Appropriation or Celebration?

I hate labels, but if you force my hand, I would say that I am a liberal. There is no “but.” I really dig those human rights, equality and social justice. I am not a fan of bad people, which isn’t to say that non-liberals are bad people. I know a few handfuls? There are also some really bad liberals out there. We are experiencing societal IBS, and just like IBS, we are treating it with all the wrong stuff. 

The irony of ironies is that, I, of all people, would be writing this, given that I have spent most of my adult life chanting, “No! Archie Bunker!… you actually CAN’T say “anything” anymore and thank goodness for that!” 

This happened. 

A person, who I cannot name, because they are still present in my family’s life, sat on our deck one afternoon while enjoying a glass of wine and some cheese n’ crackers and decided to tell the family, including our two kids ages 6 and 7, a little joke that goes way back. Mind y’all*, this person was not a friend, but someone we had hired to provide a service, but we love to “break the baguette” and share the wine with all. Back to the joke on the deck. All eyes are on him. He tells the joke, and it goes something like this: 

“The Lone Ranger arrives at a saloon, but there is nowhere to park the horse, so he asks his buddy Tonto, an Indian,* to walk the horse around while the Lone Ranger wets his whistle on some sarsaparilla (I may be embellishing). More than an hour passes and the LR has taken down half the bottle, when a fellow cow dude walks into the bar and yells, “Did somebody leave their Injun running?” 

My husband laughed. My mother chuckled politely because she had no clue what he had just said. My kids did nothing because, thank goodness, they also did not understand the joke. I sat there, horrified. It is like one of those scenes in a movie where I move closer to the camera but the background moves far away. What the hell did this person just say on my deck in the year 2020? After the person left, I said to my mom, “Can you believe that they said that?” My mom’s response in her adorable Colombian accent* was, “Claudi, this is how people used to talk, and I am sure he meant nothing by it.” I didn’t broach the subject with my husband because I knew what would ensue; however, I could not stay quiet.

Why am I telling you this story when the essay is titled “Appropriation or Celebration?”… because you need to know that I don’t take these matters lightly.

I’ll quickly wrap up the racist joke on the deck story. 

So I tells* him via text that I am not ok with this type of joke in front of my children, and he came back with “all kinds”* of justifications and a bullshit apology. This should have been a red flag because the gems that would come out of this person’s face in the coming months will be a chapter in my book.

And the award for getting to the point goes to…

I run a foodie group on Facebook that is 10,000+ strong and growing too rapidly. It is a Shangri-La of sorts. Once we reached about 3,000 members, I decided that I wanted to make it a place where everyone could celebrate their love of food and food lifestyle without any negativity, politics, vitriol (my new favorite word — sounds like food – “Today we are serving vitriol drizzled with béarnaise.”). If you know me (and now that you have read the racist joke on the deck story, you may have deduced this), you know that I am passionate about stuff. I have been prolific about social justice and my disapproval of the former President, Voldemort, on Social Media, so it would stand to reason that I would not be all “Switzerland” in my foodie group, but I am. My admins and I are the kindness and neutrality police.

So the other day, on Saint Patrick’s day (I made the mistake of referring to it as St. Pattys and was practically arrested, so I am sticking to “Patrick”), on this hallowed Irish holiday, someone posted a tasty photo of a pizza covered in corned beef and cabbage that looked magically delicious.*

A member, whom I happen to respect and enjoy quite a bit, commented, “Isn’t this appropriation?” I just about done fell off my chair.* Cue the camera effect. My eyes went wider than normal. I couldn’t breathe. Have we gone too far? 

Has our own political correctness come back to take a giant chunk out of our own asses? 

I took a breath and pondered how to respond to this comment in a group that I created that does not allow political anything. My response was, “This pizza happens to be from an Irish bar that has become famous for making yummy thin pizzas.” (but it doesn’t matter!!! Because who is anyone to tell anyone what they can and cannot put on their pizza?! His response was, “Oh my daughter (college-aged) is all over me about appropriation.” Oof.

