It doesn’t benefit people of colour to see issues of race and the associated struggles fetishised through a white-centric lens – instead it invalidates and commodifies these struggles. Yet, the voice of white artists ‘celebrating’ and ‘investigating’ the expressions of people of colour has historically had cultural currency greater than the creative work of people from the cultures they appropriate. It should be obvious that racism has informed this history and that white artists can’t simply disconnect from that history by labeling their appropriation as appreciation.
Yet white artists, musicians, performers, fashionistas, etc seem to feel nothing less than entirely entitled to pillage the forms and aesthetics of ‘other’ cultures as they please and to then be celebrated and financially rewarded for their ‘edginess’. White people seem to find endless novelty in watching white people, like Kreayshawn, interpret and repackage hip hop culture, but these reductive representations are ultimately dehumanising for the people whose cultures they imitate.
In choosing to identify as ‘outsider’ in relation to broader dominant culture, white people may wish to validate their transgression by appropriating racially marginalised cultures, without acknowledging how that appropriation could stereotype, homogenise, objectify, commodify, exoticise, distort and invalidate those cultures. Usually believing they are simply ‘celebrating other cultures’, they act as if unaware of their privilege in benefiting from power dynamics set in place from centuries of imperialism, racism, exoticism, capitalism and colonialism. They may choose to believe they are disconnected from the forms of oppression that their ‘appreciation’ reinforces, but even their sense of entitlement to have their experience of ‘other’ cultures prioritised is symptomatic of white supremacy.
…It seems that the rush is always to defend an anti-racist identity, to clarify how white people’s intentions have been ‘misunderstood’, thus turning the discussion of racism back into one about white experience. This is done above acknowledging how behaviours may be problematic and hurtful to people of colour. It would be refreshing if white people who wish to be allies to people of colour would begin by de-prioritising their own voices. Surely that is necessary to a conversation about them prioritising their experience of ‘other’ cultures over ‘other’ cultures’ experiences of ourselves.
I was just wondering about the special snowflake syndrome plaguing White people and then I came across this idea of cultural appropriation as counter-cultural expression, hmmmm