptable…. yeesh.
Certainly, cultural engagement does not take place on a level playing field. Racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others. Yet it is difficult to see how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.
Everything is mine to steal and my theft promotes social justice. Fucking breathtaking, isn’t it? Nobody creates a gated culture to start out with, but it may end up that way if anything you leave lying around gets stolen by white assholes – who tell you they’re doing you a favour by popularizing your cultural ideals, and then laugh in your face when you want to get paid. He wrote more, but since I don’t want to quote any more from this masterwork of spineless sucking up to thieves and monsters, I’ll just take my blood pressure off someplace else now. Okay, last questions. Why do members of the dominant culture have so little going on in their own minds that they must appropriate someone else’s marginalized culture in the first place? What failure of imagination is this, and why does Malik get so exercised in its defence?