Tag: cultural appropriation

November 11, 2008 / / cultural appropriation

by Latoya Peterson

Director Chan-Wook Park shocked the hell out of South Korean audiences in 2003, with his theatrical release Oldboy, the second film in the disturbing The Vengence trilogy.

Now, dear readers, I hate horror movies but I love psychological thrillers. Hence, I watched Oldboy. And while I really enjoyed the movie, it is definitely *not* for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. So, imagine my surprise while perusing Dramabeans to see a post describing how Will Smith is going to star in the US remake.

Javabeans, main poster on the blog, is not pleased. Read the Post Another Hollywood Remake: Oldboy

October 2, 2008 / / On Appropriation

by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee

Last year, a friend of mine told me that actress Juliette Lewis started up a band and that their sound was seriously a rockin’.

I was like “Really? Cool!” since I’d always appreciated the versatility Lewis demonstrated in her acting craft with movies like “The Other Sister,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” or even “Old School.”

Off to Google I went searching for her website, when I came up with this image:

Oh no, not again.

Another appropriator.

A quick glance at their website and various other fan photo materials reveals even worse.

Read the Post Indigenous Feminism and Cultural Appropriation

September 12, 2008 / / cultural appropriation
March 10, 2008 / / Uncategorized

by Carmen Van Kerckhove and Latoya Peterson

The latest fake memoir scandal erupted last week. Margaret B. Jones’ critically acclaimed book “Love and Consequences,” about a half white, half Native American girl’s experiences with sexual abuse, foster care, and gang violence, turned out to be a complete fabrication. Not only did Margaret Seltzer (her real name) actually grow up with her white biological family in well-to-do neighborhood, but she even faked the foundation she supposedly started to end gang violence. Latoya and Carmen had an IM conversation about it…

Carmen: It’s funny because just a few days before I this story broke, I had been thinking about this very issue while skimming some book reviews
in Elle. Why is it that these literary memoirs about people with fucked-up lives are written by white folks? Is there something about a white person experiencing this kind of dysfunction that seems unusual or abnormal? Whereas if a person of color wrote something similar, it would strike people as par for the course? And therefore less marketable?

Latoya: Def – it’s all about the fucked up lives of white people, I guess because they just assume minorities are fucked up so there is nothing special about that. I was reading ABW, and one of her guest bloggers mentioned how Felicia “Snoop” Pearson of The Wire has a book about her life and experiences…that didn’t get nearly as much press. And, I’ll agree, probably not a $100K advance either.

But that’s neither here or there.

My question is why did no one pick up the phone and verify the basics of her account? The publishing industry wants to act like they publish too many books to check – but they can’t take 30 minutes to call the Child Welfare department or whatever state organization is in charge of child care and verify she was there from xxxx – xxxx?

Carmen: Seriously. And if you think about how long the life cycle of a book is (can take 2 or 3 years to actually get published) – there is plenty of time for some basic fact-checking.

I was really struck by the fact that she chose to identify as half Native-American, half white, when in real life she’s just white. What did you make of that?

Latoya: Minority street cred?

Maybe she was trying to find the most oppressed group to identify with?

I’m just confused about the whole situation. The biggest thing I’m wondering about – if these were people she knew through her work, why didn’t she publish their memoirs? Or a book about her experiences? Or an anthology of their stories? Why did she feel the need to internalize their suffering and insert herself into the narrative?

Carmen: Who knows – maybe her agent told her that would be an easier sell? Not saying she has no blame/say in the matter, but there are people other than her involved in this project, I’m sure.

It is amazing though, that after Oprah ripped James Frey a new asshole on (inter)national television, that publishers wouldn’t take at least some basic precautions to prevent a similar debacle. Read the Post Literary memoirs, lies, race, and appropriation

June 21, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

After Latoya wrote the excellent article “Know Your Place, Woman: BET’s Meet the Faith on Black Marriage,” I decided to do a little additional research by checking out the BET site for the show with the all the questionable content. I ended up reading very little on Meet the Faith. In fact, the one thing that stood out to me about the site was actually a random distraction . . .

Toward the bottom of the page regarding a segment on black beauty, I noticed a survey entitled “Korean or Black Owned?” The caption read:

For the most part, Black haircare products didn’t exist until Madame C.J. Walker introduced her Wonderful Hair Grower in the early 1900s. Today, there are still very few products and equipment made for or sold by Blacks.

For such a loaded topic, there were only two simple questions:

1. There are two beauty supply stores next to each other. One is Korean-owned and sells your shampoo for $10. The other is Black-owned and sells your shampoo for $12. Where would you buy your shampoo? The Black-Owned Store or The Korean-Owned Store?

2. If the Korean-owned shop sold items $2 to $3 higher, where do you think the average Korean customer would shop? The Black-Owned Store or The Korean-Owned Store?

I immediately felt the urge to look into what had compelled this very basic set of questions and find some answers. Carmen raised a question of her own back in December, “Do Korean-Americans Control the Black Hair Market?” prompting readers to check out Aron Ranen’s documentary Black Hair and leaving them to render their own judgment on the issue. Half a year later, however, I find myself asking less about the prospect of Korean market dominance in the black haircare industry, and more about the process of seeking an answer to the inquiry itself. What methods have we used to publicly examine this market dominance and what effect have they had on the respective communities involved?

