“Christmas, MMA and the Wu-Tang Clan” – The Fun Side of Cultural Appropriation

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“The idiotic conflation of culture with racism. Essentially the absurd belief that the cultural exchange that has served to enrich humanity throughout all of human history is wrong because racist exist.” – Urban Dictionary.com

Over the years I continually read stories of people shaming others for “cultural appropriation.” One recent example was the story of Keziah Daum, a white teenage girl who wore a qipao (a traditional Chinese dress) to her prom and was publicly ridiculed on social media for cultural appropriation. Fortunately, she had support from most Americans including Asian-Americans, but this beckons many questions: Why in today’s age are adults attacking a teenage girl for making a fashion choice? Why are we even attacking any American on the absurd concept of cultural appropriation? And why is Bruno Mars being called a racist? Isn’t he a Jewish-Filipino-Puerto Rican-European-Ukrainian-American?

We are the melting pot of the world. We have citizens from every culture living here which means there is going to be a cultural exchange of customs between the dominant culture and the minority culture. This is not a racist concept but a notion of how culture naturally evolves. The American culture is heterogeneous and beautiful for it, except for white girls with corn-rolls. The following are examples of why the best things about American culture were “culturally appropriated”:

 

Rock & Roll

The Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine; Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Beatles; The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan; Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry. Rock & Roll is a culture crashing music genre which shaped many American lives. I remember in high school being captivated by Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day. The song was moody, mesmerizing and had a powerful strength accompanying its rhythms and blues.

If it weren’t for “cultural appropriation,” then we wouldn’t have rock & roll. Rock & Roll grew from a mixture of Celtic and African music. Which further evolved from blues, gospel and folk music. Basically, Rock & Roll evolved from African slave and Irish immigrant music. If musicians were told they couldn’t borrow elements from a culture's music then Elvis wouldn’t have gone on stage singing about being a hound dog and gyrating his hips, mesmerizing an entire generation across the globe.

 

Christmas

Christmas is celebrated across the globe but not as massively as it is in America. Now the holiday is asserting its advertising early into my other favorite pagan holiday, Halloween. But we adopted traditions from different cultures to make the American Christmas a beautiful family/corporate holiday. The Scandinavians celebrated Yule by bringing large logs home to set on fire. German’s thought the pagan naughty god Oden would fly at night to see who was naughty or nice. The day itself was selected because of the winter solstice and the hedonistic Roman holiday of Saturnalia (a massive Mardi Gras like festival).

It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when Christmas became a national tradition in America. That’s when it incorporated and evolved customs like Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and the yule log. American’s made Christmas not only a global holiday of family and Black Friday profits but made blended traditions from across the globe.

 

Martial Arts

MMA., Boxing, WWE.; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, University of Michigan Wrestling and your kids Tae Kwon Doe gym. Nearly every culture and even religions have their own form of martial arts. Without people engaging into other cultures customs, we wouldn’t have Mike Tyson (Boxing: Ancient Greeks), Chuck Norris (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo: Japanese and Karate: Chinese) and America’s first famous Mixed Martial Artist, President Teddy Roosevelt (Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and Judo).

And if cultural appropriation is a sin against the original culture, then Bruce Lee is Satan. Bruce Lee encouraged and inspired Americans across ethnicities with his fighting skills, his persona, and his films. He belongs to American culture just as much as he does to China’s. Don’t believe me? Go to Seattle and check out his memorial.

 

Taco’s, Dancing and Films

I hate to see Mexicans used as a scapegoat for this country’s ailments since they greatly helped influence America’s culture. Not only from their hard work doing the jobs Americans won’t take. But through food (tacos, burritos, and guacamole), music (Carlos Santana and Selena), film (Robert Rodriguez and Guillermo Del Toro), Laws (U.S. Supreme Court case Hernandez v. Texas) and Politics (Mitt Romney).

