reappropriate

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dumb Defenses That Don't Fly

In light of the recent Asiaphile controversy, this blog has been bombarded with several comments by those who can't get enough of the haterade. And I think I've noticed a pattern. In case you thought you were being all clever with your response to my blog, think again. I'm sorry to say that we race activists have really seen it all before. You're (insert X ethnicity), so... The Haterader argues that I should hate the Japanese, the Tibetans, the Koreans, the Russians, and cultivate a rabid loathing of the Falun Gong because I am Chinese. Newsflash! A) I am racially Chinese, but both my parents grew up in Taiwan. We don't exactly have a whole lot of love for Mother China. B) I grew up in Canada. I don't exactly have a whole lot of love or understanding of Taiwan. I'm part of the Asian American community, which means I have no patriotism for Asian countries. But You Do It, Too! Gotta love those responses that try to use misunderstanding of cultural history and poorly drawn analogies from another culture in order to rationalize their own racism. In response to "slavery sucks", this Haterader would say, "But the Chinese had slaves, too, so there's nothing racist about it!" Ignoring, of course, the obvious fact that regardless of the colour of the person you've found who "does it, too" doesn't negate the obvious wrongness of the act in question. But You Do It, Too! (Redux) The Haterader points at some incorrectly interpreted act of the person of colour's argument (or blog) as a supposed example of utter hypocrisy. For instance, the Hateraders of a board I used to frequent, YellowWorld.org, would counter discussions of racism against Whites by arguing that the title of the site was, itself, racist. This kind of dumbass argument not only serves as another clumsy attempt to change the subject and blame the victim, but is also overly simplistic as the race activist's website (or whatever) has usually been consciously chosen as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the very racism being discussed. The (foreign country) Do It, Too! Related to the previous category, the Haterader clumsily attempts to change the subject by lambasting a foreign country in a desperate attempt of painting you as unpatriotic if you even superficially seem to be defending aforementioned foreign country when discussing the issue in question. But *I* Do It and I'm Not a Bad Person! The Haterader might become offended because they take the post personally, seeing some of themselves in the post in question. First of all, check out the nuance before you assume you are being called a racist. Race activists are usually about nuance and detail, and will generally qualify their statements because, frankly, nothing in race relations is easily categorized in good and bad terms. But more importantly, supposing that you do fall into the group being discussed, just because you don't regularly use racial slurs and drag people from the back of trucks doesn't mean you aren't in engaging in some form of racist behaviour. You are criticizing Whites -- You're a (reverse) racist!! Criticizing does not equal racism. White privilege does, however, equal thinking that criticism is racism. You're Not Part of (insert group); Why Do You Care?!? Uhm, because racism is bad and what kind of a hypocrite would I be if racism against another group were less important to me than racism in my own group. (Insert Random Rambling Argument About Something Pretty Much Unrelated To the Discussion) In response to a discussion on gay marriage, the Haterader may begin waxing philosophical about the classism of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. All I can say is: irrelevant. There's plenty to say about that topic, but it's really beyond the scope of this discussion and certainly does little to argue against the arguments being presented. How Dare You Say (Complete Incorrect Interpretation of Our Argument) Just. Read. The. Post. "You're a Cunt" When they've got nothing more to say, the Haterader resorts to offensive ad hominem attacks. Which of course, sends the race activist reeling and sobbing in a corner. Really. Personally, I love discussion and I appreciate a good head-butting. I thoroughly enjoy reading dissenting opinions and appreciate having to try and defend what I have to say. But I feel that many of the tactics described in this post are ones that actually serve to short-circuit good, academic discussion on a relevant topic. I encourage you all that if you disagree with me or anyone you come across, spend some time thinking about your rebuttal before you post. Most of the time, the knee jerk response just serves to frustrate your opponent rather than add to the debate. If you can disagree while bringing the discussion to an interesting level, than I'm certain that your opponent will appreciate arguing with you, even if they don't agree with what you have to say.

41 Comments:

Blogger shannon said...

Dude,dumbasses just want to shut up any critism. They don't care about logic, or reality.

4/30/2006 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger nubian said...

gotta love the reverse racism response. i keep getting that--hahaha
it's so sad

4/30/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

This was incredibly funny. Seriously, "The Haterader" was a great touch.

5/01/2006 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it must have offended the Haters because it touched too close to home.

I _loved_ your rant. It was loooonnng overdue. I think it would be nice if more people spoke out against appropriation.

Personally, I think some people are pissed because you have not conformed to the stereotypical passive (and white-worshipping) Asian woman. How dare you not aspire to be the "model minority"?!

Keep 'em coming :).

5/01/2006 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your rant interesting, but overly broad. Could you elaborate on what makes someone an Asiaphile or just a person who likes green tea? There there a threshold somewhere? In what ways can white people (or any ethnicity around the world, it doesn't have to be limited to white folks in the Americas) use Asian fashions, books, foods, and methods of spirituality without being a dreaded Asiaphille?
-Sarah S

5/01/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

In what ways can white people (or any ethnicity around the world, it doesn't have to be limited to white folks in the Americas) use Asian fashions, books, foods, and methods of spirituality without being a dreaded Asiaphille?

The thing is, it's not Jenn's job to answer this question for you. It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of self-eduction, and a lot of analysis and introspection to figure this out, and you can't demand that other people do that work for you. It's your job (and mine, too) to take Jenn's criticism to heart and to try to figure out how to approach other cultures respectfully. You can't demand that other people drop what they're doing and put aside their own political struggles because you want to have it all spelled out for you.

