I’ve been distracted by books and other pretty things, but here I am to make a post about something that I’m not sure how to deal with: appropriation. It seems like everyone is talking about it, and everyone has a different opinion on it.
I understand that it’s an issue. I understand why it’s an issue.
What I don’t understand is what I’m supposed to do. I’ve seen posts saying that if something speaks to you, you’re not allowed to research it (they didn’t explain why, so I can only assume because it would be condescending or insulting?). If I’m not allowed to learn about anything that speaks to me, what am I left with?
On another note, it makes me wonder where the line is drawn between acceptable appropriation (ie, anime from Japanese culture), and non-acceptable appropriation (ie bindis, feather headdresses, etc).
This picture was recently making the rounds (it still might be, for all I know):
and it made me think. II (going by traditional BINGO locations) also made me a bit upset, because what I took that to mean is, if you happen to be white living in a PoC country, you are not allowed to do what everyone around you does. A specific example would be a white child growing up in Hawaii. Growing up, this child see Hawaiian culture: Hawaiian traditions, Hawaiian food, clothes, and values. He plays with Hawaiian children, and from them picks up yet more things: the language, or the various meanings of different hula movements. Would you tell that child he’s appropriating someone else’s culture, simply because his skin isn’t the same color as his friends’? If you took away everything he learned as he was growing up, what would he be left with? And how would you explain it to him?
Where is the line drawn?
Found the “Cultural Appropriation BINGO” here.
Upon venturing into the Paganism and Wicca tags, one of the first things I came across were posts on cultural appropriation. Now, I’ve only read one or two of them, and if I can find others I will read those too, but I have something to add to that in the meantime.
This is something that I wrote earlier today, suffering from sleep deprivation, so if it’s not entirely grammatically correct, or seems a little strange and off-kilter, that would be why. (Although sometimes I think I do my best writing when I’m tired like that, uninhibited by my “inner editor”.)
There have been a few posts on this floating around, in which people state how wrong and disrespectful it is to incorporate aspects of other cultures’ religions into whatever tradition you practice.
I don’t think that in and of itself is ‘wrong,’ as long as you have thoroughly researched and understand the purpose, origins, and variations of what you’re using. If you’re using it in a respectful manner, because it genuinely speaks to you, then I don’t see the problem.
However, if you’re doing it because “Hey man, shamans are cool,” and the only research you do is to read the wiki page, that is where you cross the line into disrespectful and unacceptable behavior. These are meaningful things that represent something in the culture you’ve taken them from. They are not there to be bastardized and flaunted by ignorant and disrespectful foreigners.
Perhaps I’m biased, since I feel drawn to multiple traditions that, while similar, are not quite compatible. The aspects I am most strongly attracted to are all things I wish to incorporate into my own faith path, yet I see people expressing the opinion that what I’m building for myself is, essentially sacrilegious and bad, which gives me pause. Is it truly? I’ve spent a few days wrestling with my ego and a guilty conscience. This is a difficult question for me, as my ego assures me “It’s fine! You’re being respectful, doing lots of research and soul-searching before adding this practice to your faith walk. How can that be wrong?” while my guilty conscience says, “Who are you kidding? Of course it’s wrong! You can’t just pick and choose to create your own Frankenstein’s Monster of a tradition! It’s disrespectful on multiple levels! Just keep looking until you find the one path that’s perfect for you.*”
While I consider this moral quandary, I continue to research the multiple traditions that speak to me, and I have faith that I will find a solution I’m happy with that won’t leave me guilt-ridden.
I’m speaking from the point of view of someone who doesn’t exactly have a mythos or native pantheon to pull from, so the only options I have are other cultures’ traditions. I could go the typical American route of “Well, I have xx amount of Native American** ancestry, so it’s okay for me to pull from Native American traditions,” but I don’t believe that gives me the right, solely because I didn’t grow up in that environment, so I would need a lot of education before venturing down that road. On the other hand, I always do my research - as much as possible, because not only am I searching for my path, but learning about religions is utterly compelling to me - and I only ever go after the practices that call me.
*Most likely not in existence
** Substitute Polish, Norse, Irish, Scottish, etc