Other Hispanics/Latinos have influenced American culture too. Words such as tornadoes, , and marijuana are Spanish in nature. Dances: such as the Cha-Cha, Rumba, and the Tango. Miami wouldn’t be the unique city it is if it wasn’t for Cubans. America was officially discovered by the Spaniards (despite having been previously discovered by the Vikings). It’s hard not to go to any part of America without the influence of Latinos. Especially, since Latinos are quickly becoming one of the most significant contributors to the U.S. workforce.

 

Yoga and Martin Luther King Jr.

India has its influence over American culture too. Yoga is a spiritual practice in India, but it is used by many Americans for its great health benefits. Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by the non-violent idea of Ahimsa, which also inspired Mahatma Gandhi. And the Indian population is steadily getting larger as they come to America to work skilled jobs.

 

JEWS! JEWS! JEWS!

What haven’t the Jews influenced in American culture? Music: KISS, Drake (Canadian Jew), Billy Joel, Sammy Davis Jr., and Rick Rubin. Science: The Oppenheimer Brothers (Physics), Carl Sagan (Astrophysics) and Albert Einstein (naturalized citizen). Food: Bagels, Brisket, and Corned Beef. Comedy: Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld.

But maybe one of the biggest influences in American culture was made by two Jewish artists named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for their creation: Superman.

 

The Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing to Fuck With

Enter, the Wu-Tang Clan. The best Hip-Hop group to ever assemble. Black rappers from New York who were influenced by Asian films, martial arts, and literature. I dare you to accuse them and their massive fan-base of culturally appropriating from Asian culture.

 

This article can go on and on, on other examples of “cultural appropriation” in American Culture. Such as Mardi Gras (French and Catholic), Washington D.C. architecture (Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian); Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (Islam), St. Patrick’s Day (Irish) and Native Americans (everything).

The U.S. is a place like no other, presently or in history. Despite racism and xenophobia in some Americans, we all benefit from the great melting pot which is the U.S.A. And to stop artists, scientists or anyone from borrowing a custom from another culture is hypocrisy and idiotic. In fact, to accuse a person of cultural appropriation is keeping racism alive due to letting the sins of the past remain alive instead of moving on through forgiveness, understanding, and appreciation. For we as Americans are not a homogenous culture, but a heterogeneous one. 

The question still plagues my mind; why the fuck would a grown man publicly shame a teenage girl on social media for having good taste in prom dresses?

 

Sources:

1.      ‘It’s just a dress’: Teen’s Chinese prom attire stirs cultural appropriation debate by Samantha Schmidt. The Washington Post, May 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/05/01/its-just-a-dress-teens-chinese-prom-attire-stirs-cultural-appropriation-debate/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.06d3ba985eca

2.      The Roots and Definition of Rock and Roll by Rock Hall. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, October 2013. https://www.rockhall.com/roots-and-definition-rock-and-roll

3.      History of Christmas. The History Channel. https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

4.      A Brief History of Martial Arts. San Diego School of Creative and Performance Arts. https://www.sandiegounified.org/schools/school-creative-and-performing-arts/brief-history-martial-arts

5.      Ted Roosevelt by Professor Daniele Bolelli. History on Fire, Podcast.

6.      The Romneys’ Mexican History by Hector Tobar. Smithsonian Magazine, May 2012. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-romneys-mexican-history-62357039/

7.      11 Latino Contributions to U.S. History. HuffPost, July 2013. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/04/latinos-contributions-to-us-history-independence_n_3545899.html

8.       Latino CEOs Share Insights on Business Success by Robert Reiss. Forbes, May 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertreiss/2018/02/27/latino-ceos-share-insights-on-business-success/#187fa0002264

9.       What are the main ways that India has influenced American culture? By Vishal Katyal. Quora, July 2016. https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-ways-that-India-has-influenced-American-culture

10.   Superman Is Jewish: The Hebrew Roots of America’s Greatest Superhero by Rich Goldstein. Daily Beast, August 2014. https://www.thedailybeast.com/superman-is-jewish-the-hebrew-roots-of-americas-greatest-superhero