5/01/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not asking that she drop anything, I'm saying that I want to understand her point of view more fully. I know what I believe, I want to know what she believes to see if it impacts, changes, or shapes what I belive. Maybe it wont at all. I just think she has an sharp perspective and I would like to engage her in some dialouge on it, providing that she has the time or inclination.

As a side note, I think that if we're leaving it to white straight christian people to "figure it out on their own", then people of color, gays, non-Christians etc will constantly and always be disapointed, angry, marginalized, and hence ranty. Most people are lazy, and without a guide as to HOW to figure it out or WHY to even bother or WHERE to even start, then most of them are not going to understand or even try. At least that has been my experiance.

5/01/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

As a side note, I think that if we're leaving it to white straight christian people to "figure it out on their own", then people of color, gays, non-Christians etc will constantly and always be disapointed, angry, marginalized, and hence ranty.

Why is that a problem? Why do we have to behave for the mainstream in order to exist within this national culture.

As far as what I think is "okay" appropriation -- as has been repeatedly said before, cultural "borrowing" occurs. I am (more or less) uneasy with but okay with that. I am NOT okay with ignorance and dehumanization of the people whose culture has been borrowed and people who borrow from cultures who think they are entitled to take it without question or backlash.

Since when was it cool in this country to steal someone else's shit? Even if you can get away with it legally, no one expects anyone else to sit back and let it happen without stirring up a fuss and fighting for one's own rights.

5/01/2006 03:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Jason. said...

It may sound stupid, but when I saw the title of this post, I though it was going to be something about how missile defense systems don't work.

5/01/2006 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

jenn - you are amazing! i think i'm going to have to steal that "Haterader" thing. White people definitely love to use that "reverse racism" crap don't we? Why wouldn't we? It creates the image that racism is individualist and not institutionalized and therefore we can continue believing that we aren't all raised to be White Supremacists. And if we can believe that, then we can continue being lazy and complacent. Ahh... the good life. Its a shame you are so busy being a reverse racist to enjoy the good life, jenn:) Seriously, though, one thing i would add regarding your "criticizism does not equal racism" line (just for clarification for the White folks that don't seem to get it), is that racism is NOT individualist. It IS institutionalized and socialized. Racism equals predujice PLUS power. Institutionally, people of color don't have the power-over that is required to maintain a system of racism. Therefore, there is no such thing as reverse-racism. That's just a term White people created to make themselves feel good, so let's stop using it.

concerning anon's comment and your question to it "Why is that a problem?", i'd say it isn't. In fact, i agree with what Sally is saying. anon, what you don't seem to understand is that people of color got their own lives that don't involve serving White people all the time. Besides, there is a very long hystory of White people who have been fighting against racism. In fact, there have been White people fighting against racism as long as there has been racism. If you need some good suggestions on where to start looking, i'd suggest reading Mab Segrest (Memoirs of a Race Traitor), Peggy McIntosh (a number of essays, just do a web search), Paul Kivel (Uprooting Racism), Tim Wise (White Like Me), and David Roediger (Wages of Whiteness). There are many many others, but those are good places to start. If you are looking for persynal connections, try the White Anti-racist Community Action Network (wacan.org) to find White folks near you that are doing such work.

I'd agree that we need to look towards people of color for accountability/leadership/guidance, but this doesn't mean we can't do our own work. Time to get past that cracker mentality (just to pre-empt the comments that i'm sure will follow with my usage of the term "cracker", it was originally the name for slave owners or overseers - as in the crack of a whip. What i'm suggesting is that White people have developed this mentality that we are superior and people of color are here to serve us. That's what i'm saying we need to get past.)

Sure, we'll make mistakes. But at least we're fucking doing it. No one is perfect. We will all make mistakes in life. The point is to learn from them and to openly accept being called-out or constructively criticized.

5/01/2006 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

ps. regarding your comment about "borrowing" culture, which let's face it is a part of life, i'm a big fan of saying if you are going to take something, at least give as much back as you took. This doesn't mean that White folks can go taking whatever the fuck we feel like and then just throw some money around and say we "gave back". Instead, if, for example, you are practicing yoga, try to learn a bit about the culture that you "borrowed" it from and the struggles for justice that are currently happening in India. For example, there are massive MASSIVE mobilizations in India against the privitization of water, against genetically modified organisms, and against sweatshop labor. There is also a very large feminist movement tackling the problems of rape and sexual harrassment. There's a fucking war (with massive nuclear build-ups) over the property rights of Kashmir. The list goes on. I think you get what i'm saying.

5/01/2006 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds very destructive - Pointing out people's foibles very passionatley and very much trying to make them feel guilty without really offering anything to enrich them.

Like, people do a lot of things for really no reason other than pure aethetic value. They paint the walls a way they want, they buy paintings, they shop around for clothes, and generally don't think about things.

But I tend to judge people on intention, and if there's no harmful intention in people won't things in time work themselves out.
You people seem mighty cruel to people who do things accidentally and always seem to want to make them feel as if they're really doing it because they secretly hate another people.

Are we allowed to play? Can we play ninjas and cowboys and indians. Can we play Hannibal crossing the alps?
Sure, they're not well considered, but they're play.
The question is, how cruel do you, the Appropriating police, need to be depending on the offence that is caused?

Your own attitude also serves to frustrate, if not as blatantly as Cuntery, and I wonder if you realise this.

Is your hostility appropriate?

-Gav

5/02/2006 05:02:00 AM  
Anonymous kurage said...

Ignoring, of course, the obvious fact that regardless of the colour of the person you've found who "does it, too" doesn't negate the obvious wrongness of the act in question.

