28 May 2014

Yours, mine, ours?

I've been thinking a lot about the issue of cultural appropriation over the last year.

I see instances of this all over -- what is fashionable in my realm right now is very largely made up of the imagery, motifs and costumes of non-contemporary, non-white cultures. I am perhaps the worst offender I know: my closet and jewelry boxes are FULL of the cultural productions of cultures outside my own. But how fair is that? As a white person with all the unearned privileges of a white supremacist culture at my fingertips, I can slip into a Oaxacan embroidered dress without having to know the first thing about Oaxaca or the experience of a person from Oaxaca, who does not have the same opportunity to slip out of her skin when it might be convenient (hence the hashtag #everythingbuttheburden).

What would it mean for me to limit my clothing to what is of my own culture? And as a person whose ancestors on one side came through Ellis Island in 1900 from Russia (after leaving Germany two generations before that) and from England in the 17th century on the other side, what *is* my culture? What food do I bring to represent my culture to my kid's "Diversity Potluck"? What "traditional costume" do I wear to the Multi-culture fest? What can I legitimately claim as mine?
It appears I have a creative challenge.

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