anonymous said:

I am a pure-blooded Venezuelan who moved to the USA as an immigrant. My family is very deeply immersed in our culture. Yet, when I wear the traditional costume, eat Venezuelan foods, or speak Spanish I'm often accused of cultural appropriation and being a culture-stealing white girl. I'm starting to think that they are correct... what should I do?

To add to the previous ask (I’m the Venezuelan immigrant anon), I have very pale skin and green eyes. My sibling and mother’s entire family side, however, has the typical Venezuelan tan skin and brown eyes.

I’m sorry you’re yet another victim of trainwreck white knighting in the US by people with white saviour complexes. They are not right. Do not think they are right. You don’t have to change anything about yourself. But people accusing you of cultural appropriation need to STFU and really get educated because they are essentially subscribing to ill-informed stereotypes about what people of a culture look like. Sorry, this will be another long post.

Okay, first and foremost, this is what I’ll say to those people accusing you of cultural appropriation:

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You cannot appropriate your own culture just as you can’t steal your own money. 

Let’s tease out what assumptions these people are relying on to support their very, very ignorant conclusions- this is what I detect are the underlying assumptions:

  1. White people = European origin, as per the US understanding.
  2. Latin@s are a race! Because when you say latin@ in the US everyone thinks of Mexicans right? And aren’t they like all with dark hair and tanned skin? Culturally they’re not like white (English-speaking, really) North America, so voila, I have Othered them as “non-white!”
  3. Our race categories apply everywhere! Since I’ve proclaimed them non-white, they darn well better not have have “white” features like fair skin and green eyes!
  4. Venezuela’s in Latin America right? Non-white then! How dare this white girl try and pretend she’s a latino, I mean she has like green eyes and everyone knows latinos only have dark eyes and tanned skin!

From how the anon has described their family’s physical appearance, I would guess they have European and possibly some indigenous American ancestry. And guess what? Even if she has only European ancestry and would be considered “white” if she were born in the US:

1. Amazingly, people can have European ancestry or be fair-skinned and STILL be Venezuelan. Because, uh, “Venezuelan” is a nationality and cultural identity, NOT AN ETHNICITY DAMMIT. I mean, let’s look at the demographics of Venezuela:

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  • What’s that??? Ethnic GROUPS? IN PLURAL??? “White”??? Oh wait, Venezuela, like much of the Americas, was colonised by Europeans! And wait, who are these “mestizos”? People with Native American AND European ancestry! Just as we know there are black Americans and Native Americans just as there are white Americans. Don’t you consider them all US citizens? Same logic applies to this Venezuelan anon. 
  • Whatever the shade of her skin or genetic haplogroups in her DNA, she was born and raised there. She is Venezuelan. She has every damn right to participate in Venezuelan culture. So anon- remember that nationality is not ethnicity- but an identity meant to embrace all citizens of that nation no matter how they look like.

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2. I have got many asks with latin@s saying they’re attacked for being too light-skinned or having the wrong eye colour to be real latin@s- so…LATIN@ IS NOT A RACE or ETHNICITY. 

  • It is a CULTURAL IDENTITY, referring to what these countries have in common from being colonised by Spain and Portugal- Spanish and Portuguese are both Latin languages. They also have other cultural similarities by virtue of being neighbours, though they are distinct cultures. Notably, the modern culture in many Latin American countries is a lively fusion of European, indigenous American and African culture. Latin America is also racially diverse as hell. Not everybody there has tanned skin and dark hair even though many do because they have very, very diverse ancestry due to the various migrants.

These people are ALL LATIN AMERICANS, and there’s plenty of compelling evidence they don’t come in one shade of colour:

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This man is of indigenous ancestry- from the Aymara people, who lived in the Americas long before Spanish rule. He is Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia. 

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This lady is of mixed German, Spanish and indigenous American ancestry. She’s Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican painter. 

This Argentinian lady has Spanish and German ancestry. Aha I guess we spotted our first culture stealing white girl! How dare she call herself Argentinian because isn’t that like far down, deep in Latin America?!?!

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Nevermind, sorry. She’s actually Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina. What witchery is this?! 

And just to hammer in that SERIOUSLY latin@s don’t just have “tanned” skin. They can be a lot darker- like people with African ancestry-  because the Spanish and Portuguese brought many African slaves to the Americas to work the plantations. Like this guy: 

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I mean, he’s only Pele, aka the best Brazilian football player of all time. He was born and raised in Brazil. He’s a black latino, just as there are black Americans. And conversely, there are white, mixed-race latin@s just as there are white and mixed-race Americans. Furthermore, Latin American countries have their own terminology and the concept of “white” “black” or “mixed race” can be quite different.