I think the problem here is that a lot of the particular acts in question here aren't obviously wrong, at least to a number of the people responding (including me.) We're not talking about owning slaves; we're talking about swinging cardboard swords around and drinking green tea and taking yoga classes (which, right or wrong, give you some nice muscle tone.)

In this particular discussion, I think "you do it too" is a very fair argument, although I think many of the people who used it didn't do it in an accusatory fashion. I think what a lot of the people who responded were trying to get at was that cultural borrowing is universal and always has been, and it is not necessarily an act of exploitation.

I'm not denying the reality of white privilege or cultural misappropriation. I acknowledge that I am a passive oppressor, and in an ideal world, that would not be the case. But I think that even in an ideal world, people would be allowed to drink green tea and think that ninjas are cool. Even white people.

Criticizing does not equal racism.

Ah, you say this, but I don't think you really believe it. At any rate, you refer to the people who criticize you as "hateraders," which could suggest that you equate criticism with, if not racism, at least hatred in general.

5/02/2006 05:07:00 AM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

gav - i'm reminded of a workshop that a friend used to facilitate called "White people: killing us with good intention". I'd say that a lack of harmful intention is reason not to outcast and attack someone, but it doesn't mean that they are doing no harm. Just look at Peace Corps. I'd say pretty much all of the members are well-intentioned. But how many cultures have been harmed or even destroyed because of the well-intentioned work of Peace Corps volunteers.

Let's take your example of Cowboys and Indians, a childhood favorite of White kids with no harmful intentions. For many White kids, these are the only "images" of indigenous people that they receive. So what are they being taught? 1) that real 'indians' wear feather hats, carry 'primitive' weapons, and wear very little clothing; 2) 'indians' are a polar opposite of White people; 3) 'indians' care only about killing hardworking cowboys. Well, there are some other messages we learn, but lets stick with those for now. A few years ago i went with a group of 20-something-year-old White kids to a Ute Nation pow-wow (we were invited). A few days later at a three-day anti-racism workshop, i talked with some of these White folks about the pow-wow. All of them said it made them feel sad. Why? Because they had conjured up images of indigenous people as 'savages' wearing 'headdresses' and dancing around all the time to make the rain come, but what they found at the pow-wow were a lot of hiphop listening, baggy clothes wearing, teenagers smoking cigarettes. What these young indigenous folks may come to learn is that they are not real indigenous people because they don't fit the White stereotype of indigenous. This can lead to a seperation from culture and community, which can lead to higher drop-out rates, depression, suicide, drug abuse, etc. The consequences of good intentions can be devastating.

And i don't think it does any good to question jenn's hostility. She has a right to be hostile when being attacked. If anything, i think her anger should be even more of a reason for White folks to stop and listen to what she has to say. Although in my opinion, she has shown very little hostility. She seems to be very frustrated, but i would say that frustration is definitely appropriate considering some of the comments she has received. Which i'm sure has been going on long before she started blogging.

kurage - i would disagree that the "you do it too" argument is a valid one. I think its sole purpose is to deflect from the actual conversation. Its as if to say, i don't have to listen to you because you aren't perfect. We are all hypocrites to some degree. This doesn't mean we can't learn from one another. Besides, cultural appropriation requires a degree of institutional power for it to be harmful or oppressive. This has been stated on a few occassions in the course of this discussion, yet people don't seem to be hearing it.

And who are you to say that jenn doesn't believe what she is saying? Jenn does not refer to people who criticize as hateraders. She refers to people who have no interest in challenging themselves and only have an interest in attacking and justifying their guilt as hateraders. She has blatantly stated that she loves to have discussions with people who disagree. Attacking someone is not necessary to disagree with them, and it has never been a valid tactic of discussion.

5/02/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"I think the problem here is that a lot of the particular acts in question here aren't obviously wrong, at least to a number of the people responding (including me.) We're not talking about owning slaves; we're talking about swinging cardboard swords around and drinking green tea and taking yoga classes (which, right or wrong, give you some nice muscle tone.)" - Kurage

Ok look. I'm going to say something really outrageous.

I think cosplay is weird.

There. I said it. Running around dressed like some random manga characters found on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim or pop culture ninjas "swinging cardboard swords around and drinking green tea and taking yoga classes" seems incredibly geeky to me, I admit. It's just not ... mature. However, that has nothing to do with the cultural appropriation of which many people who have visited this blog in anger recently, are guilty.

Kurage, you may think nothing is obviously wrong with such action for all sorts of reasons. You're entitled. But those who engage in "culture borrowing" who also can not fathom or stand when a person from that culture tells them that they are wrong for stealing make it quite clear that they do not respect the opinions and thoughts of the originators of the culture from which they steal.

That's past ignorance. That's a choice to dehumanize others. That's wrong.

And there's zero defense for such immorality.

"I acknowledge that I am a passive oppressor, and in an ideal world, that would not be the case. But I think that even in an ideal world, people would be allowed to drink green tea and think that ninjas are cool. Even white people." - Kurage

That's not an ideal world that I could live in, and there are no passive oppressors. That's why real psychotics like Osama bin Laden find no fault with murdering nearly 3000 American citizens to attack policies of the Government of the United States of America. That's why such resentment around the world exists for America today; for all our bluster on democracy and the rule of law, we have no problem with inhuman mines manned by starving, disease-ridden Africans to flow expensive, but affordable diamonds to affluent Western buyers.