And so now I am saying… Wait for it…

You truly can’t say anything anymore. OMG, I COULD I HAVE CO-AUTHORED CANCEL CULTURE?

My daughter has a beautiful set of magenta Chinese pajamas that she has worn for no good reason and has also worn for Halloween. According to the new rules of appropriation, she should not be wearing them because? A) It implies that she invented Chinese pajamas? B) We think Chinese people are characters in fictional books but not real people? C) I am not exactly sure because I did not write these rules.

Here is what the Google says:

cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion

noun

  1. the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.
    “his dreadlocks were widely criticized as another example of cultural appropriation”

Would my daughter need to wear a sign that says, “I am celebrating Chinese culture” in order to wear her gorgeous Chinese PJs?

I have worn a turban-like head wrap in a few of my cooking videos on my YouTube Channel. I wore them because they were pretty and because they made me look more interesting while talking about chicken and scallions. I have ancestors of native Colombian origins and African origins and this has zero bearing on why I decided to wear pretty turbans. 

I love hoop earrings. For years I could not be spotted without hoops. I swam laps in hoops until the gold paint came off. The bigger, the better. My hoops have gotten smaller because my earlobes have gotten older, and I don’t need to say more. 

I wanted to start a movement when Black Lives Matter first emerged called “Hoops” in support of black women. I wanted every woman in the US to wear gold hoops. I had a vision of women, old, young and of every color and culture, in the US wearing hoops of any size in support of our black sisters.* I regret not having done that because if I did it now, I would be crucified.

Witch Hunt.

I am a member of an unconventional “mom group” on Instagram. It was refreshing to read about women truly supporting other women and talking about the good, bad and the ugly aspects of motherhood. All mothers know that we share a bond of tears, scars and pain that “nice” ladies don’t talk about. I enjoyed being a member of this group until I read a post about appropriation. In this post, the author called out a few people/businesses in the form of hashtags and, out of curiosity, I clicked on one of the hashtags. 

Who could these appropriating monsters be? One monster’s name is Elle Rowley. She makes baby wrap carriers for wealthy folks. There is no crime in making expensive things for folks who want to pay for them. The alleged crime she committed was that her company was working on a patent for a ring loopy thing that made the baby carrier wrap stay on so that the baby didn’t fall and break. The thing is that she failed to do a little research to discover that women in Africa had been using that same little ring to keep their babies strapped in for hundreds of years. I am not sure how the shit exactly hit the fan, but when I arrived at the scene, I found a shattered human being who had been brought to thoughts of suicide by the appropriation Gestapo. I watched Elle sitting in a chair facing a camera with a letter in her hand. She was bravely addressing the accusations and taking full responsibility for her company’s actions. She has a business and four children and never graduated high school. She is a role model. She spoke of feeling so much shame that she felt that the world might be better off without her. Just like that, a seemingly lovely person, entrepreneur, employer, wife, mother, friend was diminished to “appropriator.” I could feel her sadness in her video. It was raw and honest. She apologized and said that she and her company had made a mistake. The moment that she learned that her invention was not her invention, she pulled the patent application and I believe pulled the product. I could see that she was genuinely upset and that she has taken full responsibility, yet thousands of people came together to shame her and destroy her for making a human mistake. 

You can’t unmelt the melting pot. 

I have lived in the US since I was three. I have been exposed to people from all cultures. I have had the pleasure of living in Southern California, Colombia, New Mexico, Spain, San Francisco and New York. My accents and vernacular are the equivalent of head cheese. I will speak in a completely different lexicon depending on mood and setting. I don’t know why I speak like I’m fresh outta Compton sometimes and others like I double majored at Oxford (ok perhaps too far). THIS IS WHO I AM. I don’t know how to undo how I speak or the clothing and jewelry that I choose to wear. I love diversity and up until recently, I was relishing in the fact that we had finally arrived at an era when anyone could respectfully wear anything that they wanted to. Who are the appropriation police? One moment we are extolling the virtues of the melting pot and the next we are saying, stick to your own culture. Diversity is my culture. 

By |2021-10-29T13:16:41-04:00October 29th, 2021|

Leave A Comment