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Thread: Cultural Appropriation and Celebration of Failure to Read the Screen

  1. #276
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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  2. #277
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    Here's a link to a book review "Antisemitism and THE GIRL WHO WOULDN"T DIE". I warn you that it's a long post. That post, though, hits on almost everything an author can get wrong from historical inaccuracies in depicting the environment and setting to what it really meant to be there to the language used in characterization. And it clearly and specifically addresses the harm that can be caused through shoddy writing. I was aghast and I'm pretty sure you will be, too. This . . . this is what we want to avoid when writing about cultures not our own.
    Oh dear lord. I can't even. I don't know where to begin. The MC's name is Arab. And the "filthy rich" line in a book about the Holocaust, and the heroic Nazis, and...I just--

    *implodes messily*

    Thank you for sharing that link. I think this is a perfect example of why "I just want to write books, bwaaahhh *sad face*" and "write whatever the hell you want and ignore the PC noise" is just not an acceptable excuse. I just don't understand how these authors AND publishers don't GET that they're hurting actual, real people. And not just an individual or two, but entire communities of individuals. And to some, it's worth it for the sake of some fucked-up notion of *~art~*.

    My heart is just sick looking at these examples.
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  3. #278
    Oops I just swallowed a feather SwallowFeather's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    Here's a link to a book review "Antisemitism and THE GIRL WHO WOULDN"T DIE". I warn you that it's a long post. That post, though, hits on almost everything an author can get wrong from historical inaccuracies in depicting the environment and setting to what it really meant to be there to the language used in characterization. And it clearly and specifically addresses the harm that can be caused through shoddy writing. I was aghast and I'm pretty sure you will be, too. This . . . this is what we want to avoid when writing about cultures not our own.
    Whooooa, I missed this. My bad. Going to read it now. (Uh-oh.)

  4. #279
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Yeah. 'How bad could it be?' I said. BAD. It can be VERY BAD. How does something so belligerently clueless get published?
    Alex

  5. #280
    New kid...seven years ago! DancingMaenid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    Yeah. 'How bad could it be?' I said. BAD. It can be VERY BAD. How does something so belligerently clueless get published?
    I know, right? I was surprised by how blatant the examples are. I have a hard time imagining how you could take the time to write about the Holocaust from the POV of a Jewish character and not see the issue with things like referring to "filthy rich" Jews or having your Jewish character invoke a lot of Christian symbols.

    I get the sense that the author was aiming for the MC to come across as edgy and sarcastic, but that's a big risk with a story like this. It seems to come across as glib, which is not what you want for a story about something so serious. It's also weird that the character is so divorced, mentally, from her Jewish heritage. Maybe this was a misguided attempt at giving the character a defense mechanism and internalized antisemitism, but again, that's something that needs to be handled so, so carefully. Simply eschewing your heritage or identity isn't really a privilege you have when you live in a place where your community is being forcibly segregated, imprisoned, and killed.

    How did the editor (or agent, if applicable) not pick up on any of these problems?
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  6. #281
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    Yeah. 'How bad could it be?' I said. BAD. It can be VERY BAD. How does something so belligerently clueless get published?
    The sad thing is it's not all that uncommon. It's not one every twenty years; it's more like one every six months.

  7. #282
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingMaenid View Post
    How did the editor (or agent, if applicable) not pick up on any of these problems?
    The acquiring agent later left the publisher; so it was an orphan book. I do not know who the acquiring editor was, but I too am curious on the level of WTF were you thinking?

