Yes. I’m going there.
I know this is a very touchy subject, so know that this is my opinion and not that of my fellow contributors. Now, to my point. I respect all religion and cultures and like anyone else, I’m saddened by the negative exploitation many people are capable of doing.
Cultural elements being distorted or disrespected in any way is NEVER OKAY.
But I’m coming here with a different side. I’m coming here as a Spanish-looking girl married to a white dude. Here we are:
At our Hindu wedding.
Because my mom is Indian and was raised as a Hindu. She married a Venezuelan guy, so we’re Spanish and Indian. Our parents raised my siblings and me to be involved in both the Hindu and Christian religions. We never had to choose. We were blessed with both.
My husband is part Caucasian and part Chinese. Our children look Spanish and sometimes you can see their Chinese genes—depending on the day and probably the weather, who knows? If I was to dress them in Indian wear, in this day and age AND share it online (like I’m doing right now lol), the four of us would be met with the cancel culture and hatred.
I am bitter.
I am bitter because there’s so much hatred out there and judgement over what people do or say. And I get it, I support it, but only to an extent. There is a group of people who are fighting for their rights and for the respect they deserve, and I applaud them and stand with them. But then there are the trolls. Those who are waiting for just the right moment to attack anything they deem “wrong” without knowing the facts.
If my family and I were to dress in Indian clothing to attend my mom’s prayers and we were caught on the way there by the second group, we’d be met with hatred. My kids would be met with hatred. This is not okay. This is not a good world.
I read an account of someone on Reddit, a Caucasian guy, who grew up hanging out with his best friend, an Indian guy, and was always around his family. He loves Indian food, and his best friend’s mother taught him how to cook it. Years later, he’s away in college and has a roommate . . . who has a girlfriend. Because he was cooking Indian food, she started calling him an asshole and reproaching him for cultural appropriation. Why? Because it wasn’t his cultural food. These days, everything seems to be a trigger.
So where do people draw the line? Can I not eat Italian food because I’m not Italian? I’m seriously asking because if the answer is “no,” I might die.
I’m saddened by the hard turn people can make. There’s an honest set of people who truly have the right to fight for respect and so much more. But is there nothing sacred? Is there nothing another group of hateful people can’t turn around into pure negativity?
It makes me very bitter of the wokeness. I know, understand, and stand behind the reason we need it. But I dislike how much hatred it’s bringing along. And of course, it’s the people, not the movement itself. People in general can make amazing things happen, but then . . . they can bring it down just as fast.
I was born of multiple cultures, so were my children. So were many other people in the world, and I think it’s a beautiful, inclusive, “spread the love” kind of thing. Some people are easily identifiable in their culture, others aren’t . . . so in just the wrong moment they can be shot down for being unfairly judged. I guess I’m asking for compassion and kindness before passing judgement and attempting to cancel people because you “think” they’re not who they are. Whether online or in person.
I suppose this was more of a rant than anything else. But my mom is scheduled for some prayers in the upcoming weeks, and though I can’t go in person (immunocompromised son), it did cross my mind that if I were to go, I couldn’t wear an Indian outfit because of the issues of the world.
I mean, I could. I just dislike confrontations or anything of the sort. I don’t live too close to her, so it would mean others would definitely see me. I’m proud of my cultures, but with so many people randomly doing hateful things out there, I’ll admit I’m afraid.
And I’m bitter that I’m afraid. That is all.
6 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation and Bitterness”
Beautifully expressed, Shanny. My adult children (and grandchildren) all live in the general NYC area. I mention this because they have little restaurants called Calexico. I grew up in that area of California, where brown/black hair, brown eyes, and brown skin make up 90% of the population. My white (usually sunburnt) skin and red hair was a definite oddity. When I began working at universities, my focus often was the notion of difference, the appreciation of the God-given worth of each person. On this topic, I can say much. But during these last months, I have come to realize that logic, evidence, justice, kindness…has little to do with the current narrative. And I’ve concluded that once violence is introduced, hate rules — and not whatever cause is being trumpeted.
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First, I apologize for being so late replying. I’ve honestly spiraled through many more emotions on the topic and with the happenings in general. But thank you for taking the time to read and write such thoughtful comment.
I’ve been struggling finding the right words . . . to reply here, writing for work, and writing books. Either way, I think you summarize the issue perfectly. It’s all about the current narrative more so than logic, justice, and kindness. And that is just so plain sad.
Hope your November is off to a great start and Calexico? I checked out their website and Instagram, looks fantastic! Next time I make it to the city (I’m in the suburbs), I’ll check it out. 🙂
SO many good points – there are many people (like me) who are mixtures. I remember telling my kids how many people had to move so they could exist: my husband’s grandparents came from Sicily, Naples, and two places in Germany. My grandparents came from Illinois (mixed background by then), Mexico, and two places in Hungary.
And writers used to write about whatever they wanted, some well, some very badly – by the lights (then) of the appropriated, and now by all people of goodwill.
At least I have some idea of where we came from – many people don’t even have that.
In addition to many other things, villains can come from any background – and writers are going to have to deal with how to portray them. Can we no longer enjoy the fine acting job in The Sopranos? Or The Wire?
I think, though, that both intent and execution need a good looking at – and then a lot of patience.
Your family is beautiful – and I am green with envy that you have the Indian background – I’m just finishing the section of my mainstream trilogy set in India (the year is 2005, which I think helps), having been as careful and as loving and as clear-eyed as I can be about those characters who are Indian and the interactions with an international cast on the set of a Hollywood/Bollywood co-production that is the backdrop for the real story.
I’ve been there – a long time ago, as an 18 year old Girl Guide representing Mexico (from the Girl Guide North District which in Mexico City was English-speaking but not limited otherwise).
I hope to get the majority of it right.
I am sorry you and your beautiful family have to EVER deal with this. Any of it.
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Alicia, thank you so much for commenting! Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, I’ve struggled finding the right words . . . and I still don’t have them lol.
Extending the issue to writing and acting, you’re so right! It feels like we’re in the wrong for appreciating acting from people who aren’t from “the official” cuture or even sexual orientation they’re representing. That is the talent, though, isn’t it? On writing, that also is a touchy subject. How dare we write on other culture/countries/denominations/etc. we know nothing about. But also, how dare we exclude them? Like you said, we will need a lot of patience . . . and hope.
Wishing you the best with your trilogy, sounds like a culturally enriching story all around! 😀
I think the key if the ‘we know nothing about’ bit; it we’re going to write about cultures that are not the ones our bones have been steeped in since birth or by living somewhere, we need to be very sure we have done enough research, and that with an open mind.
I would like to vote to banish the word/category “Caucasian” from the lexicon. And for more people to read on and educate themselves on the History of the Idea of “Race.” It will never happen, but the ideas that word represents are damaging and frankly ridiculous.(And fatuous.) I also do not understand why, as a descendent of an Indian mother you would be afraid to wear clothing of that culture? I am not criticising you. IMO You have a right to embrace your culture through dress. Thank you for your valuable rant on the subject – as for myself, I recognize the complexities through my lived experience and pretty extensive scholarship on this subject. I hope our children will live in saner moments. Hearts to you, I love your humor and love this blog. Best, Mary Britton