Editor’s Note: When I first saw the item in the newspaper about the girl who wore the Chinese-style dress to her prom and was castigated for doing so, I thought it had to be some sort of Onion-style joke. Either that, or I was reading it wrong. When I realized that this was an example of liberal outrage about cultural appropriation, I was annoyed that people from my own portion of the political continuum were being so petty, trivial and just plain embarrassing.
“When will liberals learn that barking at nothing makes people not want to listen when you actually have something to say?”
— Bill Maher
of the best things about being a columnist who’s just a bit inflammatory is
the reactions from offended readers. The silliest criticism I hear — and I
hear it often — is that I’m biased. Realistically, it’s part of the job
description. Calling an opinion writer biased is like calling a prostitute
I expend more ink mocking the Right than I do those at my own end of the
political spectrum; nonetheless, I’m usually more annoyed by obnoxious
opinions held by those on my side. Because my bias includes the conviction that
conservatism is ruining my country, right-wing nonsense rarely outrages or even
surprises me — you can’t be disillusioned if your expectations are low.
Conservatives often call liberals “snowflakes” for being oversensitive and “politically correct,” but neither side is immune. If you think those on the Right are too manly to be snowflakes, say something that calls into question the divinity of Ronald Reagan. For example, insinuate to a roomful of Republicans that selling missiles to Iranian terrorists, then lying about it, could be viewed as treasonous. This is likely to generate the same sort of petulant whining as calling Billy Graham an anti-Semite at a Values Voters brunch.
writer Michelle Wolf’s monologue at the White House Correspondents
Dinner also caused conservatives to act like what talk show host Bill
Maher has described as, “the professionally offended.” You’d think
no one would be shocked that Wolf called Sarah Huckabee Sanders “a
liar,” yet the Fox & Friends mannequins reacted like Rudy Giuliani
confronting garlic, a wooden stake or direct sunlight.
course, the Left has its own touchy areas. Particularly annoying is their
fixation on “cultural appropriation,” one more component of liberal
guilt. Wikipedia defines it as “the adoption of the elements of a
minority culture by members of the dominant culture,” including
“cultural and religious traditions, fashion, symbols, language and
For example, some think white America’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo disrespectfully reduces Mexican culture to tequila, serapes and tacos. But why is it wrong to enjoy some pleasant aspects of a foreign culture? Our vast melting pot has absorbed and normalized waves of immigrants for centuries. Would it be disrespectful for Greek-Americans to put on lederhosen, eat sauerbraten and drink German lager during Oktoberfest? What about wearing tiny, green-plastic derby hats on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not Irish?
a slippery slope. If it’s wrong for a white American to sport a sombrero while
drinking Tecate beer, then it’s wrong for a Mexican to drink Budweiser wearing
a NY Yankees baseball cap. One of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been
to was in Singapore, where Chinese waiters wore serapes and played Mexican music
on guitars between deliveries of nachos. It seemed a bit bizarre in that
setting, but no more offensive than Singapore’s Indian or French eateries,
which also had Chinese staffs.
When Utah teenager, Keziah Daum, wore a Chinese-style dress (a qipao) to her prom, one Asian-American tweeted that her clothes were “colonial ideology” — an opinion retweeted more than 42,000 times. With 1.5 billion Chinese worldwide, and the rise of globalism, it’s hard to see them as a minority. More importantly, as Daum put it, “It’s just a dress.” She didn’t start a trade war or murder a panda, and certainly did nothing to warrant death threats. It’s one more slippery slope — if American teens shouldn’t wear the qipao, then should Chinese teens be allowed to wear jeans and cowboy hats?
the music business, accusations of cultural appropriation have been rife
since Elvis became a millionaire popularizing black music from people like
Big Mama Thornton. Eric Clapton has been accused of exploiting bluesmen
like Robert Johnson, and white rappers like Eminem are sometimes
criticized for getting rich from hip-hop.
music is universal and has no race, and no ethnic group can claim
exclusive ownership. Should black or Asian musicians be banned from
playing Mozart? Should Nat King Cole have profited from his rendition of
“The Christmas Song” (which was written by Mel Torme)? And is “The
Wiz,” a black adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” a slippery slope of
appropriation that disrespects white culture?
film industry has historically cast Caucasians as Asians (e.g., Paul Muni and
Luise Rainer in “The Good Earth,” and Marlon Brando in “The Teahouse
of the August Moon”), as well as Arabs (e.g., Lawrence Olivier as the Mahdi in
“Khartoum,” and Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal in “Lawrence of
Arabia”). And a great deal of controversy was engendered when Olivier,
in blackface, headlined a cinematic rendering of “Othello.”
However, it’s hard to argue with casting the world’s greatest actor to play the title role of the Moor in a film that received more Academy Award nominations than any other Shakespearean movie. And, if only black actors, such as James Earl Jones or Paul Robeson, should play Othello, then should thespians such as Denzel Washington be “blacklisted” from playing the vast majority of white Shakespearian roles?
is it a form of colonialism to appropriate another culture’s religion? Do
Asians “own” Buddhism? Should Indians monopolize yoga and Hinduism?
Christianity began as a Middle Eastern/Semitic faith that was eventually adopted
and adapted by white Europeans, then by Americans, including Mormons.
tired of people finding victimhood in “no harm, no foul” situations. And
I’m sick of do-gooders who feel the need to speak for people suffering
nonexistent persecution that almost no one cares about. They need to find
something less trivial to worry about.
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