A Life Less Analog, Entertainment

Cancel culture: Cultural appropriation and the PC police

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Thanks in large part to social media, cancel culture is out of control, with cultural appropriation being one of the charges the PC police loves to raise against targets. Different celebrities have been accused of cultural appropriation, from Coldplay and Beyonce to Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, Zac Efron, Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift. The list goes on, and with cancel culture putting the fear of being boycotted and shunned, we’ve seen different celebrities apologizing for one thing or another.

Perhaps emboldened by what has become the PC form of a witch hunt and censorship, and the increasing prominence of Asian celebrities, the cancel culture mob is now going after Asians. Like Golden Globe Best Actress awardee — the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in any lead actress film category — and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” star Awkwafina, who has been criticized for her frequent use of a blaccent. Plus as if PC people weren’t already moralizing about cultural appropriation, now it seems many of us are also guilty of language appropriation when we use slang. Because a lot of modern slang is based on African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and language appropriation “erases the influence of black culture“.

Spread by social media

Thanks in large part to social media, cancel culture is out of control, with cultural appropriation being one of the charges the PC police loves to raise against targets. Image credit: xFrame
Image credit: xFrame

The Buzzfeed article helpfully informs us of some slang words that are examples of language appropriation.

“’On fleek,’ ‘AF’ (‘as fuck’), ‘savage,’ ‘shade,’ ‘sip/spill the tea,’ and ‘woke’ are all examples of AAVE that have crept into wider public vernacular upon being championed by non-Black people.”

Huh, so every woke person who calls himself or herself woke but isn’t black isn’t actually woke.

So should we Filipinos tell people to stop using “boondocks” because that English word comes from the Tagalog word “bundok“? Which the US military brought back with them when they were massacring our ancestors and occupying the Philippines in the early 20th century? I’m being sarcastic, OK. I sure hope no Filipino-American or whatever PC person has tried doing that.

Honestly, I used to consider myself a person with liberal views. But we’ve come to the point where people will go to ridiculous extents to be offended and cancel people whose views and actions they find offensive.

If you think about it, cancel culture is really an American thing that’s being spread like a virus all over the world via social media.

Because whether Republicans or Democrats, whether white, black, or different hyphenations, Americans have the unfortunate tendency to think the world revolves around them. That their views are the right ones. And for years, America has been imploding because of their obsession with divisive identity politics and intersectionality.

Maybe it’s relevant to them, given the history of their country, particularly black slavery, segregation, and the continued systemic racism against blacks and other minorities. But America isn’t the world. We’re not forced to copy what’s irrelevant to us. Or let them tell us what to do.

Protecting their feelings

Heck, if even a longtime liberal like Bill Maher is tired of political correctness, cultural appropriation, and cancel culture, you know things have gone too far and that their obsession with language has become ridiculous.

““Democrats have gone from the party that protects people to the party that protects feelings. From, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you,’ to, ‘You owe me an apology,'” Maher said back in 2017, and his insights are even more relevant these days.

Whatever they may be going through in the US — and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they elect Donald Trump as president again because the Democrats don’t seem to have learned anything — this PC culture just isn’t relevant in Asia.

No one owns a culture

Particularly since many Americans apparently think everything is cultural appropriation.

“I have seen them rebuke a Filipina woman who purchased a bracelet with a yin-yang symbol at a fair and earnestly discuss whether it’s appropriation to eat Japanese, Indian or Thai food. Even Selena Gomez, a Latina artist, was assailed a couple of years ago for sporting a Hindu forehead dot, or bindi, in a Bollywood-style performance.”

Being offended, cancelling people, and putting everything into boxes (“black culture”, “Asian culture”, “Western culture”) just creates divisions to prop up “identities”.

Nothing is pure. Nothing is original. The reality is that every culture appropriates.

“The cultural appropriation police answer the yoga and banh mi objections with a familiar counter-argument: it’s about power. It’s fine for colonized Indians to incorporate European fitness regimes into their yoga; wrong for Canadians of European origin to incorporate yoga into their fitness regimes.

“But the trouble with that argument is that—like culture—power also ebbs and flows. Customs we may think of as immemorially inherent in one culture very often originated in that culture’s own history of empire and domination. The Han Chinese learned to drink tea for pleasure from peoples to their south. The green flag of Islam was adapted from the pre-Islamic religions of Iran. The great west African kingdom of Benin acquired the metal for some of its famous bronze artworks by selling thousands of people as slaves to Portuguese traders.”

Asian Asians

Culture is what is happening now, and this world we live in was made possible through cross-pollination among different cultures. And unlike the US, Asia has a long history, and we’re more wiling to transmit our culture and assimilate those of others. We offer our traditional costumes and accessories for sale to tourists. And we don’t mind foreigners wearing our stuff, eating our food, and adopting our culture.

Cancel culture is an immature response to being offended. It’s the self-centered view that only your culture, your history, your reality, your oppression, your feelings matter.

Some show offends you? Don’t watch it. Think K-pop is guilty of cultural appropriation? Don’t listen to it.

But, no, in the age of cancel culture, those who are offended want everyone else to be offended and agree with them. And they want what offends them to disappear, by ostracizing the new target of their outrage.

Asians in Asia aren’t the minority. Our experiences are different from Asian-Americans who are trying to become integrated in American society. We’re free to reject things we don’t want, or don’t apply to Asia.

Also, it’s American society that committed the sins of black slavery, segregation, and systemic racism. It might be more productive for all Americans, including the PC police, to get their act together and fix their problems in the US. Instead of focusing on online outrage at other cultures and other nations.

Don’t export your baggage to Asia, and dictate to Asians what we can and can’t do. We were never the white man’s burden during the age of Western imperialism and colonization. What more now that the world is moving on to the Asian Century.