There is no greater symptom of American society unraveling than the pernicious concept of “cultural appropriation.”
As with many insidious ideas, it apparently originated in academia and spread to the pseudo-enlightened of Hollywood. It’s now coursing through elite circles and among victim identity groups without serious opposition. Those who understand America should object profoundly to this trend that erodes our country’s cultural cohesion.
For years, the Left has attacked the few symbols of unity we have left. We’re no longer united in respect for the Flag, the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. These are now relegated to symbols of “right wing” politics, “white supremacy” or the Republican Party. We no longer have a consensus of respect for historic icons such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or even Abraham Lincoln.
The growing acceptance of “cultural appropriation” is another symptom of this societal disintegration. One of the touchstones of American exceptionalism used to be pride in our unique cultural fabric woven from many threads. We called ourselves a “melting pot.” One could doubt the reality, but no one questioned the aspiration. The “melting pot” fell into disfavor, and “salad bowl” became the more politically correct description. Today, we’re not even at the same dinner table.
We may all eat Chinese food, Sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian and Soul Food, but beware crossing the line of cultural appropriation. The Rubicon may shift. What is acceptable today may be inappropriate tomorrow. You’re allowed to eat the food, but don’t you dare use the recipe.
We must constantly be aware of our fellow Americans’ “identities” and show proper deference. That’s how we demonstrate enlightened “wokeness.”
The cultural territories are strewn with land mines. Kim Kardashian West stepped on one when she decided to call her new clothing line “Kimono,” which was a take on her name and the Japanese word for clothing. The new clothing line had nothing to do with Japanese kimonos. A firestorm erupted. A petition was circulated calling the name “horrible cultural disrespect.” She ultimately apologized and changed the brand name to “Skims.”
What this heightened sensitivity ignores is that America has “appropriated” every culture because people here have ancestors from every part of the globe. Our streets, cities and institutions are named and modeled on cultures from every continent. We truly take the best from around the world.
My wife and I, Americans of African ancestry, have vacationed in Naples, Florida, San Diego and Portland, but we haven’t gone to Italy, Mexico or England. Likewise, we’ve eaten manicotti, tacos and fish and chips without ever leaving the country. We’ve watched Irish step dancing, listened to Frank Sinatra and been fascinated by the lifestyle and enjoyed the food and culture of the German-descended Amish.
This is America, a mighty River of life fed by many cultural streams, undergirded by our Judeo-Christian heritage. These streams are beautiful in their own right, but they’re all influenced and changed by the American experience. Frankfurters became hot dogs, German food – American style.
Instead of seeing beauty in the amalgamation, the Left wants certain cultures used as political weapons against others. Nothing our ancestors brought to America has remained what it was before they arrived. We have all influenced each other and created a unique American culture of which we should be proud. Culture cannot be owned; it’s the result of a complex array of influences.
Indeed, this confluence helped make America the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth. Isolation brings stagnation. Interaction brings progress. Americans by definition must interact with the entire world because the entire world is who we are. We should celebrate Americans of African ancestry doing Irish step dancing or Americans of Italian ancestry painting Chinese landscapes or Americans of Asian ancestry singing Frank Sinatra songs or Americans of British ancestry producing African music, dance and rap.
Leftists want each cultural legacy kept in an imaginary silo that no outsider dares to enter. That is another in the long list of bad ideas that are destroying our sense of a common American culture and destiny. The Left uses our cultural diversity to create division. We should see it instead as an opportunity to foster mutual respect for each distinct heritage, and to appreciate the American culture we all share.
Sixty years ago, we fought a peaceful battle to end segregation. Liberals are trying to usher in a new era of cultural Jim Crow. We must reject it.
America is not many cultures, each fighting for distinctiveness, but one culture fighting to preserve our unity as one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
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E.W Jackson is a Republican Political analyst; a nationally syndicated radio host on American Family Radio; founder & President of S.T.A.N.D. [www.standamerica.us]; Presiding Bishop of The Called Church; and former Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia.