Dear reader, we here at Weekday Blues always intimate to you that words mean things & it’s important to question their context.
If you ever need a perfect example of how cultural appropriation is the epitome of racism, this tumblog is relevant: http://colonelhathi.tumblr.com (trigger warning for horrifically offensive content)
Formerly known as ‘Fuck Yeah Exoticism’, I first engaged with this person when ze reblogged the Malayalam alphabet on tumblr. I pointed out that exoticism was a racist word. . Ze changed ze’s profile to say, ‘Don’t call me a racist unless you know what that means.’ & then this happened. & at the moment, it is ‘Exoticism is a wonderful word’. Alas.
Remember folks, Actual People(TM) think & write these things. & here is your brain bleach, the exit is on your left.
eta: I left this open letter:
There is no such thing as ‘just words’. When looking at language & saying it is ‘just words’, is like saying the economy is ‘just trade’. So much of the contextualisation & recontextualisation of space comes from the connotations of words, and it is context that gives words the potency that they possess & words are never without context. Nothing is ever ‘just words’. They have baggage, context, & lasting power. When we fail to examine them, their monstrous power swallows & shapes us, for we internalise these messages. Oh, I understand words. I am the one who bears their weight.
As for the rest of it, I have said this before, & I shall say it again. & repeat it. Your terra incognita? Is my home.
It is one thing to like a culture. It is another to respect it.
This goes much deeper than just simple appropriation, though. This is the concept that chromatic cultures are to be shared, delighted in, & marketed for everyone as a little bit of spice. This is why you can dip your feet into the waters that nourish me. There is no promotion of equality between us, because we were never equals & are not equals at this present moment: you will never emphasise my humanity, you will only continue to strip me and mine of our personhood & say it is in the glorious name of ‘exchange’, or better yet, ‘diversity’. This is racism. This is Otherising. This is flattening of a vast spectrum of experiences.
It is not your place to say you don’t find yourself offensive when you deliberately exercise white privilege by engaging in such actions. It is like focusing sunlight through a magnifying glass and frying ants as they march past, and saying the ant feels no pain.
It is one thing to appreciate a culture. It is a different matter entirely to fetishize, misunderstand, and reduce a rich, living heritage to tired caricatures for your personal consumption. We do not exist to please you. We do not exist so you can discover your inner dusty peep. & we certainly do not exist to increase your hippie street cred. If you truly had an interest in us, you would not be paying lip service to stereotypes. You would not even be writing a blog dedicated to — once more — showing us to be polite, hospitable, deeply spiritual, and vegetarian. Perhaps you think even our tigers have internalised this message, hm?
In another time & place, your actions would have gone unnoticed, even lauded.
Perhaps in another time & place, the rest would have been silence.
Today, it is not. Today, I have a voice. You do not respect my culture & for this I pity you. You will never engage me; you will never understand: to you my heritage is a poor imitation, a hilarious distorted image in a funhouse mirror. & You will never be able to claim it as ‘yours’, because you will never perceive me and mine beyond our inscrutable smiles, our strange letters, our too-tight clothes, our dusty skin, our forked tongues.