On Cultural Appropriation

I’m still a klutz with this WordPress software so I don´t know yet how to insert links in the text, if you know what I mean.  So the link to Malik´s article is below and it contains the link to Briahna Joy Gray´s article.  


Kenan Malik, one of my favorite social commentators, has been concerned with questions of cultural appropriation for some time.  An article in the journal Current Affairs by Briahna Joy Gray provoked a response which I sympathize with, but which I don’t think clarifies the issues well.  Actually, it’s hard to clarify the issues well.  Currentlly, the main arguments center on whether or not whites have rights to create minority or indigenous characters in their writing or, for that matter, for white musicians to use minorities’ music or for white artists to paint minority subjects.

By starting from this perspective, we allow ourselves to fall into the whole mess of political correctness.  The argument against cultural appropriation becomes yet another weapon that both minorities and white liberals and whites (male, right wing) can use to perpetuate and deepen divisions.

I’ll start from my own perspective.  My father’s family was Jewish, made up of immigrants from Poland and Austria.  They arrived at Ellis Island and found themselves eventually settling in The Bronx.  They spoke Yiddish and Polish and German and learned English.  They wanted very badly to become American.  At Ellis Island, they were given English names.  My grandmother whose name in Austria had been Donscha (I’m not sure how to spell it) became Henrietta.  My grandfather whose name I think was Shmuel became Samuel.  Their brothers and sisters became Jean, Elaine, Leon and Julius and some others.  My grandparents named their children Charles, Adeline and Phoebe. My grandfather’s last name was left Klein which was after all German and not uncommon in New York.  I don´t remember what my grandmother’s family name was, but it was changed to Kwartler.  Was this renaming cultural appropriation or was it assimilation or both?  There was (and is) resentment about Jews trying to “pass”.  What do you think?

This is just the beginning.

2 Responses to “On Cultural Appropriation”

  1. donnamariecarey Says:

    Divided we fail, united we succeed.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Suffering comes in a great part from what we identify with. With that identity can come “us and them” creating larger divisions.
    Unity is the bedrock of harmony. United States. US. Us.
    If only we could see ourselves as citizens of the world united in our common humanity. But now I wax poetic for an idea yet unborn.

  2. buddenbooks Says:

    Thak you! I appreciate your comment whole hatedly.

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