3. Remember that race is a completely nonsensical construct with no basis on biology to begin with, because skin-tone alone says NOTHING about whether people are related! People from sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea are both dark-skinned but they are genetically distant. Many Indians are darker skinned than Europeans but they actually seem to share a gene for fair skin from a common ancestor. Go figure. Genetics is amazing. 

  • And if anyone wants to keep imposing these horribly narrow categories on people and not be open-minded to the fact that “hey maybe these things are more fluid and people can’t be rigidly categorised” you’re just perpetuating the structures and hierarchy of racism
  • There is a difference between using the terminology of “black” and “white” when discussing racist power structures today: like “Michael Brown was shot because he was black”, and insisting on forcing people like latin@s into this horrible system of categorisation we should get rid of. In the former, terms like “black” and “white” are essential to understanding and deconstructing the mechanisms of a skin-tone based power hierarchy. When you speak of your experience of racism, “whiteness” and “blackness” are essential to understanding it. In the latter case, you’re PERPETUATING these stupidly reductionist categories that can’t even begin to classify the diversity of our species. Latin@s can be fair or brown or black. They can have blue, brown or green eyes. They can have all sorts of hair colours. People do not fit into these stupid boxes. Tell them anon, that they are perpetuating colonialism because they as outsiders are trying to define your own identity- which they have no right to do!

4. This girl got attacked for practising her own culture because these outsiders who don’t know anything about Venezuela were so convinced she was “culturally appropriating”. 

Thinking you have right to define what is offensive and attack people for cultural appropriation when you are not from that culture and/or don’t know anything in detail about it, is a straight up perpetuation of colonialism. Oh no, colonialism isn’t just about violence, like when the British pumped opium into the veins of my ancestors and mercilessly exploited their community. 

  • You know what else was colonialism? When the colonial powers positioned themselves as saviours to save colonial subjects from themselves, to bring them the majestic light of civilisation, because we’re all so self-oppressed with our backwards cultures and don’t know what’s good for ourselves. Which justified all their social policies where they didn’t bother trying to understand us but just denigrated our indigenous cultures, social structures traditions as inferior and thus saw it fit to destroy them. When they infantilised their subjects as ignorant. 

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No thanks. We don’t need anymore “white saviours”

  • Colonialism is also the imposition of a foreign narrative that completely disregards ethno-religious and geopolitical histories of another group of people. Just like how the European powers sliced up the African continent without giving a shit about the fact that they were dividing up ethnic groups that have seen themselves as whole, or grouping together people who didn’t identify as being part of the same culture.
  • And in fact, those people attacking the anon for cultural appropriation calling her a “culture stealing white girl” are actually practising one hallmark of colonialism- racist Othering of cultures. They’re not actually helping us fight harmful cultural appropriation. Why? The narrative is people who look “white” can’t be latin@s or Venezuelans, another narrative imposition- this time, a US-centric imposition. Because Latin America is the “Other” to “white” (English speaking, really) North America. So, the inclination is to force latin@s into the US racial construct. Because they must be “Othered”, those people attacking the anon cannot conceive of the fact that some of them may be as “white” as white Americans in terms of European ancestry. They have trouble simply thinking, “Oh! We have similar ancestry, but we just aren’t exactly alike because I was born in the US, and she was born in Venezuela- Latin America. So while genetically we may be similar, our cultural identity is very different.”

5. The people who have a right to define what cultural appropriation of their culture is and to practice their culture freely are people of the culture in question. They DO NOT have to pass an outsiders’ preconceived test of what a “real Venezuelan” or real “Indian/Native American/Arab/South African” looks like.

6. On the broader note of cultural appropriation, fuck ups like these would decrease if people bore in mind that:

  • Nobody should go around policing cultural appropriation without taking care to make sure they get it right or defer to the opinions of people actually of that culture. Nor should you, worse still, tell people of that culture they’re “self-oppressed” if they say they are alright with sharing something.

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If you do that, well done. You’ve unlocked the 21st century version of the “White Man’s Burden”, because you are being condescending and infantilising an entire culture full of sentient people who are perfectly capable of logical reasoning and conceptualising their own culture.  And you don’t have to be “white” (or a male) to do this. It’s just getting gratification and egostroking about what an activist you are for poor, oppressed people. Like those people who go to on “volunteer trips” that are just photo-op of themselves carrying kids and not actually anything helpful.

  • Real solidarity and activism is seeing the people you are advocating for as equals. That means supporting, not speaking over them. That means if anyone is truly concerned about harmful cultural appropriation, they should ALWAYS seek to consult what people of that culture actually say and check with them. If you bully people online and police cultures you don’t even know anything about in detail and speak over people of that culture, you are not that different from the colonial powers who came in with this inflated sense of entitlement that they knew oh so well how to free us from our backwards traditions. 

