Canada You mean cultural appropriation isn’t about free speech?: Salutin

14:23  19 may  2017
14:23  19 may  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

On diversity, Canadian media is throwing stones in a glass house

  On diversity, Canadian media is throwing stones in a glass house In defence of Hal Niedzviecki, top Canadian journalists crowd-funded an ‘appropriation prize’—a gut punch for a person of colour in media

Some people get angry because they think their “ freedom of speech ” is under attack – and others get angry because their concerns about appropriation are being ignored. 1. Avoiding Cultural Appropriation Doesn’ t Mean We Don’ t Get to Share Cultures .

According to the Wiktionary, “to appropriate ” means “[ t ]o take to oneself; to claim or use, especially as by an exclusive right” or “[ t ]o set apart for, or assign to, a particular person or use Icelandic Heathens Rising, Cultural Appropriation Violence, And Free Software And Sexual Freedom . A Call To Inaction.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Indigenous writer and commentator Jesse Wente (left) provided unique lessons about the cultural appropriation debate in the past week while now-former Walrus editor Jonathan Kay continued his role as the Miss Manners of any debate, writes Rick Salutin.: Indigenous writer and commentator Jesse Wente (left) and now-former Walrus editor Jonathan Kay. © Provided by Toronto Star Indigenous writer and commentator Jesse Wente (left) and now-former Walrus editor Jonathan Kay.

The cultural appropriation debate broke new ground this week, for me anyway. I confess I was among those who always saw it as essentially a matter of free speech: the right to write what one chose. Tell many writers what they can’t write and they’ll become obsessed with doing it.

Native writer and commentator Jesse Wente broke through this in his conversation with Jonathan Kay on CBC last weekend. He said it isn’t about denying anyone’s right to write on particular topics or to imagine others’ lives.

Jonathan Kay resigns as editor of The Walrus amid 'appropriation prize' backlash

  Jonathan Kay resigns as editor of The Walrus amid 'appropriation prize' backlash Jonathan Kay has resigned as editor-in-chief of The Walrus, amid outrage over some journalists’ support for a so-called “appropriation prize,” a position that generated intense backlash on social media and within the Canadian arts and journalism communities this week. The Star has independently confirmed that Kay resigned Saturday night. He first told the CBC about his departure on Sunday morning. Kay is one of several prominent Toronto journalists to support fellow magazine editor Hal Niedzviecki after he resigned late last week as editor of The Writers’ Union of Canada magazine after backlash over an opinion piece asking writers “to imagine other cultures” and to “set your sights on the big goal: Win the Appropriation Prize.” Kay called the outrage over Niedzviecki departure “mobbing.” A number of journalists then pledged money to jokingly set up an “appropriation prize.” That, in turn, sparked intense social media outrage. Kay had been editor-in-chief of The Walrus since 2014, succeeding John Macfarlane. Kay joined the magazine from a position as the comments editor the National Post, which he joined at its inception in 1998. Niedzviecki responded to the controversy on Friday with a note on Facebook: “Calls for an actual ‘appropriation prize’ are extremely unhelpful. They do not represent me in anyway.

Why Discussing Cultural Appropriation Isn ’ t Just Being Told What You ‘Can’t’ Do. Basically, if you are white, whether you mean to be racist or not, you have the power to perpetuate institutional racism just by following the status quo, with the behavior that’s considered “normal.”

One of the main objections to avoiding cultural appropriation comes down to “ free speech .” You should have the right to express yourself however you want to – and you do. Can Having Genital Preferences for Dating Mean You ’re Anti-Trans?

Most Indigenous writers concurred, even if derisively, like Robert Jago’s, “Do I care if you have a native character in your stupid book about wandering pants …? No.” But if you do, Wente warned, be ready to be challenged and critiqued.

So it’s no longer: Am I permitted to do this? But: Do I really want to? Once the free speech banner is removed from the battlefield, people like me look around and wonder: if this isn’t about me and my glorious right to expression, then what’s it about? You might even start feeling bereft.

Cultural appropriation has had some good moments, like “Strange Fruit,” written in the 1930s by Jewish-American leftist Abel Meeropol, about lynchings in the American south. It was reappropriated by Billie Holliday, Nina Simone and others. It’s also had awful ones, like Al Jolson singing “Mammy” or “Swanee” in blackface.