  8. #283
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    The acquiring agent later left the publisher; so it was an orphan book. I do not know who the acquiring editor was, but I too am curious on the level of WTF were you thinking?
    Maybe the acquiring agent, on actually reading what they'd bought, faked their own death and high-tailed it for the border.
    Alex

  9. #284
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    I would *hope* the acquiring agent had plans to change the dynamic of the story - make the main character struggle internally with the deplorable outer version of herself and make it clearer than crystal that the outer version was fake, fake, fakity fake fake in order to save herself and her family from suspicion. Then the book was orphaned and the newly assigned person assumed the book was okay, or didn't want any part of the dumpster fire lest it burn them alive. (Not my book - it was already here when I got here, DO NOT BLAME ME FOR SETTING THIS FIRE WHEN YOU COATED MY DESK IN LIGHTER FLUID AND TRIED WRITING WITH MATCHES)

    Whatever this person had in mind, the book is unsalvageable. I couldn't even make it through the whole post dissecting it. When I was in high school, we had a teacher who had survived the Warsaw Ghetto as a tween/teen and had flashes of PTSD in the classroom. This woman's family were apparently practicing Catholics, but as the post about this horrific book points out, faith wasn't the issue; bloodline was, so they were taken.

    We didn't know about her history until a couple of years after taking her class when she did a newspaper interview. She always wore long sleeves to cover the tattoo on her arm. She would jump at the sound of notebook paper ripped from spirals (apparently it sounded like distant gunfire). She would sit in the dark before class while we all waited in the hall for her to turn on the lights. And her stories of "learning to speak German when she moved to Germany with her family as a girl" were code for "we were taken away."

    She was around the same age as the main character of this book, so putting that into context of what we learned from our teacher made it too hard to stomach even a run-though of the story.
    Last edited by Cyia; 06-02-2017 at 08:15 PM.

  10. #285
    Oops I just swallowed a feather SwallowFeather's Avatar
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    Just got done reading the Girl Who Would Not Die post.

    Wow.

    It boggles the mind. There so many layers to it. From the "filthy rich Jewish parents" line (which has to be deliberate), to not even mentioning Kristallnacht when the girl lived through it, to her being able to look at Nazis the way she does when her own family is in the ghetto... (And singing herself to sleep with "Silent Night"????)

    On another level, I am also kind of boggled by how a rich girl became--apparently while still rich and free--a streetwise, pickpocketing "street kid" type. (I mean maybe the answer's in the book but I don't get that sense from the review.) This is not something people do for fun. Seems to me the author just wanted things a certain way and steamrolled over everything to get there.

    So tired of authors using WWII as their playground, as if it was something that didn't really happen. Sometimes it's not this egregious. But all of it cheapens. WWII and Nazis are not "instant drama, just add water." Write with respect for the real human beings it happened to, or go somewhere else and make your own drama.

  11. #286
    Revolutionize the World kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    Since I feel like many people have already addressed a lot of other issues here, this is the main thing I want to address, since it went largely unanswered except for a few posts, and I think misunderstanding this issue contributes to huge misconceptions many non-Native people (indeed, many non-marginalized people, in general) have about cultural and historical responsibility:

    Quote Originally Posted by JCornelius View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Litke View Post
    This, exactly. If your perspective is that you shouldn't be held responsible for what your ancestors did, as if it's not still happening, you're too ignorant to write about the subject.
    I’ve been meaning to ask a few specific questions for some time now, and this looks like a terrific opportunity to do so. As a sort of sub-topic of this fascinating thread. I hope they won’t be too much of a bother. It really is time to zero in a bit into specific concepts, I believe, in order to work out the exact mechanics there.

    Question 1: Suppose one lives in Canada, but is first generation Canada-born, and one’s ancestors are from Slovakia. Does one then imagine out of a sense of communion that olden Slovakia had oppressed native Canadians? Or is one exempt from the inherited racial guilt? Or is it more of a having the right skin color in the wrong place thing and the guilt is not genetic or national, but more epidermal?

    Question 2: Suppose one is not a Slovak, but solid Canadian stock since at least the late 1700’s, and say Welsh-Cumbrian from before that. Yet none of one’s Canadian ancestors oppressed anyone. Some of them tended animals, others worked in townships, but not one of them has ever oppressed in any way a native Canadian. Now, does this lack of a direct lineage to an oppressor shield one from the inherited stain, or is it not a question so much of direct genetic inheritance, but more of a quantum mutual-influence thing? As in—X number of your ethnicity has done a bad thing, and therefore your genes are affected too? If yes—is there a specific number of ethnicity members that have to do the bad thing until you’re tainted too? Or, going further still--do country borders stop it? If you are of the "guilty ethnicity", but have never set foot in the country in which the crimes took place, do you only become guilty once you cross the border?