We have no problem shipping manufacturing employment to overseas lands with abysmal human rights records and workers' rights legislation while domestic American inner cities atrophy into cesspools of drugs and violent crime and early death for ignored minority groups. We have no problem with cultivated Middle East and Latin American political unrest in order to keep gasoline prices lower than almost all other industrialized Western nations. We have no problem blaming upcoming world powers like China and India for a fossil fuel-driven climate change that makes natural storms apocalyptic tempests, when we know we burn more irreplaceable resources than all other countries. We refused to sign Kyoto. We invaded Iraq on false pretenses. We refuse to invade Sudan to stop acknowledged genocide in Darfur.

We are not passive oppressors, and we never have been.

5/02/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Green said...


That's not an ideal world that I could live in, and there are no passive oppressors. That's why real psychotics like Osama bin Laden find no fault with murdering nearly 3000 American citizens to attack policies of the Government of the United States of America. That's why such resentment around the world exists for America today; for all our bluster on democracy and the rule of law, we have no problem with inhuman mines manned by starving, disease-ridden Africans to flow expensive, but affordable diamonds to affluent Western buyers.

We have no problem shipping manufacturing employment to overseas lands with abysmal human rights records and workers' rights legislation while domestic American inner cities atrophy into cesspools of drugs and violent crime and early death for ignored minority groups. We have no problem with cultivated Middle East and Latin American political unrest in order to keep gasoline prices lower than almost all other industrialized Western nations. We have no problem blaming upcoming world powers like China and India for a fossil fuel-driven climate change that makes natural storms apocalyptic tempests, when we know we burn more irreplaceable resources than all other countries. We refused to sign Kyoto. We invaded Iraq on false pretenses. We refuse to invade Sudan to stop acknowledged genocide in Darfur.

We are not passive oppressors, and we never have been.

James


So that would indicate that you're personally accepting culpability in all of those injustices too, right? Hence the use of the word "we"?

5/02/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"But I tend to judge people on intention, and if there's no harmful intention in people won't things in time work themselves out.
You people seem mighty cruel to people who do things accidentally and always seem to want to make them feel as if they're really doing it because they secretly hate another people.
"

Gav,

Intention is irrelevant.

It's not possible to actually determine another person's intention, only possible to judge their actions and commentary. It's not helpful to waste time caring at all what someone's intentions are. Many people have come to this blog recently and left inflammatory and hurtful remarks about the blog owner because of their choice to do so. Maybe they were defending their false and phantom "rights" to misappropriate culture, maybe they just wanted to be mean, but in large numbers they came here to disagree disagreeably. Whatever their intentions, their hatespeech speaks for itself. Intention is irrelevant.

I don't know if many of the people who've come here to flame this blog secretly hate Asian people, and I don't care. Why? Because intention is irrelevant.

It's not cruel to judge action. Action is concrete, defined, factual. We don't walk between the raindrops of intention; I'm sick of those who pretend that their racism and sexism occurs without their conscious choices. That's false and demeaning to those victims of racist and sexist action. When your "play" dehumanizes others it's not relevant whether you intend offense; the fact is that you have offended, and you must now consider whether your "play" is justifiable.

And just as before, your "play" is both geeky and inappropriate. Intention is irrelevant.

5/02/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"So that would indicate that you're personally accepting culpability in all of those injustices too, right? Hence the use of the word "we"?" - Green a.k.a. Captain Obvious

I am an American citizen. Of course I do. At no point did I ever try to exclude myself from my own nationality.

Green, you can read, right?

5/02/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

james - ditto.

one thing that i would add to kurage's comment that in an ideal world we would be able to think that ninjas are cool is that this is obviously an idealized and ahystorical look at ninjas. but then again, cultural imperialists/appropriators don't really care about the context of culture and cultural icons. If they did, they'd know that ninjas became apolitical hired assassins that often worked for corporate interests. To me, that's not very cool. But, man, did you see that guy walk up that wall!!!

5/02/2006 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Vegankid: That makes perfect sense, about the idealized and ahistorical construct of the "Ninja" in the Western eye. My question is, though, why would people defend their rose-colored history reading glasses to those who they disrespect by choosing cultivated ignorance role-play over actual fact? It's senseless.

To me, the ninja cosplay defenders essentially make Jenn's original argument for her with their rambunctious and illogical anger with her previous rant. Hell, the fact that she can construct a list of "Dumb Defenses" from this hoopla says volumes about their arguments' validity.

But overall, many good points Vegankid.

5/02/2006 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vegankid wrote:

...ninjas became apolitical hired assassins that often worked for corporate interests...

Does this mean that a few millenia from now, geeky citizens of some as-yet-unborn nationality/empire will be playing at being 21st Century American Blackpool employees ?

Excuse me. I need to lie down. --alsis39.9

5/02/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Green said...

Not to be ignorant, but weren't ninja essentially spies? Everything that I've heard about them was basicially to the tune that the word "Ninja" and the word "Spy" were the same thing in different languages. That said, what would your opinion be on someone reasearching ninja because they were interested in spies?

Another question would be: what's your opinion on James Bond (besides that the movies themselves are extremely racist, mysogenistic, glamorize rape, etc.) or movies like mission impossible which glamorize spies and paint a rose-colored history of spying?

Is thinking ninjas were cool okay if you're thinking it about actual ninjas, rather than the idealized versions?

Is thinking that the idealized versions of spies are cool okay, or is it disrespectful to real spies?

5/02/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vegankid.
You're saying that a view held by the white community on American Indians living in an Ameican Indian community, might make them isolated from that American Indian community?
If they're living in a supportive community that clearly has something of an Identity, with healthy pow-wows going on, I don't have much fear in this case.

