I'll take a look! I'm not sure what you mean by cultural appropriation in this context.

To me, cultural appropriation either insensitively and subconsciously mocks another culture or uses the appropriation to leverage their social opportunity: ie, to make money.

Let me give you some contrasting examples:

1. Jeanine Cummins: a white writer who wrote a book about Mexicans. It was mostly embraced by white critics (the bulk of American literary critics), and mostly criticized by (the few) critics of color who exist. It received a 7 figure advance (this is HUGE in this world according to my writer friends) and a great deal of publicity, including Stephen King, a white male writer whose own racist gaffes have been documented in the past. BUT, he has the money and power.

Cummins claimed that 'she wished brown people would write about this, but since they're not..." making it sound like POC's are lazing about while white people industriously tell sincere stories about them. The Mexican and larger Latinx community, as you can imagine, is grossly appalled. They have produced lists of Mexican writers who never get opportunity at all. Of course, if the larger (white) community of critics is just as clueless about experiences of racism as are white writers, what is actually an embarrassingly soap-opera like piece of writing is perceived by them as 'splendid:' this is the powerful blind leading the blind. Mexicans know it isn't accurate, and I can tell you that I--without any (known) history of Latinx ethnicity, can hear her lack of authenticity because Cummins generalizes about 'Mexicans' in ways I am also familiar with hearing about my ethnicities.

This is gross opportunism. She brags about her advance and her manicures, tells the world brown people aren't bothering to try to write their stories so that she doesn't have to acknowledge the extrinsic role that whiteness played in that 7 figures. There are embarrassing displays that are too lengthy to go into in this email, including expensive manicures she posts on Twitter during which she brags about her hefty advance. Her publisher cancelled her book tour due to 'threats,' for which, by the way, there is no formal documentation. The book is superficial and jam-packed with trauma that can only come from someone who has watched a lot of violent TV from the comfort of their own sofas.

Can you see why POC's, even ones who aren't Mexican, would be disgusted by this display? This is appropriation: it steals authentic ideas and experiences, produces mediocrity/lack of authenticity where there is the capacity for authenticity, and then denies that mediocrity exists to justify receipt of lots of money (which we perceive as belonging to somebody brown). As if that isn't enough, she implies she MUST do it because brown people are too lazy to do it themselves.

Unless she can do a better job than the POC of portraying the POC"s dilemma, why is she trying at all? Our conclusion: opportunism. She wants the money. We see that money as belonging to the Mexicans who ARE WRITING THESE BOOKS. Brown people are writing tons of books; we just don't get the same opportunity, and in some cases none.

Contrast: David Zirin. He wrote a book with the civil rights activist (you may know him as a football player) Michael Bennett. Bennett's name is on the front of the book, emphasized, and Zirin's name is in small type. On the adolescent version of the book, Zirin's name never shows up at all. This is the right thing to do: Zirin is white, and Bennett is black. Who should tell the authentic story of racism? Shouldn't that person make the profit? Zirin did the right thing: he steps aside and lets the person with the ACTUAL experience tell the story.

Why are people like Cummins acting like this? She knows she can get away with it. If white people want to 'help' brown people as Cummins claims, help us by moving out of the way when you know your privilege is going to take something from us. Brown people don't need help, we need the foot on our necks to be removed, even if it means that Cummins will never make a profit. She knows it, and leverages her privilege instead of doing the right thing.

Here is a contrast in the musical world, and I will mention two bands who I personally love: George Harrison/Beatles and Jimmy Page/LZeppelin. When the Beatles started working with the sitar, they credited Indian musicians. They used their power to give publicity to Ravi Shankar, etc, etc. They used their power for good in this regard.

Page and Plant? They stole Willie Dixon's and Howlin Wolf's songs, among others, admitted they 'nipped' them, and still refused to acknowledge UNTIL THEY WERE SUED. Why would Dixon have to sue them? You stole and admitted it! Just give credit where it's due. These are British men who had white privilege and could have used it to help black men they obviously admired. Why are they 'nipping' instead of crediting, even after they've admitted to the nipping??? This is clear-cut opportunism to me. It's hard to admire these guys even when you save their ragged albums well into mid-life age, as I have.

W. Faulkner has written much more sensitively about race in the early 1900's than many 'woke' white people do now, about a century later! There are individuals who can do this, there just aren't many.

When talking about cultural appropriation, I would ask several questions:

1. Is the motive opportunism (ie, MONEY OR FAME)? That is, a negotiation over a large source of money that could go to a more authentic place if white privilege didn't exist? Cummins has overtly shown that she is opportunistic, time and time again.

2. Is the appropriation culturally accurate and sensitive? There is a big difference between a white man sitting in front of a black man and stating, with humility, I am going to write a book with you where YOU get the credit for YOUR experiences, and a white person (in this case female) stating that she knew she could ride the wave of 'ethnic' fame if she wrote any book about it and then pretend that she was forced to write it because (presumptively lazy) 'brown people aren't writing books.' Thus, she absolves herself for taking that opportunity with her whiteness. I suggest: DON"T. Do the right thing.

There is a HUGE degree of difference in these two approaches to the concept of appropriation.

I assume from your statement that you believe that gifts are distributed among the population without attention to 'race;' I agree. There will be white people who are better artists than POC, and POC's who are better at working on Wall Street. I believe that people can write about a group/individual different from one's own. But it must be done very carefully, AND the motive explored: are you just trying to make money, or is there a real desire to express this other culture and to assimilate it so as to depict it accurately? The latter is fine. The goal is to expose to the entire human race the highest quality of whatever, regardless of the individual producing it. White people can write books about other identities and can play instruments from other cultures. But the above need to be taken into account, because white privilege is the larger institutionalized reality, so the system already bends in the direction of favoring white people.

If you got this far, thanks for reading.

Good luck with your musical career.

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She/Her: Distort lies until they amplify truth. CryBaby: As loud as necessary.

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