Introducing: The Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card!

By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles

I’m pleased to be part of the launch of the Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card, designed by Aliette de Bodard, Joyce Chng, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, @requireshate, Charles Tan, @automathic and @mizHalle. Launch orchestrated with the help of Zen Cho and Ekaterina Sedia in addition to above authors.

I’ve talked about cultural appropriation here a lot–and neocolonialism as well–and that neocolonialism can manifest in the form of cultural imperialism. I could talk at length about this, but if you were wondering what are some general sentiments that cultural imperialists spout, here is a handy dandy Bingo Card for you to play with the next time you’re watching a discussion about the Third World had by (usually white) First Worlders unfold before your eyes, whether online or off. Strike any statement that comes close and see how long it takes for you to get Bingo!
I should probably add that all the statements in this card, we didn’t have to make up. Most of us have seen these sentiments in comments sections…or just said outright to our faces. It’s pretty incredible, yea? Not, not really. Sigh.


ETA: Reader Modern Wizard took the time to transcribe the card:

Title: The Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card Description: a 5×5 checkerboard of blue and yellow squares. Squares are transcribed in rows from top to bottom, left to right.
Row 1, Box 1: “You have an English name, therefore you’re not authentic!”
Row 1, Box 2: “You’re the majority race in your country — what are you complaiing about?”
Row 1, Box 3: “You guys would do so much better in a democracy, like the West!”
Row 1, Box 4: “I have found enlightenment through indigenous wisdom of [group I am visiting].”
Row 1, Box 5: “People here don’t know the meaning of money.”
Row 2, Box 1: “You speak English too well to be a non-native.”
Row 2, Box 2: “You’re on the Internet so you can’t be oppressed.”
Row 2, Box 3: “Your country would be in worse shape if the West weren’t helping you.”
Row 2, Box 4: “I’m an outsider, but I can analyse your culture better than you.”
Row 2, Box 5: “People here are so genuine, unlike back in Westernlandia.”
Row 3, Box 1: “Indian English is not real English.”
Row 3, Box 2: “Only US POCs are qualified to talk about racism, you’re derailing us.”
Row 3, Box 3: “Sure, we did a lot of harm with colonialism, but we know better now!”
Row 3, Box 4: “I am White and Western-born, but I looove your culture; therefore I know more than you.”
Row 3, Box 5: “People here are poor but they welcome us like their family.”
Row 4, Box 1: “Whatever you do or say is the wrong thing anyway.”
Row 4, Box 2: “Racism everywhere is the same as in the US, you’re just not seeing it!”
Row 4, Box 3: “But surely you don’t mean to say that all things West are evil!”
Row 4, Box 4: “We know how to fix your country better than you.”
Row 4, Box 5: “People here are poor but they are happy.”
Row 5, Box 1: “But those are ‘universal’ tropes!”
Row 5, Box 2: “Foreign movies and series are so popular in your country because they’re better.”
Row 5, Box 3: “There are starving children in Africa why do you care about cultural imperialism!”
Row 5, Box 4: “But all the things your ancestors believed were wrong-headed!”
Row 5, Box 5: “All that people here want is our money, they’re so pushy!”

  • http://chaosthethird.tumblr.com Kermit

    You know what is universal? Divide and conquer. So, by all means, keep arguing amongst yourselves rather than really *listening*.

  • dersk

    You might want to change “US” to U.S. or American – it was just a tiny bit unclear if you meant us as in ‘we’…

  • http://twitter.com/KiaAhatia kia ahatia

    Some of these are really dodgy. Some of these ARE used to derail discussions of racism like when white people complain that a Black person on the bus or a Muslim neighbour is comparable to colonisation and white Europeans are “Indigenous peoples” the fact that they are a majority and their culture is dominant IS relevant. When they complain that the popularity of American movies or music is equivilent to colonial genocide, the fact that they aren’t forced to give up their culture and assimilate by Rihanna is relevant -”bingo” is not a counter-argument. When they say racism outside America is “different” they mean anti-racism is the work of American influences. Imperialism and white supremacy are global.

    There are far better things to put on this card – “everybody came from Africa/we’re all immigrants”. “White colonizers brought us the gifts of trousers and computers, therefore they’re entitled to take our culture in return – and/or therefore we have no right to have a separate culture”. “My Irish great-great-aunt was oppressed, therefore I’m not a colonizer, I’m entitled to claim your oppression too”. “No cultures are pure/ your culture has changed sice C19 so therefore they can steal it” etcetcetc there are enough examples for a pack of cards!

    IF this is really genuine and not the creation of Europeans, at the very least it needs more work

    • Anonymous

      Again: You seem to not get that this is mentions what Americans (THE cultural hegemony) say to non-American PoCs..

