Mara Ladines explains why its important to support deaf business owners and avoid buying products by hearing people that commodify sign language and deaf culture for profit

The reason I find culture appropriation a problem

If I was to wear a kimono into class one day in high school I would have been told to “go back to China, you chink” even though I’m not even Chinese. While if a non person of color did, they would be praised for their “unique” style choices. Up until very recently I stayed away from anything obviously connected to my race because when I was younger I was severely bullied about being Asian. I can’t speak Japanese, I can’t make traditional dishes by heart, I never wanted to wear kimonos or embrace my culture at all. Today I’m very disconnected from my culture, as well as the other cultures I was born into but do not look like I obviously belong to. I regret letting kids saying mean racist things to me keep me away from who I am. But now many of those things I was taught to be ashamed of are now trendy and popular. Culture appropriation is an issue because non poc can cherry pick the “beautiful and inspiring” parts about my cultures but I will be shamed and made fun of if I did the same thing.

Same goes for any culture. It’s just not okay.

C: It’s so weird to me how the #AllLivesMatter trip has been done to black girls. Now there’s #blackboymagic. Like, can we not have something to celebrate us? Would you rather we not ever be celebrated even by ourselves? You want to take the spotlight off of black girls because you want to minimize and trivialize our movement and, really, take away from the cause of empowering and giving little black girls that pedestal.

albaharuland  asked:

Hi! I wanted to ask about fantasy world building based on a mix of cultures, even if those cultures are totally different. For example, a country that has an architecture based on egyptian and arab art, or one that is a mix between indian and russian architecture. I dont know if that would be appropiation or offensive, or how to avoid it or doing it in a respectful way. Also if there is a problem only using the art part and having a different made up traditions/lore (thanks for your time!)

On Combining Cultures Respectfully, Art, and Architecture

“Does it make sense within the world”

Avatar: the Last Airbender mixes Inuit and Japanese culture. Is this any form of sensical in the modern world? Sort of, with how there’s a language link between Siberia and the Canadian Arctic. Does it make sense within the confines of A:tLA? Absolutely yes.

I’m not against the concept of cultural blending. It just has to be sensical within the world itself. They might not be neighbours in the real world, but if you end up with a culture that’s “ocean-heavy Arctic on top of Asia”, then Inuit+ Japan makes tons of sense. But had it been even “continental Arctic”, then the Inuit influence would’ve barely made any sense at all, because they’re really not a continental people.

-Mod Lesya

Like mixed-race characters, blending real-world cultures in fantasy isn’t prima facie a problem, but you’d better make sure it makes sense within the world you’re constructing.  Lots of times authors fall prey to the “Rule of Cool” and just throw in things they think are neat without thinking about how they could have reasonably got there.

In the cases you mentioned, there are some historiocultural overlaps between Indian and Russian cultures (for instance, similar building materials, similar types of timbers in temperate parts of India and southern Russia, very deep cultural roots shared between Slavic and certain Indic cultures, etc.) that would give you a foundation to build on.  Other times shared cultural aspects have a common but non-native root—for instance the Russian onion dome and characteristic Indian Taj Mahal-style dome may have a shared origin in Islamic and Middle Eastern architecture.  Islamic culture is native to neither India nor Russia, but it touched and influenced both areas extensively.

Similar constraints hold for Egyptian and Arab art and architecture.  They used similar building materials but produced different results because the culture and artistic preferences were historically different, but we know that Arab culture strongly influenced Egyptian art and architecture in the Islamic period (think going from pyramids to Graeco-Roman amphitheaters to mosques and minarets, but all made out of limestone, mud brick, and very little wood).  Saladin Ahmed’s fantasy novel(s) feature an Islamic/Middle Eastern-influenced culture built on top of a dead Ancient Egypt-analogue [Nikhil’s note: I’m reading this right now and it’s awesome and you should too].

But regardless of the cultural influence, the material culture stays similar in place—in some Indo-Russian hybrid you might be looking at imported marble and precious stones for those buildings whose patrons could afford it, provided they have access to those materials either through production or trade, but for poorer constructions you’re looking at local building materials—so maybe thatch and half-timber framing and wattle-and-daub in Indo-Russia, or stone and mud brick in a desert environment like Arabegypt.  Art and architecture are functions of culture, and culture as a primitive exercise arises from the local environment, since it’s only once you get to the level of at least an organized economic community that outside trade starts to be a significant factor, which would facilitate creating art and architecture that would be exotic to the local environment.

-Mod Nikhil

Stop telling your white friends that they are black...

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Stop telling your white friends that they are black.

Just because they can dance, mimic our culture, and hang out with black people DOES NOT mean they are black. Being black is more than just our lit culture. They still get to go and get the jobs we will never get, see themselves represented in media, and receive all the perks of being white. So….


Okay witches, check this out: It is totally fine to learn from and appreciate other cultures and practices, but not okay to appropriate them. Like, maybe a Native American shaman can teach you how to perform a proper smudging, but that doesn’t mean you can call on their ancestors to help you out. Like, you got your own ancestors; use them. Maybe a Voodoo practitioner can teach how to make a gris gris bag, but that doesn’t mean you know how to contact their deities and show them the proper respect. The point I’m trying to make is that you can appreciate without appropriating. Just respect the cultures and heritage of other people.

Appropriation Disclaimer

For anyone that might think it’s their duty to “educate me” etc.  First of all, I am a 27 year old adult that has taken numerous humanity, anthropology, and history courses.  When I go back for my Graduate work, it will be ON Anthropology. I am completely educated on what is cultural appropriation, what is cultural appreciation and what is just obsessive nonsense.

I am pagan, with many Native friends. My spiritual Mentor and Guide is a Lakota Shaman, and she is wonderful!  Many of my beautiful fans, medicine bags, beaded items, and Native art are originals by her. I feel truly blessed to have them in my house and many were made especially for me. 

I smudge, I wear moccs, I study Native Medicine, I use Native fans, I have spirit guides and some are spirit animals. When I am invited, I take part in Native ceremonies/healing practices. I do not own dreamcatchers but I have in the past, purchased from a Native artist. 

None of these practices are appropriation.  If you have been told otherwise, then please please check your facts with someone who is a regular participant in a Native Tribe.

What is appropriation? 

It’s when you imitate (incorrectly) a closed cultural practice that associated with a culture or religion that has been oppressed, stigmatized, stereotyped, and is a normal victim of white oppression.This can come in the form of making native crafts without being native and benefitting from sales. Or wearing cultural dress as a white person.  Being white, we are praised for wearing the fashion or style, meanwhile our Native friends are still oppressed and stigmatized for their culture. Incorrectly depicting native practices without being Native are all forms of Appropriation. 

Things incorrectly labeled as appropriation.

Tribes make a large part of their income by holding Pow Wow’s; Native Cultural events where the public is invited to come in, watch, learn, sometimes participate.  They teach smudging, they sell sage bundles, they will teach herbalism and recognizing plants, they even teach Native music and flute playing, drums, etc.

There are other closed practices that are not held at these events, such as the sweat lodge, and certain other Tribe Specific Ceremonies whose practices are not shared or open to the public, and there are specific practices reserved only for Native Performers.

But smudging, and anything else they publically teach non-natives is encouraged and perfectly okay.  If you have the opportunity to attend a Pow-Wow, do so!  It’s a wonderful way to learn about Native Cultures from the source. Which is exactly how they want you to combat appropriation. 

What can I do?

Spirit Animals and Guides are present across almost every Pagan or Pantheistic Religion. And the meanings and messages associated with these animals can be similar cross-culturally. You can absolutely have a spirit animal!  

Feathers in the hair is also a cross-cultural thing! Avoid wearing them in a specifically Native fashion, like headdresses. But… birds were in all regions of the world, and pagan cultures wore their feathers! I wouldn’t pair feathers with moccs, or other specifically Native American Dress because it could lead to a misunderstanding, but feathers do not belong to a specific culture. 

Wearing/Buying Moccasins? Go for it! But please TRY to purchase from Native sources so that you are supporting Native Tribes directly.  If you can’t afford it or don’t have a place nearby that sells them, it’s okay. But whenever possible try to buy from a Native Source. Also remember, animal skin shoes were part of all ancient cultures, not just Native. Although the name moccasin is Native American.
Making/Selling Moccasins? Please refrain. You are stealing revenue from Native Nations. This IS appropriation, especially if you are claiming they are “Native American” or “Indian”. 

Buying/Wearing things labeled “Native American/Indian” Yes yes yes! Just make sure that it is from a true native source. Jewelry, blankets, shirts, beading, clothing, moccasins, everything!! If it is sold BY a Native, you can definitely wear it! This is not appropriation at all!!!! 
Making/Selling things Labeled “Native American/Indian” when you are not Native NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! YOU ARE NOT ONLY APPROPRIATING BUT YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIME.

Buying/Wearing things from chain stores that have Native themes but are not Native Made NO NO NO!!! DO NOT! Avoid things with pictures of Indians, Dream Catchers, Native “looks”. THIS IS APPROPRIATION! A fashion designer and chain store has decided to profit from the Native Cultures without assisting them in any way.  If you want to take a step further, talk to the designers, and stores that care these clothes about appropriation, or write letters.

Buying/Owning Dreamcatchers

yes you can! But only from Native sources. The Law that actually protects Native Crafts is called the Dreamcatcher Act. 

Making/Selling Dreamcatchers No, it’s actually a crime, and is fully prosecutable. See Dreamcatcher Act. 

And so, in closing… there ARE native practices that I have been taught. Unless they are OKAY for you to share/practice, I won’t share them on my blog. I DO own lots of Native Made items that you will see in pics of my house/space. With them, I honor my Native Friends, I honor the beautiful land in which I live, and those pagans that came before in America. I smudge, I smoke cleanse (yeah they are slightly different), I own native drums and I play, I own Native Flutes and I play, I practice some acceptable Native Medicine that I have been taught, and I wear feathers in my hair in a northern european and viking styles at fests. I know what I am doing. I always make sure that I am being respectful to Natives and other Closed Cultures that often are appropriated.

**Why are Whites always targeted in these posts? They are not.  Historically speaking it was white European Settlers that oppressed, enslaved, and eventually committed genocide of over 600+ Native Nations. That is 600+ Cultures that are GONE forever. After that they turned them into entertainment at shows, in movies, and made Native styles fashionable.   This is Privilege; to believe that you can do whatever you want with another culture.  And today, it is primarily White individuals that seem to think that “Native” is a fashion statement or “trendy”, or “boho”. While other races can appropriate, it is less common here in America.  Minorities are more likely to respect other cultures and their difficulties because their of their own struggles with racial stereotypes, racial oppression, and cultural theft. If you look at this post and think to yourself “this just targets white people”, then you are in another pitfall of white privilege - thinking everything is about you. It isn’t about you. It is about respecting another culture’s boundaries between being a joke and having people educated about their history and value.

The problem with capitalism – especially with its today’s prevailing form: neoliberalism – is that it appropriates progressive ideas such as cultural diversity, feminism, environmentalism etc and converts them into yet another commodity, thus making them saleable. This gives capitalism and the negative characteristics it implicates – eg huge wealth inequality, wage slavery, ecological destruction, racial prejudice etc – a positive and progressive appearance. Whereas capitalism in the former days was symbolized by cruel and insensible fat men with top hats, today many people identify capitalism with hip CEOs donating millions to charity. The problem is that essentially nothing has improved. On the contrary: there have never been more people living in unbearable conditions while some others possess unimaginable wealth than today. To show that to the people should be one of our most important priorities in our struggle against capitalism.

Confess: Idk why, but sometimes I get so salty when I see white Instagram beauty pages use our hair hacks. Like the trick with deep conditioning with oils and using apple cider vinegar or not washing their hair every thirty seconds. Probably because they use it, claim they made it up, and then some have the gall to say they’re “#natural” as if that means something. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of your hair, but give credit where credit is due.