First and foremost, there is the film by Ranen. Black Hair is a documentary created to bring attention to the plight of people of African descent who attempt to manufacture and/or distribute black hair care products within the black community as they face considerable adversity in a market now controlled by Korean immigrants and their families. While some, including members of the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association (BOBSA), see the film, as absolute truth, I find that it could be quite easily interpreted as an open attack on Koreans. I understand quite clearly that the film is a powerful form of advocacy for keeping money spent and earned by African-Americans in the black community, but I question the need for Ranen’s clear manipulation of an already troubled case of ethnic disunity between American blacks and Korean immigrants as a means to push the “buy black” agenda.

During an interview with NPR, Ranen is asked whether or not his film creates “an environment that shows Korean proprietors as the enemy.” In defense of his work, he answers simply that he does not want to be a “hater,” but instead he wants to be a “motivator.” Yet I can’t help but consider his attempt to “motivate” the black community suspect. By publicly picking at old wounds between Koreans and African-Americans, Ranen has tapped into an increasingly lucrative market for the press: inter-ethnic conflict. The American media can’t get enough of it. Stories about people of color fighting other people of color, even if their initial disagreement has little to do with race or ethnic background, always make headline news, often yielding skewed and/or distorted results. Asian-American activist Helen Zia discusses this phenomenon in her book Asian American Dreams with regard to the L.A. Riots: Read the Post Scapegoating or Community Empowerment? The Flipside of the “Korean Takeover of the Black Haircare Industry” Debate

June 12, 2007 / / Uncategorized
May 24, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

Lily Allen rocks it (kinda), Will Smith used to, and about 8 out of 10 hipster 20-somethings I see every single time I walk into an “up and coming” neighborhood in NYC seems to have filled their closets with it. Door-knocker earrings, yellow gold chains, hoodies with loud neon prints, and even grills are popping up everywhere. The 80s are back with a vengeance in NYC, but tinted more the color of Salt N Peppa than The Bangles. It’s no surprise that some of the more decadent style choices of the black and Latino working class from 20 years ago are reflected in H&Ms worldwide or seeping their way into the minds of the fashion conscious. After all, the history of fashion has shown us that cross-cultural appropriation (race, class, and nationality-based) is a common catalyst for the next big trends. Yet no matter how cute so-called “ghetto chic” may be, I just can’t bring myself to wear it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve reached that certain period in my life at which the combining of “work” clothes and “play” clothes has become a necessity to keep down costs and save closet space, but I feel that there is something deeper inside that prevents me from embracing my inner old school rap star. For one, it’s a matter of nomenclature. The term “ghetto” is evocative of “negative” images (poverty, housing projects, crime, drug use, lack of education), and remains racialized by the media. Ghettoes and poverty are typically associated with blacks and Latinos, even though as a result of the racial demographics of the United States, there are technically more poor whites. According to a U.S. Census Bureau Press Release from 2003, though “non-Hispanic whites had a lower poverty rate than other racial groups, [they] accounted for 44 percent of the people in poverty,” which makes me wonder why whites are virtually ignored in discussions of class and blacks and Latinos are always assumed to make up the majority of the poor population in this country. . . but that’s another article.

Over time, the term “ghetto” has been used in a way that separates it from its history, a dark one of ethnic exclusion (i.e. forced isolation of Jewish communities) and government-sanctioned segregation (i.e. communities of color in the United States). Little thought is given to the true meaning of the word and how people ended up in ghettoes to begin with when it’s used. Along the same lines of a proposition made by Robert B. Moore in his essay “Racist Stereotyping in the English Language,” I’d like to make a little proposal of my own. Moore challenges typical methods of teaching and discussing the history of the United States by making his readers take a closer look at those who were oppressed in order to create it. He suggests that the “next time [we] write about slavery or read about it, try transposing all “slaves” into ‘African people held in captivity,’ ‘Black people forced to work for no pay,’ or ‘African people stolen from their families and societies.’” Imagine if we replaced “ghetto” with something like “the only place African-American men (who had fought for their country’s freedom from totalitarianism) and their families were allowed to live due to redlining, racist real estate monopolies, and restrictive covenants” when used as a noun. Or what about “a type of behavior I associate with the poor even though I don’t know anyone who lives in the projects or has had to struggle to make ends meet”/ “a style of dress that I associate with poor blacks and Latinos becauseI am racist and classist deep down inside, but cover it up by using this word instead of saying what I really mean because it’s more socially acceptable” when used as an adjective. So that’s a little harsh, but it would put a whole new spin on saying something or someone was “ghetto,” now wouldn’t it? It might make people think twice before applying it to any and everything that they deem as sub-par.

Another reason I would feel a tad bit uncomfortable clothing myself in “ghetto chic” is the manner in which the style itself is carried out. There is a hint of irony in middle to upper-middle class young people co-opting a style of dress that by name alone is associated with those who find themselves limited by their economically precarious existence. Clothing that is now used to evoke “ghetto fabulous-ness” is based on a style that has its own history. It was a style of adornment that came about as a result of the poverty itself. Considering that the poor found it challenging to invest in forms of real wealth, liquid commodities like clothing became currency, a sign that even though some may be on the bottom when compared to the rest of society, they could take styles (like jewelry and “preppy” fashion) from those who had solid wealth and make it their own. So I would feel strange wearing a style that originated as a way to prove oneself as worthy and equal in the face of adversity when I don’t face challenges in the same way as a result of my economic privilege. Read the Post Ghetto Chic: To Wear or Not to Wear?