7. Yes, i’m glad people are interested in learning about cultural appropriation. But you must first do no harm- and the white saviour complex has a potential to do a lot of harm.

When you want to point out what looks like a case of cultural appropriation of a culture that is not your own, bear in mind:

  • When we are outsiders, there will be things we do not know and may get wrong no matter how much we read up. Defer to people actually from that culture. Hedge your statements. “Say from what I know” and just don’t act like an undisputed authority, aka “stupid white girl appropriating from venezuelan culture ugh!” Be civil. So at least the entire conversation is cordial if it turns out you are wrong- and the person isn’t wrongly attacked. 
  • "Don’t white knight" isn’t just directed towards white social justice bloggers. I myself am an outsider to say, Islamic culture. Just because I’d be considered a “POC” in the US doesn’t give me license to go around attacking people either about appropriating other “POC” cultures, because hey, “POC” actually consist of multiple cultures. Am I an expert in all of them? Hell no. I have studied the history of the Middle-East and the rise of political Islam in detail, for example, but that STILL does not make me as informed as a real Muslim- and their opinion would always carry more weight than mine. But if it was something about Chinese culture, that’s something I can say I know more about. 

So yes, anon- keep your chin up and keep participating in the culture that you were born in. Educate people if they ask and tell them Venezuela is a multi-ethnic country, that identity isn’t defined by skin tone or appearance. That nationality is not ethnicity or genetics- and that genetics is not culture.

If they still insist you are culturally appropriating or won’t believe what your background is, ignore them- as hard as it may be. They do not have any right to decide your identity for you, and staying true to yourself is better than forcing yourself to be something you are not.

A Lesson About Culture

I feel like Tumblr has a general misunderstanding about what culture is. When I see people talk about it, it seems to be a very limited and usually kind of a negative thing (either culture is only ethnic or it’s used to describe phenomenon like “rape culture”). But I don’t think I’ve ever seen people actually discuss what culture IS. So here’s a helpful lesson about culture. 

1. Culture is not purely about ethnicity. Or geography or region or skin color. Culture is what happens when people with a shared group of ideas congregate and exchange social ideas. And it can be anything. There are political cultures, gaming cultures, fashion cultures, music cultures, sports cultures. There are subcultures of every culture and then there are subcultures of that subcultures. And each of these cultures have unique factors, and they have factors that they share with other cultures. Tumblr has a culture, many cultures even. All unique in how they interact with people, their attitudes, their beliefs. Culture is not something that is only significant on a single scale. 

2. Ethnic cultures are not one culture. Think of the United States. Think of all the areas of the United States. There are some limited aspects all people in the United States share. But you could count those aspects on one hand. Truthfully, there are hundreds of cultures in the United States, and they differ significantly. The culture in California is vastly different from the culture in Louisiana, or New York, or Montana. Even in specific regions - in my home county, you can see the shift in culture just by crossing city lines. The same holds true for every continent, country, and city in the world. 

3. No one is culture-less. This one kind of irritates me. It seems the common belief on Tumblr that the United States, or specifically white people, do not have a culture. Or that the culture they have is boring, stale, or predicated only on sapping the life out of other cultures. This is wildly untrue, but the reason people think it so is because most people on Tumblr come from white countries, and when you are so close to a culture, it becomes normative. The issue is that we teach culture as if it is something special, when truly it is so natural we observe aspects of it in non-human animals. White people have a culture. Many cultures. All over the world. European ethnic cultures vary incredibly widely, and always have. And again, within those ethnicities, ever city and region and group may have their own unique culture. No person is without a culture.

4. Everyone suffers from cultural appropriation. Again, I think this stems from the idea that somehow, white people don’t have a culture. This leads to the idea that their culture can’t be appropriated. This is untrue. In fact, in the United States, we spend an entire day dedicated to the diminishing of a unique white culture through St. Patrick’s Day. Dressing up as a stereotypical gunslinging cowboy is a caricaturization of Southern culture. In Japan, a fashion subculture called Yankii basically serves as a gross misrepresentation of Southern American cultures. Appropriation can happen to any culture, but at the same time…

5. Appropriation doesn’t mean what you think it means. Appropriation is what happens when one group takes the bare, simplistic description of an entire culture and whittles it down into a joke. It is not when a person from one culture wears or emulates a single aspect of another culture. If the aspect is something spiritual or sacred, it could be disrespectful, but even that isn’t technically appropriation - it’s just a naive action. But if the simple act of wearing or doing or using something from another culture was appropriation, than using a computer or speaking another language or wearing jeans could also be appropriation. This is ludicrous of course.

