Cultural Appropriation as a Failure of the Imagination

On Creativity and Cultural Appropriation Part 2

From a series of Facebook posts in May 2018.

Since posting a piece about cultural appropriation last week, I have been getting a lot of personal questions from people who seem to be looking for permission from me to keep doing the work they are doing (work that possibly appropriates based on the definition I ventured.)

Thought I appreciate the desire to do good from those who are asking, I'm definitely not here to grant permission; Im not qualified and it misses the point!

My dear friend Sarah Sentilles who has done deep work writing and studying the construction of whiteness reminded me that part of whiteness is a continuous attachment to feeling central and at home in the world (regardless of any individual circumstances that may disrupt that feeling personally, on a cultural level, its a characteristic of white identity). Part of that feeling of being at home in the world is the idea that the world (including the world of art, ideas, culture) is there for the taking. When we are told that something is not there for the taking: our sense of home and centrality is disrupted. It feels unfair. It feels unbearable in some way. It feels like we cannot be whole. We seek an out. We defend, Or we justify. Or we seek permission. Instead of hanging out in the uncomfortable space of not knowing. Of disorientation.

That uncomfortable space is the space of learning, growing, and reclaiming our radical imaginations. Its a space of deep listening, of coming into consciousness about our own identities and the contexts we live in; and its the space where real respect for the experiences of others grows. To develop a kind of creativity that does not perpetuate cultural violence is a big task and its not clean, or easy.

But Its actually a BIGGER creative space than the one you were in when you wanted to appropriate. Its actually MORE whole and promises a way of building an earth that is true home for all beings. Don't look for a free pass...just sit in the discomfort and possibility.

If you could never appropriate, what would you make?

Also: think about this relationship to the idea of home against the backdrop of a culture which, right now, locks people up for driving, sitting in coffee shops, sleeping on dorm chairs, walking, driving. Against people being rounded up by ICE. Against people being punished by poverty and violence for staying connected to indigenous identity.

We can handle a little discomfort.