    • http://twitter.com/automathic P.C.

      In what world is 1) non-Anglo/US people talking about the actual historical fact of our countries and peoples having been colonised by Anglo-US powers the same as “when white people complain that a Black person on the bus or a Muslim neighbour is comparable to colonisation”; 2) the appropriate response to this latter comparison not to point out that the Black person on the bus or the Muslim neighbour doesn’t exercise systematic, institutional, geopolitical power over white people, but to silence the non-Anglo/US people about the fact of our colonisation?

      • http://twitter.com/KiaAhatia kia ahatia

        My point was that despite the
        “bingo” argument, beng the majority
        race in your own country is a massive privilege and it does make a difference. I’m non-Anglo, non-US person talking about my own colonization and I’m more convinced after reading this thread, I certainly don’t want to claim any solidarity with the authors of this card, so don’t worry about that. :)

  • Clara Morena

    You forgot “get over colonialism” or “why do you hate your white side?”.

  • Nk4

    This is the worst bingo card I’ve seen. These are things white people say to silence Poc : “not only poc can talk about racism, white people experience racism too” or “this isn’t America, objecting to eg blackface or golliwog dolls is cultural imperialism”. Actually this seems like it has been written by European racists to dismiss anti-racism as “Americanization”. I’m a non-American non-African poc and I could write my own bingo card about being used by racist white Americans and Europeans as a stick to beat other more uppity poc!

    • Anonymous

      ?! No, it doesn’t entail that. It’s about PoC in the US not automatically knowing the exact experience of e.g. a PoC in Argentina, Suriname, Latvia.

  • RT

    Loved the “But those are ‘universal’ tropes!” Cultural relativism has an intimate relationship with cultural imperialism.

  • Anonymous

    Several things:

    1) YAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’ve hoped for something like this for years.

    2) Um… “Only US POCs are qualified to talk about racism, you’re derailing us.” And then the text feels the need to do ‘push it away’ by inserting “(usually white)”. Um. No. There is unfortunately no lack of cultural imperialism by PoC. Trust me, Black Americans are still… well… American. There is no “inherent” knowledge of other cultures and sensitivity to one’s own state’s hegemonic position in the world system through skin color.

    3) Row 2, Box 4: “I’m an outsider, but I can analyse your culture better than you.” I am unsure about that one. I can say for my own culture that I am NOT the best person to ask. Since I am too protective of it. And sometimes don’t want to see or downplay the bad stuff. So I think the best person to ask would be someone not ‘of my tribe’, so to say, but who has known it for years. I’d be too close to see the larger picture.

    • k.

      Re: 3)

      I’ve definitely struggled with this one too. I’ve heard a lot of debates over specific policies or issues come down to whether a person outside of the country/culture has a better analysis because their more “objective” or whether a person from the country/culture has a better analysis because it’s more nuanced or “authentic.” I think what’s problematic is the assumption that one standpoint is always more objective or nuanced than the other, or that one perspective is inherently “better” than another. This box seems to be a dismissal of someone’s experience out of hand, which rarely seems like a good idea.

    • http://twitter.com/KiaAhatia kia ahatia

      African Americans aren’t just another American, they were colonized by America too. African American anti-racist/anti-colonial struggles have been a huge influence and inspiration for other people labelled as Black around the world. Were the panthers in NZ and Australia cultural Imperialists? When poc outside America listen to hiphop or read racialicious are we colonizing Black Americans or are we colonizing racist white people in our own lands by comparing their racism with the racism of America? :/

      • Anonymous

        Err… I disagree. Actually you seem to me ‘exhibit A’ as to why this is necessary. Kyriarchy etc. It’s nowhere NEAR as simple as you say. Also: Black American music was in many settings introduced as a byproduct of American militarization abroad… (see e.g. Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, Germany etc etc) There are some fascinating studies on this. If a Chinese person e.g. starts wearing clothing that is seen in most states around the world as ‘uniquely’ American, yet within the US is often associated with African American culture, then you’re definitely not ‘sticking it to the man’ in some way or ‘decolonizing China’. Actually the opposite. There is also a vastly different reaction to Black Americans in China and to African expats. The former are seen as part of what is still deemed as THE only country that actually counts in any way (just as the usual anecdote: the first question any foreigner gets asked is ‘are you American? Can I take a picture of you holding my baby?’ When the answer is ‘no, I am not American, I am French [or any other country]‘ there is no interest in a picture any more.) Regarding Africans in China racist tropes hold sway. I was not really stunned by this, since it mirrored my own experience growing up (not in the US), where Black Americans were revered since they were part of THE culture (American) everyone aspired to, while African Blacks were hugely discriminated against. See also: http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/06/privilege-its-not-just-for-white-folks/
        I disagree with several parts of the article but it still gave me food for thought.

