Cultural appropriation: 'Genocide' or appreciation?
In the politically correct word we unfortunately live in now, "cultural appropriation" is almost as great a sin as beating your wife. But is it really cultural appropriation to do such things as braiding your hair or wearing hoop earrings? Because something becomes a trend within a group, does that have the right to vilify all others who do the same? And when did it rise to the level of "cultural genocide"?
Unfortunately, this idiocy has progressed to the point where an artist was recently accused not of cultural appropriation, but of "cultural genocide" and had her art show canceled. An article by Katherine Timpf in National Review Online states:
An art gallery in Toronto canceled a scheduled exhibit of a Canadian artist's work after she was accused of committing "cultural genocide" against indigenous people with her paintings.
The artist, Amanda PL, told CBC Toronto that she "tried to learn all she could about the Aboriginal culture, their teachings, their stories" and "capture the beauty of the art style and make it [her] own by drawing upon elements of nature within Canada that have meaning to me."
Sounds nice, right? Learning about another culture, and appreciating it enough to want to include it in your own work in a special way? Well, according to critics, "nice" is not the right word; a better one might be something like "murderous."
"What she's doing is essentially cultural genocide, because she's taking [indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau's] stories and retelling them, which bastardizes it down the road," Chippewa artist Jay Soule said, according to CBC. "Other people will see her work and they'll lose the connection between the real stories that are attached to it. Yes — Amanda PL's paintings were apparently not just "insensitive" or "cultural appropriation," but full-on, all-out genocide.
What exactly is genocide? The international definition from the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide describes it thus:
Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:
1) the mental element, meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such", and
2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called "genocide." ...
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Notice the word "and" in the definition. There must be both a mental and physical element for an event to be considered genocide. With this so-called "cultural genocide" art, there was no physical intent or act against any other culture.
People who use art from other eras and other cultures are attempting to keep it alive, not to kill either the art or the culture. Ancient Persia was rich in the arts – and most of the art from that era has been destroyed by the Islam-majority Iranians. Who would be left to tell their story if not for artists immersing themselves in the culture and art through written and historical examples and drawing inspiration from them?
This is something I myself did when making art glass windows. I found a picture of an ancient Persian medallion and adapted it. I also designed a window based on an old Victorian-era vent. Was I culturally appropriating anything or simply appreciating the beauty of another era or culture? I believe that it was the latter. What were produced were several things of beauty that would not have existed without this inspiration.
Back in the '60s and early '70s, many of us wore dashikis, traditional African clothing from certain tribes. We wore them not to appropriate the culture of these people, but rather because we appreciated the beauty of the garments and the art. Strangely to me, the children of the people who never accused any of us of cultural appropriation are now accusing everyone of cultural appropriation about everything.
Is there any sane person who believes that an artist paying homage to another culture – or, to take it a step farther, wearing something from another culture – rises to the level of cultural genocide? Many people these days seem to be using words or coining phrases they don't know the meaning of, much less what they should be used for. The cancelation of an art show by a person celebrating and perpetuating another's culture is a prime example.
When are people going to take a stand? At the age of 72, it probably won't happen in my lifetime, but if freedom-loving people continue to stay silent, they will eventually be doing it in a socialist society, and by then it will be too late.
Claire Hawks is a gray-haired granny and writes occasionally for American Thinker. She had the privilege of editing "Black Lies Matter" by Taleeb Starkes.