Policing Culture at the University of Washington
There's a new wave of hardcore political correctness sweeping college campuses. It’s called cultural appropriation. As explained by a University of Washington student, it’s when “you take something from a culture that isn't yours and basically use it for your own purposes. A lot of times this involves a majority culture taking bits and pieces of a minority culture in a way that trivializes it, in a way that misrepresents it and pulls it out of context, or in a way that stereotypes other people.”
If this leaves you scratching your head, don’t worry. There’s a whole group of UW students who, having crowned themselves with a certain level of elitism, have put together a video instructing the rest of us Cro-Magnon types on how to avoid cultural appropriation. As one might expect, they make fools of themselves in the process.
Nevertheless, as you watch the video, you can almost imagine yourself in a museum walking from one “cultural exhibit” to another as you’re immediately hit with a sense of separatism and victimhood. Of course, it would have been more helpful had the students actually known something about culture before starting their little grievance project.
Still, as an anthropologist who escaped the grips of leftist academia before my own brain could turn to mush, I am somewhat sympathetic to those afflicted with critical thinking attrition, a common byproduct of today’s higher education. Perhaps these students deserve a refund.
It used to be that anyone could take a good Anthropology 101 class and get an honest lesson on cultural diffusion. This simply refers to the natural spreading of cultural traits, mainly through migration, trade, and war. Cultures adopt and tinker with traits that work for them and abandon those traits that don’t. It’s one of the key mechanisms of cultural change and advancement, and the primary reason isolated cultures tend to lag behind everyone else.
While it’s obvious the students never learned about cultural diffusion, they do, however, seem to know plenty about cultural isolation. In case you haven’t noticed, college campuses are hotbeds of victim identities, where many students have aligned themselves with a special, separate culture of oppression. Victim cultures wear their victimhood as a badge of moral virtue. They see themselves as innocent and everyone else is out to get them.
There are seven different victim groups represented in UW’s student video: The Black Student Union, Pacific Islanders Student Commission, Student Disability Commission, Queen Student Commission, Women’s Action Commission, La Raza Commission, and Asian Student Commission. One by one, each group has their soapbox moment lecturing on all the things that offend them.
One of the most vitriolic “us” versus “them” diatribes came from the La Raza Commission. With a name that literally means “the race,” we shouldn’t be surprised at hearing their members demand “avoid dressing up like us,” followed by a list of prohibited items, including sombreros, ponchos, and other forms of symbolism.
There’s also a token white guy representing the Student Disability Commission. Normally, a white person wouldn’t have a voice because today whites have supposedly lost their right to a positive white identity. Only if the white person is disabled will they be granted a voice -- that of a disability victim. As for the ways not to offend the SDC, we are forbidden to pretend we’re deaf, blind, a mental patient, a disabled veteran, or a crazy person in a straitjacket. It looks like standup comedians may finally go out of business on this one.
Then there’s the Pacific Islander Commission where two young women attempt to explain how wearing a grass skirt, coconut bra, or island print shirt misrepresents Pacific Islanders. One of the women went on to say that because these clothing items were once worn at traditional dances and luaus, it “feels disrespectful” when non-Pacific Islanders wear them.
Personally, wearing a sombrero, straitjacket, or Hawaiian shirt to a party is the last thing these self-absorbed brats need to worry about. Instead, they should analyze all the ways they “appropriate” culture such as when they wear flip-flops, eat pizza, or smoke pot. All of these cultural traits were taken from and used outside their original contexts. And so what? Get over it. No one is going to stop eating corn because it belonged to the Native Americans.
Finally, there was a young woman from the Black Student Union. She wore a college t-shirt bearing a raised fist, reminiscent of the communist symbol that many people find extremely offensive given the harrowing history of death associated with communism. Although this symbol has been adopted by other modern world cultures, as well as American labor unions and the Black Panther Party, it actually dates back to the ancient Syrians as a symbol of resistance. Talk about cultural appropriation!
To get the full effect of all the hypocrisy, you really must watch the video. But make no mistake about it, the collective policing of culture has already begun and it’s coming to a campus near you. In the words of a UW student, “We want to encourage you to keep an eye out for cultural appropriation.”
Keep an eye out? What are these thin-skinned totalitarians prepared to do when they experience something that offends them? Will they act like the Million Idiot Marchers we’ve seen on other campuses with pumped fists held high and shouting unintelligibles? Perhaps they’ll call on “some muscle” to bully people into submission. Or maybe they’ll just weep and sing, “We Shall Overcome”-- a big cultural appropriation itself in that it disrespects all those who have experienced real hardship at a time when people had to rely on their character, not safe spaces.
Incredibly, in the end, not one student said anything uniting. American culture and its famous melting pot wasn’t even mentioned. That’s because these culturally clueless students think of America as illegitimate and inherently bigoted. It goes with the grievance narrative. Meanwhile, these ungrateful children have been able to enjoy all the rights and privileges of America, courtesy of the brave men and women who have sacrificed dearly and from whom they and others like them continue to suck up off of every day.
Perhaps it’s the culturally clueless who need to take a long hard look in the mirror. Who’s really appropriating who?
Kimberly Bloom Jackson holds a doctorate in anthropology. She can be found writing about Hollywood, education, and culture at SnoopingAnthropologist.com.