Walrus editor Jonathan Kay quits amid free speech uproar: ‘I have been censoring myself more and more’

  Walrus editor Jonathan Kay quits amid free speech uproar: ‘I have been censoring myself more and more’ Jonathan Kay was still editor of The Walrus when he waded into the cultural appropriation maelstrom in the National Post on FridayKay informed the world earlier Sunday, via Twitter, that he would be attending the Toronto Blue Jays game and sitting in the cheap seats, with his phone blissfully turned off.

2. Cultural Appropriation Isn ’ t Just About Borrowing Culture . Often, claims of “reverse” appropriation are the dominant group’s knee jerk reaction to being told something is off-limits. Can Having Genital Preferences for Dating Mean You ’re Anti-Trans?

What is cultural appropriation ? Scafidi, the author of Who Owns Culture ? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law "If non-Natives buy crafts, jewelry and clothing from Native peoples, it does not necessarily mean that there aren' t inherent dynamics of power and appropriation at play.

And some highly peculiar ones, as when white record producer Sam Phillips in the 1950s said, “If I could find a white boy with the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a million dollars,” just before Elvis wandered in.

But if it has particular moments, then it’s not about a timeless principle, everything depends on which moment we’re currently in. Wente clarified this too, saying the appropriation of Indigenous culture in Canada today occurs alongside the appropriation (i.e., theft) of lands, children etc., which are finally being acknowledged, versus denied, ignored or glorified.

When Shakespeare, by contrast, appropriated ancient versions of Roman history, there were no Latin writers around to be legitimately aggrieved or to contextualize it socially.

There’s also a particular technological moment we’re in, that replaces an earlier one. During the long winter of mass media, native writers were often confined to reacting among their peers to the appropriation of the appropriation debate by mainstream whites. (All the white journalists who offered to put up money for an appropriation prize, and have mostly apologized, have made a good living there all their lives.)

Three indigenous writers discuss cultural appropriation with CBC's Rosanna Deerchild

  Three indigenous writers discuss cultural appropriation with CBC's Rosanna Deerchild Three indigenous writers discuss cultural appropriation with CBC's Rosanna DeerchildThe editorial's author, Hal Niedzviecki, later stepped down, as did Walrus editor Jonathan Kay after he published an opinion piece of his own advocating for debate around the issue of cultural appropriation.

Meanwhile, society cuts and commercializes pieces of Black culture for white consumption. It’s one of the most pervasive forms of cultural appropriation , when other people take elements of traditionally Black culture without knowledge of or respect for what it means to Black folks.

So while I don’ t have an equation, I did take the aforementioned decade to think about this stuff, which means the very least I could so is create a list of Ways-To-Tell-If-Something-Is- Cultural - Appropriation -Before-Actually- Appropriating .

But social media, as Wente also noted, changes this. Native writers can make their voices and reactions widely heard. This means less frustration even as more anger gets more widely vented; and it has opened up the possibility of publicly naming and explaining their outrage rather than rhetorically proclaiming bans and anathemas.

Jonathan Kay, formerly of the National Post and now also ex of The Walrus, played a uniquely instructive role this week, as always. He hovered above, even while loitering within, calling the initial Writers’ Union piece on the topic by Hal Niedzviecki “too flippant;” but the reaction to it “over the top” and “excessively strident.”

He’s the Miss Manners of any debate, letting others know when they’ve gone too far and when they’re straddling that line just fine. As such, he’s the embodiment of the appropriative mode, the ultimate (he assumes) arbiter. You could stick him in Mme. Tussaud’s symbolizing it.

He did it during the Boyden debate, saying critiques based on race are “never an entirely benign exercise.” (What is?) When a journalist at this paper committed suicide, he demanded, “Show us the suicide note!” like the mob at Caesar’s funeral crying, “The will, the will. We will hear Caesar’s will!”

At the end of the CBC interview he intoned grandly, “And by the way, I’d like to commend Jesse, who has conducted himself extremely graciously on social media” as well as for his “civility.”

Whence this detachment and largesse? Can you picture a racialized writer in this society striking the same proconsular note, about a heated controversy in which he or she is also a divisive player?

Still, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for? Alternately, we could shut up once in awhile and listen. We might even learn something, even if our own precious thoughts get to take a rest.

Rick Salutin’s column appears Fridays.

Dollarama dream catcher kitsch ‘a slap in the face’ .
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