Meandering Monday about My Confusion About When Appropriation Is Appropriate

Our cancel culture seems to be intent on removing words from our dialog (and without words, what’s left?) Sorry, I’m a writer, and part of my thinking revolves around the importance of FREEDOM OF SPEECH and its sister FREEDOM OF THOUGHT. If certain words are outlawed from being spoken, how easy is it to address them, even  your own mind? This is analogous to the sound of a tree falling in the forest – if a word is never heard – or seen – by anyone, can the thought still exist?

One of the many hot-buttons that seem to trigger our outrage mobs lately is something they call CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. This is the notion that you shouldn’t use or adopt things from other cultures – wearing dreadlocks if you’re not black, for example (though, oddly, in 2016 CNN posted:

Historians and anthropologists have found evidence of the ‘do in ancient Egypt, Germanic tribes, Vikings, Pacific Islanders, early Christians, the Aborigines and the New Guineans as well as the Somali, the Galla, the Maasai, the Ashanti and the Fulani tribes of Africa.

so exactly where did they start, and who do they belong to?)

Confused, anyone?

A young girl was barbecued (no, not literally – on social media) for a video of her performing the Japanese Tea Ceremony because she’s not Japanese (polls of Japanese in response to this seem to actually be pleased that she did it, but what do THEY know? They’re only the alleged victims of the APPROPRIATION, after all…)

I suppose this also means that non-Hispanics should not be allowed to eat tacos? I must be confused (and I think that’s being done on purpose.) Doesn’t an UNDERREPRESENTED or MINORITY group WANT their culture to be adopted by the “mainstream,” to help them feel as though they aren’t being marginalized or ignored?

What is fiction writing? Well, at its best it’s entertaining (why read it otherwise?) and informative. Part of what fiction helps us to do is to make sense of the world around us – to put forward theories on why things are the way they are – whether life is fair for example, or stacked against some people. One of the most important things that fiction allows us to do is to get inside the heads of people who aren’t us. And that includes people who are as different from us as possible (Speculative fiction is even worse – writing about beings, races, and species that probably won’t ever exist. If I don’t write about them, then who will?)

As I submit my work, I find various markets that seem to be more interested in the demographic of the story’s writer than in the quality of the story itself. Throw in the CULTURAL APPROPRIATION furor (so much like fuehrer), and I also shouldn’t be allowed to write about cultures or races I’m not a part of.

How the heck was Dan Brown allowed to write a book about Robert Langdon – a black man – when Dan Brown (despite the color of his name) is white? was it because they planned to have Langdon played by Tom Hanks (a white man), and therefore cancel out the inappropriate appropriation?

Like I said, I am so confused.

There is one sort of appropriation that I could rise up against. That’s when people claiming to be looking out for the oppressed take up those oppressed as their own cause, without considering how the “oppressed” feel about it. For example, polls have shown that the majority of Native Americans couldn’t care less about the names of sports teams (and some even believe the names HONOR their culture), but a bunch of non-natives have appropriated the cause and driven forward with it.

I understand that Speedy Gonzales has been canceled because – racism – but I’ve also heard of Hispanics who liked the character because it made them feel included (but like I said, what do THEY know?)

I remain confused, as always.

I thought we were supposed to be trying to help everyone feel included in our society. I wonder if the point of all this appropriation furor might be to separate us instead.

Just saying…

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Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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