6. Culture is everything you do. Culture is not just the most important things. It is not just what’s sacred. It’s not in the symbols and abstractions. Culture influences all aspects of your behavior. If it didn’t, there would be no need to study it on a scientific level - it would be purely a historical level. But in studying biology, psychology, sociology, we have to understand it, because otherwise we lose an aspect of that behavior and never gain a full understanding. 

7. Culture is not static. Culture changes. A lot. Constantly. All of them. But I’m not saying this to just say that, because that should be obvious. But rather so that you’re aware - as your culture changes, so can others. There are some aspects of culture that is bad. Again, this is a universal - no culture is absolutely pure of any faults. Understanding culture doesn’t mean excusing the bad things because “well it’s just their culture”. It means understanding where those actions come from, and not approaching it simply from an ethnocentric “that’s wrong” approach, but a reasonable approach that can explain why from that cultures point of view. Female genital mutilation is a cultural norm in many parts of the world. Does that make it right? No. But to do anything about it, there has to be an understanding of why it is in the norm in that culture. That’s how you make appropriate change. Historically, before culture was understood, those changes were forced, and it created many horrific problems. That doesn’t mean the act of desiring a change is wrong, it just means that you have to approach it from the right perspective - from THAT cultures perspective.

That’s it. Lemme know if you have questions or need expanding. I just wanted to put this out there. :)

- Mod Dawes Sr.

anonymous said:

Creo que sois un poco injustos con los españoles. País Vasco no fue invadido, ni conquistado, tampoco fue nunca una entidad autónoma independiente, y realmente no hay razones históricas de peso para que pueda ser independiente. Si es cierto que tenéis particularidades culturales, pero eso también pasa en otras regiones y no es motivo. Saludos desde Cantabria.

Saludos, vecin@

No entendemos bien eso de ser injustos. ¿Lo dices por el nacionalismo / independentismo?

Que el País Vasco no fue invadido / conquistado es bastante discutible. Ha ido cambiando de “dueño” y de denominación a lo largo de los siglos, y no porque a la gente de aquí le diera la gana. A golpe de guerras y tratados por parte de gente de fuera de esta región, como cualquier sitio.
Fuimos diferentes tribus, después asimilados por el Imperio Romano (¿no fue eso una gran invasión?), después condado de Vasconia (de nuevo invadidos por los merovingios), después condado de Castilla, después una parte fue del Reino de Navarra (Gipuzkoa entera fue anexionada) y otra del Señorío de Vizcaya, tras la caída de Navarra, se anexionaron las provincias vascas al Reino de Castilla, y todo eso sólo contando hasta el siglo XVI y sólamente centrándonos en el actual Euskadi (dejamos fuera Iparralde y Navarra). No nos estamos inventando nada de todo eso, ¿no? La historia no la escriben los nacionalistas, está ahí, pasó y pasó. Para bien o para mal.

Claro que el País Vasco no ha sido nunca independiente, ¿cuándo íbamos a serlo? ¡No nos han dejado! Es zona de paso hacia Francia, muy bien conectada por mar al resto de Europa y América. Tierras valiosas para cualquiera, ¿no?. Con todo, si, según tú, hubiera razones históricas para ser independiente, ¿lo sería?.

El problema de la radicalización del nacionalismo de hoy en día viene por la gran pérdida de autonomía que el País Vasco ha sufrido paulatinamente. En época de los Reyes Católicos (monarcas bastante centralistas), los ejércitos vascos no tenían obligación de defender tierras más allá de sus fronteras, sólo acudían si a su Señor le interesaba, por mucho que lo ordenara el Rey. Hasta bien entrado el XIX, los vascos no hacían ni la mili, porque sólo estaban obligados a defender con armas sus tierras.
Pero todos sabemos lo que pasó en el siglo XIX (pérdida de Fueros) y en el XX (con Franco y su represión). Dijimos adiós a las leyes vascas (que ya existían antes de que España se llamase España, por cierto) y casi casi perdemos nuestra identidad (“no sois vascos, sois españoles, no sois especiales, no podéis hablar en esa lengua bárbara, etc”) y nuestra cultura milenaria (no es una particularidad cultural. Una particularidad cultural es vestir de rojo en vez de verde, pero la vasca es una de las culturas más antiguas de Europa, pregunta a cualquier antropólogo) con la dictadura.

