Plz Appropriate Me Bro

Obviously white people, on average, obtain higher levels of income and various other measures of success in America.

You can call this White Privilege and call on government intervention to solve the problem, but this is a band aid solution. It seems to me that is a cop-out for the much harder, real solution: Genuine, bottom-up, cultural change.

Surely these advantages aren’t purely genetic. Many of them are cultural. The real solution would be for non-whites to synthesize the beneficial components of White Culture.

Instead of celebrating this cultural transaction, many consider it a taboo. A black person isn’t supposed to act white, for example. Do yall agree this taboo is a social problem, or have I failed to identify a real solution?

I also think White Culture, or White American Culture to be more specific, can be made better off by absorbing the best of non-white culture, but this is also taboo and it’s called cultural appropriation.

I call these twin taboos a kind of path dependence. They don’t function in a progressive way at all, although ironically progressives usually hold to these views. Instead, they seem to lock-in negative historic prejudices.

Some non-academic personal friends have told me something like “cultural absorption is not the same thing as cultural appropriation.” The idea is that whenever culture is taken in a positive way it is absorption, and whenever it’s done in an abusive way it’s appropriation.

The problem with the above dichotomy is twofold. First, who gets to decide when something is positive or negative? I might consider white rap a positive absorption, but it is in fact a prototypical example of appropriation.

The second problem is that virtually no one in academia or the media recognizes the term ‘cultural absorption.’ For cultural appropriation researchers, it means any time one culture uses something from another culture, even if it’s done in a positive way such as a white chef opening an Ethiopian food restaurant. Here’s an example academic article would be “From cultural exchange to transculturation: A review and reconceptualization of cultural appropriation,” Rogers, 2006. It says:

Cultural appropriation is often mentioned but undertheorized in critical rhetorical and media studies. Defined as the use of a culture’s symbols, artifacts, genres, rituals, or technologies by members of another culture, cultural appropriation can be placed into 4 categories: exchange, dominance, exploitation, and transculturation.

Even though this technical definition also includes beneficial acts, the research is predominantly concerned with non-beneficial activity such as dominance and exploitation. This is also what filters out of academia into the media, so the term ‘cultural appropriation’ is now known in pop culture as an awful thing to be avoided, primarily through government intervention or pro-minority social activity, where pro-minority is often about emphasizing or preserving minority identity rather than integrating minority and majority culture.

What changes am I specifically referring to? That is a long list, but one example of what I consider to be a cultural problem is the stylized fact that black communities tend to have more single-parent and single-mother families. This family structure results in lower income, education, and other measures of success relative to the traditional family structure. The traditional family is a cultural institution which can be voluntarily adopted within any ethnic community.

Another example of cultural change is reducible to the individual level. This social trait which can be developed and measured at the individual level is patience. A culture of patience can be seen as the aggregation of individual patience across a group. I don’t know whether certain ethnic groups tend to have more or less patience, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Related comedy: My nephew tried to school me on cultural appropriation. It didn’t end well.

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