With proper education, I see, cowboys and indians can be just a roleplaying scenario in an historical context.
I wouldn't fault the cowboy and indian game, I'd fault a system which doesn't educate people into the connotations and the real life of it.

But whatever education we have is never, ever going to be enough. There will always be something to strive for, and I think that you people will forever be able to point out a new way that people are being harmful.
I mean, being 'sick of' something this neverending as if it were a particular problem of our time and place must take a big toll on you.


James.
I think it's very very helpful to 'waste time' thinking about what other people's intentions are.
I think that it helps break down barriers and make connections with people and understand them and see through the immense clumsiness that is words and sentences.
And If the concrete and defined and factual are really what matters to you so much, that's very much a specific belief and a point of view, and I have subtle worries that some day, if that one purveys, the line between the computer you are typing on and yourself will get blurred.
And in some ways that will be choice. Once we've been kitted out like in Ghost In The Shell you 'll be able to send some clueless white kid your whole manifesto on White privelage in a second and then they can go back to watching Fat Albert.

This whole concept makes a lot more sense to me when It has some reference to the real world, rather than floating in academia.

I think that to say that romatiscising ninja as 'senseless' is also a very ahuman look at things.
If someone admires the style, the confidence, the calm headedness, the patience, the high level of skill, the general style of the ninja's modus operandi I can understand the admiration.
And grown up you may be, but everybody I know has a hoarde of seneless little games they play, during times that aren't guilt and books and work, and for some of them it's something like the ninja game.
Can you empathise with that somewhere within your very calculating and grown up heart?

Where are the ninja youths that are going to get disenfranchised from their community?


-Gav

5/02/2006 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous allcu said...

What about the defense that says borrowing elements from someone else's culture does not deplete the culture and does not make it less rich.

It only cheapens it for you if you devalue the human beings who cherish it.

And that's hate.

5/03/2006 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

This is what it all comes down to.

Self-reflection and self-judgement of ones own actions is NOT taught in American culture. Such introspection and the changes in behavior and thinking that come from such inner-thought and growth are not valued. In fact, looking back on ones own actions and saying, "Wait, I did something wrong, I should consciously strive to do better/different next time," is seens as a weak, wishy-washy stance. God save you if you acknowledge that you ever make mistakes.

No, instead, the majority of the individuals that make up our American culture somehow think they are special "because their mommies told them so" and go about their merry lives without thought to what they are really doing.

As soon as we go from the latter to the former way of thinking and behaving, then we'll have a truly enlightened and empathetic culture. I fear hell will be the newest skiing destination before this particular societal transformation happens.

5/03/2006 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so. Religious traditions do have a place for self-examination and repentance, and some Americans actually participate in that aspect of their religious tradition. The problem seems to be that religion has been coded as sissified in America, and that Real Men Do Not Apologize. (Women, of course, never STOP apologizing).

But overall, even without the influence of consumeristic culture, a large percentage of the population everywhere on the globe is not much concerned about guilt and reparation at any given time - having sex, getting food, doing the laundry, and other mundane activities tend to crowd out reflection.

NancyP

5/03/2006 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh.
"The particular problem of our time and place"
Is the fact that the level to which the USA is (consciously/unconsciously) transmelding into this big empire : an old fashioned empire of arms, a newer fashioned empire of money, and the modern empire of culture.
(Or would those last two be swapped around really... I don't know. Funny, that's just the way Sid Meier represented the flow of history in the way you play newer versions of Civilization)

And there are victims who would be swallowed up. No wonder it takes a toll.

Far out. What are you supposed to do?

-Gav

5/04/2006 01:48:00 AM  
Anonymous kurage said...

Kurage, you may think nothing is obviously wrong with such action for all sorts of reasons. You're entitled. But those who engage in "culture borrowing" who also can not fathom or stand when a person from that culture tells them that they are wrong for stealing make it quite clear that they do not respect the opinions and thoughts of the originators of the culture from which they steal.

That's past ignorance. That's a choice to dehumanize others. That's wrong.

And there's zero defense for such immorality.


It's not a question of not being able to "fathom or stand" being told that I'm wrong for "borrowing"; it's simply a matter of disagreeing.

Bottom line, I think the assumption that a single person of Chinese descent has any more right than a single person of German descent to dictate the permissible uses of, say, yoga or ninjas is inherently flawed. Bottom line: they're not part of Jenn's culture anymore than they're part of mine. Sure, "pan-Asianism" can be invoked in Jenn's defense, but to an actual Indian or Japanese person, it would be about as convincing as my cry of "but I'm a citizen of the world!"

We are not passive oppressors, and we never have been.

I was actually referring to myself as passive oppressor because of my whiteness and my subsequent (if unintentional) access to certain privileges denied to people of color.

That being said, I think the most items on the long list of "damn America sucks" examples that you trotted out still count as passive oppression. Most Americans are only dimly aware of these issues, and certainly don't actively set out to ruin the planet, start wars, and so on and so forth. They simply go about their daily lives and, in doing so, move the machinery that makes all this atrocity possible. Hence the term passive oppression.

(Make no mistake; passive oppression will ruin the world just as surely as the other kind. I just think that it's important to realize that most Americans are not willfully malicious - not because this exculpates us Americans in any way, but because it does suggest that we can possibly be educated and not just taken out and shot.)

5/04/2006 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Intention is still irrelevant.

Whether Americans are willfully malicious in their continued misuse of planetary resources or their cultivated "ignorance" of economic and political oppression their neo-imperialist governments and corporations export throughout the globe, people still get hurt and killed. Kurage, people like yourself and Gav benefit from the belief that your conscious choices (that may result in cultural appropriation or worse) are somehow less immoral if you don't intend to harm others. It's hard not to classify that desire for intention as relevant to moral judgment in identity politics as anything other than White privilege.

