There was a time in Western civilization when its culture celebrated not only the familiar but also the exotic.
Just look at rock and roll, which was built on the blues of the American south. Some of the most popular bands were English. The Beatles wrote several songs heavily influenced by Indian music. Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir is a homage to north Africa. Graceland, one of Paul Simon’s most popular albums, featured South African music.
One can even go back farther and see a taste for the exotic. In the mid- to late-19th century, as European composers began incorporating local folk music into their works, primarily for nationalist reasons, they were also fascinated by the music of other cultures. The German composer Johannes Brahms was a “Hungarophile” who loved gypsy music. The Frenchman Georges Bizet wrote an opera, “Carmen”, set in Seville. Antonin Dvořák, a Czech composer, built Native American and African American themes into his “New World” Symphony.
Nowadays, however, such use of foreign culture in music is anathema to cultural Marxists, who scan the artistic landscape to identify and condemn its presumed exploitation. Through the concept of social construction, they believe that human nature is defined by politics. (This is similar to classical Marxism, which believes that a society’s ideas are defined by its means of production.) The culture of a people belongs to that people. Any foreigner who uses someone else’s culture in a work of art is guilty of “cultural appropriation”. For example, in an article on the website For Harriet, “an online community for women of African ancestry”, cultural appropriation is defined as “when one person from a race or culture borrows other racial or cultural tropes for personal gain”.
What do you mean Beyoncé isn’t Indian???
How cultural Marxists apply cultural appropriation run from the banal to the dangerous.
To find an example of the banal, all one needs to do is look at National Public Radio. Consider the following exchange between NPR host Rachel Martin and Justin Charity of the magazine Complex, in which they discuss a video of the Coldplay/Beyoncé song “Hymn for the Weekend”:
JUSTIN CHARITY: Basically, Coldplay and Beyoncé went to Mumbai, and the music video is shot with a lot of imagery from the Hindu Holi festival of colors. The music video features Chris Martin running around with local children and sort of throwing dry coloring and dye. And Beyoncé’s also in it, and she is basically a Bollywood actress. And she’s adorned in lace and bangles and henna, and this is all somewhat strange imagery to associate with either Beyoncé or Coldplay.
MARTIN: Neither of them are Indian.
CHARITY: Right. We should note that Chris Martin is a white man.
CHARITY: Beyoncé is a black woman from Houston, Texas.
They said all of this to be insightful.
Fighting appropriation, one kimono at a time
Sometimes how cultural appropriation is applied can be downright silly. For example, an article in Spiked discussed how The Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg:
started a Twitterspat with reality-TV personality Kylie Jenner, saying Jenner’s donning of corn rows was ‘appropriation of black features’, before going on to accuse other white artists of adopting hip-hop culture ‘as a way of being edgy and gaining attention’.
Then there was the case of the misappropriated kimonos:
In early July , protesters took against the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for hosting ‘Kimono Wednesdays’, a gimmicky promotion to advertise the display of Monet’s La Japonaise. Visitors were encouraged to don kimonos and imitate the pose of Monet’s wife and muse Camille. But irate white and Asian-American protesters turned out to complain about the ‘exotification’ of Asian people – much to the puzzlement of the Japanese-American organisers of ‘Kimono Wednesdays’.
How culture becomes a crime
Unfortunately, some writers dare to go further and accuse artist of committing “cultural crimes”, which is what Amy Zimmerman accused Australian rapper Iggy Azalea of committing. Zimmerman’s J’accuse consists of one race-based claim after another, beginning with her downplaying Azalea’s talent:
[T]he 24-year-old Aussie doesn’t do much more than mimic the identifiably black spitting style of the American South.
To her disdain for white rappers:
White rappers are always difficult to comprehend, difficult to deal with. Eminem pissed off a lot of people by using the N-word, and you’re not a real hip-hop fan if you’re not still processing Kendrick Lamar’s 2013 Grammy defeat at the extremely white hands of Macklemore.
To her condescending pretense of feeling empathy for Azalea:
But Iggy Azalea is a special case: her story falls at the intersection of race, gender, commodification and co-option, and speaks to a history of black erasure that many artists feel they can no longer afford to ignore. Iggy Azalea herself might not even understand how polarizing and important a figure Iggy Azalea has become.
To her disdain for fans who like white rappers:
An artist like Macklemore receiving recognition over a black artist might strike many as deeply prejudiced and unfair—it’s hard to ignore the fact that his whiteness, his “palatability” to certain audiences, is a huge component of his profitability and appeal. Still, at least Macklemore sounds like a white guy from the Pacific Northwest.
Before getting to the heart…finally…of Azalea’s alleged crime:
Iggy’s alleged crime is twofold: she gets to profit off of her white appeal while simultaneously selling a black sound. She is making a huge career for herself by mimicking the vocal patterns and phrases of a Southern black girl—in effect, as Banks is arguing, stealing that nameless black girl’s own success in the process.
Only through apartheid will we be free
As ridiculous as the idea of cultural crime sounds on the surface, there is a logic underneath it. If rap music belongs to people of African American descent, only they have the right to create any more rap songs.
While this reasoning raises a myriad of questions, I’ll focus on three. Who decides which group “owns” which culture? Who decides whether a culture has been appropriated? And what type of enforcement mechanism needs to be in place to make sure one group’s culture stays in its proper place?
None of these are cultural questions. All of them are political questions. They require a political framework to answer them. And if cultural Marxists are truly concerned about appropriation, any crimes identified through these questions must be resolved by force. Therefore, the only way to make sure that culture is used “properly” is through a politically-designed cultural apartheid.
Cultural Marxism, like classical Marxism, is inherently vicious. It must destroy in vain hope that something new will be created. And in the name of protecting the exotic, cultural Marxism will make the exotic disappear.