Pero ya saliendo de la historia y de cosas que fueron y ya no son, y dejando a un lado justificaciones culturales que dices que no te sirven - aunque, bien mirado, que un pueblo que ya existía antes de lo que es ahora el país que lo gobierna siga existiendo es algo inaudito. A nosotras desde luego nos vale como justificación cultural.
Injusto es lo que muchas veces hace el Gobierno de España (los vascos con los españoles no tenemos problemas ni somos injustos, hablamos siempre de los gobernantes) con el País Vasco. Un ejemplo. Lleva sin darnos el 100% de nuestras legítimas competencias, acordadas en el Estatuto, desde los 80, ¿por qué? Porque dejan dinero. Y siempre es el dinero, amig@ cántabr@, ya sabrás cómo funciona este país. La economía vasca va bastante mejor que la española - no lo decimos nosotras, lo dice hasta Bruselas - ¿cómo van a permitir que donde hay un poquito de dinero más que en el resto de España se independice?
Otro ejemplo que muchos consideramos una falta de respeto: el Rey de España habla todos los idiomas oficiales, excepto el Euskera. ¿No es un idioma digno de reyes o qué pasa?¿Cómo pretende que la gente le acepte por aquí?
Otro ejemplo: cualquier partido nacionalista de izquierdas es ETA, según el Gobierno. Los vascos se manifiestan por la libertad de expresión y en los medios nacionales aparece que se manifiestan en favor de los presos de ETA. Y eso ha pasado este año, no exageramos nada. Será que nos ofendemos por cualquier cosa, pero este tipo de tonterías por aquí molestan, y mucho. Siempre lo mismo cansa y enfada.
Otro ejemplo: hasta hace no mucho, los fascistas de Burgos, Valladolid, Madrid, tu tierra incluso, venían al País Vasco a homenajear a Franco el día del aniversario de su muerte en autobuses. Con banderas franquistas y cantando el Cara al Sol por las calles. Una cosa es la libertad de expresión, y otra venir a una de las zonas más castigadas por el Franquismo a provocar. Y los malos eran la gente de aquí que les llamaba de todo menos bonitos.

No es una cuestión de justicia, ni de racismo, ni de idealismos románticos, ni de justificaciones históricas (a fin de cuentas, ¿quién las tiene en cuenta?). Es que por aquí - y por otras regiones - hay ganas de que nos dejen de imponer cosas, en todos los sentidos. Ya que no se cumple ni siquiera lo firmado, la gente se plantea cortar por lo sano: que nos dejen decidir lo que queremos hacer o no hacer. Que nos dejen administrarnos a nosotros mismos. Que si la economía y la vida van mal sea por nuestra ineptitud, y no por la de gente que está en Madrid llenándose los bolsillos a costa de todos y pensando sólo en su propio beneficio.

*photo of light skinned person sitting in yoga pose*
"WHY THE GFUVCK IS THAT WHITRE PERSON STEALING MY CUOLTURE"
"OMG TYHEYRE SKIN IS WHITE THEY KNO NOTHIN OF MEDIDDAYTATION"
"WHITE PEOPLE CANT SIT LIKE THAT"
"WHITE PEOPLE CAN:T MEDITATTTT"
"WHITE PEOPLE DONT KNO WHAT IS MEANS TYO SIT ON YOUR ASS WITH CRTOSSED LEGEDS"
"OUTRAGEUS"
"CULTURAL APPROPRIATIONESZ"
"OMG SUM1234! TELL THEM TO NAT WEAT COLURS LIKE INDIA"
"THAT FRECKLE LUK LYK BINDI GET YER SHIT TOGETHER RACIST"

Literally what my dash looks like sometimes. And then an unfollowing spree ensues and everything becomes so much better. How the hell can we be One when we are constantly dividing & segregating each other. Live & let live. If someone isn’t personally attacking and disrespecting you/your people then stop looking for drama. Some of you are reaching so hard. Stop trying so hard and just let things be. Again, unless you are personally being attacked or see that someone really needs to be educated about shit, don’t fucking go around policing what people can and can’t do.
As soon as you start telling others they can’t wear their hair like this, or their clothes like that, then you become a hypocrit. You are insulting yourself by saying that to others. You are telling yourself and the world that you are not a free being, you are limited, you are confined….. Which is the exact opposite. We are limitless, powerful, beyond amazing. We are conscious, we are aware, awake.
Live & Let Live.

American whites, it’s time.

It’s time to stop worrying about your “privilege” and white guilt complexes and be proud of your heritage. 

It is time my friends, release yourself from your shackles and be proud of your heritage, your peoples history, cultures, and accomplishments. And to help add to those accomplishments. 

Join the movement to help preserve your people and continue its legacy!

It is time. 

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.
—  Paulo Coelho
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