And I have no respect for White privilege.

Americans can't continue to treat other countries' citizens like ants on the sidewalk. The adults running around in bedsheets pretending they are ninjas directly impact the treatment of Asian Americans in America. The impact? People who believe all Asian culture can be robbed with impunity can easily translate that perspective into a belief that all Asian Americans are passive salesmen who offer whatever creature comforts they can invent to please White Americans. The link between that unrepentant Asiaphile and the Asian American is the model minority myth, the belief that all Asian Americans are programmable inhuman automatons who can crunch numbers and fulfill deadlines but never think with strategic inspiration, and therefore never deserve promotion to executive positions within corporate America. The glass ceiling for professional Asian Americans persists because of general stereotypes of the Asian American as willing servant to White American desires; stereotypes fostered by the dumb defenses of the Haterader Asiaphile.

The adults resplendent in all the RocaWear and Echo Ltd and Timberland they can find who pretend they are Black like me directly impact the treatment of African Americans in America. The impact? Unceasing reverberations of Supermasculine Menial stereotypes about Black men. The young African American male, cast throughout American history as lazy, promiscuous, ignorant, and criminal, continues to encounter those demeaning stereotypes at stores, workplaces, airports, courtrooms, dance clubs, television news, Hollywood movies and anywhere where Americans citizens interact. More Black men reside in correctional facilities than university campuses today in part because of the disgusting stereotypes consciously promoted by people who want to transracialize into cool counterculture Blackness during a Nelly song, but remember their Whiteness when police show up, or when the Black folk they hold such illicit fear for enter the room..

"Bottom line, I think the assumption that a single person of Chinese descent has any more right than a single person of German descent to dictate the permissible uses of, say, yoga or ninjas is inherently flawed." - Kurage

Who other than yourself and people like you does that idea benefit, Kurage? Are you propositioned sexually by people who's only interest in you involves your exotic eyes and their love for Blade of the Immortal? Have you ever been mistaken for Lucy Liu or Gong Li as a come on? Anyone ever assume that your opinions could never be angry because little Chinese girls aren't supposed to be angry?

If no, then making assumptions about people of Asian decent and what they can and can not discuss and/ or control about cultural elements you choose to steal from them may not prove logical.

5/04/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Are you propositioned sexually by people who's only interest in you involves your exotic eyes and their love for Blade of the Immortal?

I don't want to defend Kurage's stance, but because she lives in Japan, it is possible that she might be propositioned sexually by people whose only interest in her was her exoticness and love for American culture. I don't think it is right, but that's something that Japan has to work out (and is sort of in the midst of doing so.).

On the other hand, she still probably receives white privilege in Japan because of the globalization of American culture. Certainly better than Koreans or Chinese in Japan (for example, some Japanese of Korean descent are afraid of being "outed" as Koreans because of their fear of being stereotyped and discriminated).

On the other hand, I think Jenn does have the right, because of the context. Most American appropriators of culture are in America, and the appropriators' actions affect Americans the most. Particularly the artificially generated group known as Asian-Americans... but you have to remember, Indians as a group and African-Americans as a group were generated the same way (through external artificial means). All the comments about her being Canadian/American ring hollow because I don't think the average American would treat her as a "real American". In almost all countries there's a strong connection between "American" and "white" (sometimes "black" though to a much lesser extent) because of Hollywood movies and other media.

5/04/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

NancyP
Not so. Religious traditions do have a place for self-examination and repentance, and some Americans actually participate in that aspect of their religious tradition. The problem seems to be that religion has been coded as sissified in America, and that Real Men Do Not Apologize. (Women, of course, never STOP apologizing).

And when did religion have a monopoly on morality and ethics? No, the so called self-examination and repentance is not truly either of those things and never has been. When a religion can have a "confessional" where you can come, tell some robed guy behind a wall about all your "sins" and be forgiven, just like that, where's the incentive to be good? No, I don't buy it.

Plus, I don't know how many women you know, but I've never met a women who apologizes for anything. Heck, I haven't met ANYONE, man or woman, who really apologizes for anything outside of my family. I'll fix your sentence for you, "The problem seems to be that taking responsibility for ones own words and actions has been coded as sissified in America, and that Real Men Do Not Apologize."

5/04/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous kurage said...

Whether Americans are willfully malicious in their continued misuse of planetary resources or their cultivated "ignorance" of economic and political oppression their neo-imperialist governments and corporations export throughout the globe, people still get hurt and killed. Kurage, people like yourself and Gav benefit from the belief that your conscious choices (that may result in cultural appropriation or worse) are somehow less immoral if you don't intend to harm others.

Please, don't tell me what I do or don't believe. I'm sorry if my reply somehow came off as as suggesting that I felt benign intentions mollify bad behavior (although I think my statement that "passive oppression will ruin the world just as surely as the other kind" was fairly unambiguous.)

For the record: I agree with you that intention is irrelevant. It's just that, after all this rigamarole, I remain unconvinced that drinking green tea and practicing exoteric, westernized yoga dehumanizes anybody.

Is the stereotype of the Asian-American as an unimaginative number cruncher and a willing subordinate absolutely reprehensible? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Do I think that "adults running around in bedsheets dressed up as ninjas" inevitably leads to this sort of behavior? Well, no, and I think this is where we disagree.