        • http://twitter.com/KiaAhatia kia ahatia

          errr I’m not American, seems like you could win your own bingo card! I don’t see where I offered any definition of “kyriarchy” – that is an American term afaik. I come from a part of the world subjected to racist colonization by Asian states and I certainly do have more interests in common with colonized people in America than with Asian colonizers.

          The fact that Chinese society is extremely racist against Black people, which is definitely true – and non-Han Chinese people for that matter – isn’t an example of African-American privilege or arrogance, it is an example of how coming from a country where you belong to the dominant culture actually does make a difference. If a Chinese person fetishizes African American culture while still racist against Black people, he is the one who belongs on the racist appropriation bingo card, not African Americans. To be photographed like wildlife isn’t a great privilege either, you might as well say asking to touch their hair is a friendly gesture! African American pop-stars might be revered on tv, they are popular in America too, that doesn’t actually change the way non-popstars are treated irl. It is true that American military occupation brought American cultural influences but that doesnt mean Malcolm X colonized Melanesia and it doesn’t mean Asian people who complain about “jungle music” are anti-colonial. The interaction between Chinese Maoists and other Asian communists the American Black power movement influenced both sides for good once, but you know what I agree middle class Asians are not on my side.

          Here is another square for the card: the term “Asian/Pacific Islander” used by Asian settlers in Hawai’i to lay false claim to Indigeneity and to cover up the racist colonization of the south pacific.

    • http://twitter.com/MizHalle ☣ JY Yang

      Re: “I’m an outsider, but I can analyse your culture better than you.” This refers to the phenomenon where the opinions of white experts or academics are given more weight, or given a more visible platform, than opinions from people within culture/country/ethnic group they are discussing. There are plenty of examples of this, but the one I can think of, off the top of my head, was this recent roundtable organised by Locus about non-Western SFF… and the panel was almost devoid of non-Westerners. http://www.locusmag.com/Roundtable/2012/05/roundtable-on-ahem-non-western-sf/ If I recall correctly, it was one of the microaggressions that led up to the creation of this bingo card, as well.

  • Anonymous

    Whipped up a quick transcription: Title: The Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card Description: a 5×5 checkerboard of blue and yellow squares. Squares are transcribed in rows from top to bottom, left to right. Row 1, Box 1: “You have an English name, therefore you’re not authentic!” Row 1, Box 2: “You’re the majority race in your country — what are you complaiing about?” Row 1, Box 3: “You guys would do so much better in a democracy, like the West!” Row 1, Box 4: “I have found enlightenment through indigenous wisdom of [group I am visiting].” Row 1, Box 5: “People here don’t know the meaning of money.” Row 2, Box 1: “You speak English too well to be a non-native.” Row 2, Box 2: “You’re on the Internet so you can’t be oppressed.” Row 2, Box 3: “Your country would be in worse shape if the West weren’t helping you.” Row 2, Box 4: “I’m an outsider, but I can analyse your culture better than you.” Row 2, Box 5: “People here are so genuine, unlike back in Westernlandia.” Row 3, Box 1: “Indian English is not real English.” Row 3, Box 2: “Only US POCs are qualified to talk about racism, you’re derailing us.” Row 3, Box 3: “Sure, we did a lot of harm with colonialism, but we know better now!” Row 3, Box 4: “I am White and Western-born, but I looove your culture; therefore I know more than you.” Row 3, Box 5: “People here are poor but they welcome us like their family.” Row 4, Box 1: “Whatever you do or say is the wrong thing anyway.” Row 4, Box 2: “Racism everywhere is the same as in the US, you’re just not seeing it!” Row 4, Box 3: “But surely you don’t mean to say that all things West are evil!” Row 4, Box 4: “We know how to fix your country better than you.” Row 4, Box 5: “People here are poor but they are happy.” Row 5, Box 1: “But those are ‘universal’ tropes!” Row 5, Box 2: “Foreign movies and series are so popular in your country because they’re better.” Row 5, Box 3: “There are starving children in Africa why do you care about cultural imperialism!” Row 5, Box 4: “But all the things your ancestors believed were wrong-headed!” Row 5, Box 5: “All that people here want is our money, they’re so pushy!”

    • Anonymous

      YOU ROCK!!! Thank you so much for that, I will add to the post later today.

  • tessa

    Can you provide a link to a larger version of this card? I can’t read it, and would really like to.

  • http://twitter.com/kfestus kfestus

    Awesome game. I already got bingo driving in to work today listening to conservative talk radio. These people are nuts. I could probably get bingo again if I listened to mainstream media regarding the Southern US. #ProudSouthernLeftist