If I'm reading your previous comments correctly, it seems that the whole bedsheet-ninja thing offends you on a couple of levels; mostly because of the racial issues, but also because it's "geeky." Let me acknowledge that in the context of my non-professional life, yes, I am something of a geek, as are most of my friends. You may see this geekiness as immature and below your dignity, but I'm assuming you don't think it's inherently immoral.

Now, I will admit that some ninja play-acting probably does involve unacceptable racial stereotyping as part of the "act" - broken English, and whatnot. I don't think I've ever witnessed this myself, but I can pretty easily imagine it, and honestly? I would be the first to be offended if I did see it. But sometimes, I think it's really, truly just about adults putting on bedsheets and pretending they're super-spies who can walk up walls and whacking each other with cardboard tubes.

Re: Yoga and ninjas not actually being Chinese. Who other than yourself and people like you does that idea benefit, Kurage?

Well, certain Indians and Japanese people might feel that this idea benefits them. Heck, they might even feel irritated that a non-Indian or non-Japanese person would presume to decide who can or cannot have access to yoga and ninjas.

Secondary rebuttal: can't an idea be logically defensible independent of the question "who does this idea benefit?"

Tertiary rebuttal: "people like you?" Morbid curiousity almost prompts me to ask for an expansion.

Are you propositioned sexually by people whose only interest in you involves your exotic eyes and their love for Blade of the Immortal? Have you ever been mistaken for Lucy Liu or Gong Li as a come on? Anyone ever assume that your opinions could never be angry because little Chinese girls aren't supposed to be angry?

As Jay pointed out, I live in Japan. So yes, I have been propositioned by people whose only interest in me is my exotic appearance. I've never been "mistaken" for Lucy Liu, but I have been told I look like Barbie. I've had plenty of people assume that because I'm American (or white, or some combination of the two) that I'm a hypersocial fun-loving party animal and/or just plain dumb. Do I like it? Of course not. Do I think that people of color in North America should have to accept or be flattered by such distastefulness? Of course not.

After all this time, I go back to Jenn's original post and my reaction is still a helpless "what do you want me to do?" I mean, gee, I wish someone had told me that my interest in Asia was racist before I learned two Asian languages and got my bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and moved to Japan and started work on my PhD in Asian Languages. I wish someone had told me that liking anime was exploitative before I watched that first episode of Sailor Moon. (In my defense, I was young, and I have since moved on to watch much better things.) I wish someone had told me that drinking green tea made me an oppressor before I developed a ten-mugs-a-day dependency on the stuff.

Perhaps I was just in an oversensitive state of mind when I read Jenn's original post, but it was really a slap in the face. I don't expect to be praised or loved for my interest in Asia, but I'd prefer not to be reviled for it either. And even though I might just pass Jenn's litmus test for "acceptable Asiaphilia," thanks to the fact that I have serious academic interest in Asia as well as a fondness for its pop culture, I refuse to accept that liking Asian pop culture sans profound academic involvement is cultural misappropriation.

5/05/2006 02:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding intention is irrelevant:

A hypothetical.
(I'd like to use the ninja game, but I feel more comfortable with this one, cause my own meager knowledge of the situation is a bit better)
There are two white men in a house playing cowboys and indians.
One of them has an immaculate understanding of the whole history of both cowboys and indians, right down to the current conditions of American Indian communities and outside of his game, and plays it as an exercise in a very particular form of historical roleplaying with a limited sphere of elements that make up the human drama and advenrure of it.
His playmate is ignorant in the style of those white kids who went to the pow-wow, with extra dollops of ignorance sauce to boot.

Can we acknowledge that the first man's crime (displaying an appropriation) is far lesser than the second man's crime (ignorance of a displayed appropriation)?
Could we say that if the first man played the game by himself in the privacy of his own home, that he'd be guilty of being weird, but that he would not be guilty of any harm?
Can't we put a little bit of guilt on the shoulders of the first man because he hasn't passed his knowledge on... as in, could we say that not passing the knowledge on when actually faced with someone who would benefit from it turns it from a simple lack of choice to explain it to a choice not to explain it?
Given that intention is irrelevant, would you criticise satire that aims to point out the problems of issues like racial stereotyping and dehumanizing because some people with poor senses of humour might think it was serious and take up the position of a character whose view was ignorant
Should a joke like that be put on a scale to see if it does more good or bad?

And in a similar vein, in a system that intentions are irrelevant, which seems to be a statement that what comes of your actions is important rather than where they came from, what condition protects people from a culture of being guilty of cheapening the own culture by displaying the elements of it which would form the dehamanizing characterisation of it.
(As in, if an asian who is actually into mathematics goes around saying that they are into mathematics, and that enforces stereotypes, wouldn't this structure of blame render him guilty)

I propose perhaps that you acknowledge explicitly that the biggest crime here is failing to educate oneself, above any thoughtless actions and charactetures actually executed.

Also:
What becomes of the black teen who has bought into a white appropriation of black culure?

-gav

5/05/2006 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous kurage said...

gav-

I'm not sure that "cowboys and Indians" is entirely analagous to "ninjas." The former is actually something that I'm not totally comfortable with, because it strikes me as recreational reenactment of genocide. Even if one were to remove the racial warfare element by just playing "Indians," I would still have issues on the grounds that such play objectifies Indians.

So, why is it okay to play "ninjas" but not "Indians," at least as far as I'm concerned? Because "ninja" is not an ethnicity, at least the last time I checked. "Ninja" is a profession, albeit a heavily mythologized and rare-to-nonexistent one. (The same can be said of all the other professions that make for fun play - knight, pirate, astronaut, and whatnot. But this is only to be expected; one would have to go straight past "geeky" and well into "clinically insane" before pretending to be an insurance salesman would seem like a fun diversion.)

Also, Japan itself actively embraces the ahistorical, decontextualized "ninja" archetype just as much as America does, if not more. I would imagine that Native Americans do not enjoy playing "Indians" among themselves, and when they do produce stereotypical "Indian" kitsch and entertainment, they do so for a white audience and out of economic necssity.

The Japanese, on the other hand (or at least a significant percentage of them) love ninja-themed TV shows and movies and manga. (And we're not talking historical documentaries here; we're talking over-the-top dramas and romances and even comedies. Yes, ninja comedy.)

I agree that education is a good, good thing, and you also make an excellent point re: satire and the irrelevancy of intention.

In conclusion -

I think my final stance on the overarching issue - Jenn's original post and all the discussion that followed - is this:

Enjoyment of another nation's popular culture, particularly when that nation itself actively exports said popular culture, is not cultural thievery. Nor does it follow that someone who enjoys a certain region's popular culture is morally obligated to "pay admission" by being profoundly knowledgeable about that region. (This is not to say that total ignorance is acceptable, either. It is the (sadly neglected) duty of Americans to be generally knowledgeable about the rest of the world.)

Conversely, the devotee of said foreign popular culture must realize that:

(a) He or she is not actually a member of the culture/nation that produced this entertainment.

(b) He or she is an not expert on said culture/nation simply by virtue of consuming its entertainment.

(c) He or she must not judge or form opinions of actual indivuals, countries, or really, anything in the real world based on this entertainment.

People who cleave to a certain food/beverage/genre of entertainment only because of its exoticism are idiots. No argument there. But I really, truly think that most people who watch anime and drink green tea and all the rest are simply doing things that they enjoy in and of themselves.

Actually, one could read a certain curious devaluing of Asian cultural exports in Jenn's original post: "Clearly, white people only like these things because they are from Asia; no one could appreciate them on their own merits." (Of course, I'm sure that was not the actual intention - but hey, intention is irrelevant, or so I'm told.)

Seeing Jenn's anger and the anger of some of the like-minded people who left comments was an enlightening experience. No, I do not accept the underlying thesis, which I think could be reduced to something along the lines of "anime/manga/green tea/sushi/yoga = absolutely not for white people," but I will attempt to cultivate a little more sensitivity towards those who might be understandably leary of a white person's interest in Asia.

5/05/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What do white people got to be blue about.?"
-- George Carlin.

Seriously, why are white people complaining about their "rights." When have you been so racially oppressed that you must cling to your inalienable rights?

Whites monopolized every single meaningful institution of America; they have total access to everything in the domestic. Who and what exact entity is denying you rights?

The standards of white-to-white interaction should not apply to their interaction with oppressed racial minorities.

5/06/2006 02:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not fair!
Nobody from outside whites is denying whites their rights, except maybe you trying to deny us our right to suffer or be victims.
But (I'm sure you're not denying it) white people every day are stomped on.

I don't think the right to a cultural voice (the sort that is taken away by cheap appropriation) is technically a 'right' anyway.
Besides, isn't the concept of 'rights' and especially 'inalienable rights' a construct by a white system which can be used to serve the purpose of making the opressed's argument seem unreasonable?

What standards of interaction can we go by?

5/08/2006 06:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The standards of white-to-white interaction should not apply to their interaction with oppressed racial minorities.

Really, I thought the whole point of the civil rights movement was that the standards of white-to-white interaction should apply to white-to-minority interaction - or more precisely, that we should move past a mode of race-to-other race interaction and achieve a universal standard of human-to-human interaction.

"What do white people got to be blue about?"
-- George Carlin.


Nothing, really. But we still get a bit cranky when we're told that we're a bunch of culturally thieving demons because we like Cowboy Bebop.

5/08/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Seriously, why are white people complaining about their "rights."

I don't think anyone is really complaining about their rights as you put it. People will continue to exercise those rights regardless of this post, so the impact of this questioning of white people's rights will likely have little effect. Generally, one only complains about rights one does not already posess. It's like, goddamn, I want the right to vote . . . news flash, I am a white male, I've always been allowed to vote. In the same way, people do not "complain" about rights they already posess and are exercising.

That aside, people are complaining about being labeled racist and being told to fuck off over something they view as being un-wrong. I probably agree mostly with Kurage's opinion. The post has a lot of deep thought but I think it is also somewhat misguided and making into a large issue what should be a small one. Then again, it's easy for me to think that, being a member of the majority race, but I can't see it any other way no matter how hard I question myself. If all my introspection does not lead me to a different view, I must accept that opinion which is my own, having stripped away as many biases stripped as I am capable of doing.

5/18/2006 01:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven Lin said...

It's pretty funny to see you complaining about the evil CRACKAS usurping your culture when you have tried to distance yourself from your Chinese identity. Do I have to remind you of your profile, where kept insisting that you are from Canada rather then China/Taiwan? Or how about saying having no love or understand for Taiwan? Looks like you've pretty much given up on your culture and having no busniess claiming ownership over it.

Btw, I've noticed that it's usually bananas raised in the west that have the sort of mindset you have. Asians who were raised in their home country typically don't mind other cultures borrowing their own culture. Do Americans get mad at Italian movie makers for all the spagetti westerns they do?

Btw, I am a Taiwanese-American born in Kaosung so the "OH NOES, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT'S LIKE FOR US YOU OPRRESSIVE WHITE CRACKA" defense won't fly.

6/11/2006 12:55:00 PM  
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