    Question 3: In case it’s not a quantum genetic sympathy thing, but a direct descendant thing. Suppose one’s direct ancestor was responsible for oppressing or even massacring native Canadians back in 1824. Is this family curse forever, or not? If not—is there a specific number of generations after which it is lifted, or is the a percentage of blood-mixing after which the family is no longer the original one and the curse no longer works, or is it there forever in anyone who has any connection to the original ancestor, until a specific act of reparation is carried out? If it’s the reparation thing—does one descendant doing it fix things, or do all the descendant have to do this? And also—just once, or annually?

    Question 4: Is this only a thing to do with other ethnicities? If, for example, one is white, from Scottish stock, and one’s great-grandmother was an ax murderer, but only killed Scottish stock whites from her own village—does that mean you also have to feel guilty about it even now? Or is it less generationally contagious if the victims are from your own ethnicity? When does it become a generational crime against other ethnicities—if it’s not the same sub-branch of white but a different type of white (for example Celts killing Slavs), or only if it’s a totally different skin color and culture?

    Question 5: If it’s possible to be guilty but not have done anything bad yourself, is it then also possible to be awesome by remote influence? If the bad deeds of one’s ancestor make ‘guilt points’ for the descendant, do the good deeds make ‘awesome points’? If yes—how many ‘awesome points’ make the ‘guilt points’ go away?

    Question 6: Leaving ancestors alone and shifting to the here and now. Suppose one’s cousin works in a corporation that pollutes native Canadian land. Does that make one guilty by association or by shared genome? What purification ritual should be done to scrub clean the stain on one character? Or is the whole clan cursed from now on? Or the whole ethnos?

    Thank you very much in advance should answers be forthcoming, have a nice weekend.

    I invite nighttimer to also meditate on these questions, as the user also sounds perhaps representative of a certain school of thought on the subject.

    EDIT: We live in times in which it is expected to wear allegiances on one's sleeve. I'm progressive. Been zooming deep into the mechanics of any issue ever since the obligatory breakdowns after high school.
    As a few others have pointed out, your guilt is useless to us. I can't tell you how often I have to massage other people's white guilt when they find out I'm Native American, and I end up having to educate them about all kinds of things. It's exhausting and emotionally taxing. It is not now, nor has it ever been, about wanting people to feel "guilty".

    First of all, let's get it out of the way that often what we're asking for is some basic respect. Avoiding cultural appropriation isn't about paying penance for crimes of the past. It's about respecting us in the present. So I'm not sure any of these questions are even relevant to the discussion.

    But anyway.

    "Why should I be responsible for what my ancestors did?"

    There are two major problems with this question.

    One of them is the assumption that all of the damage has been done, and these are crimes of the past, and it's time for society to move on. But as JJ and others point out, that's not the case at all. Not only has that history had a lasting effect on the situation in which Natives and other marginalized peoples find themselves today, but discrimination, oppression, and exploitation continue today. Consider DAPL. Or simply the fact that we have to fight so hard for our cultures to receive basic respect. The pain and oppression is not only in the past. It is continuous and ongoing.

    Secondly, I think these questions hint at one of the basic differences between many Native cultures and Western cultures, which is rights versus responsibilities. Western cultures, especially American culture, tend to focus more on rights of the individual, while many indigenous cultures place a greater emphasis on responsibility to one's community. It's often a question in Western culture why an individual should be responsible for a communal problem when they're not directly at fault for it. That's not so with most Native cultures. Communal responsibility is a core value.

    But if communal responsibility isn't a core value for (generic) you?

    If you're in a position of privilege -- and it's important to keep re-evaluating this, as many of us experience some form of privilege (I, for example, grew up upper-middle class and I'm not physically disabled) -- then you have more power and more opportunity to perpetuate ongoing harm. And with power comes responsibility.

    Because there are so many things that contribute to harming marginalized groups. People are often proud and quick to say that they're not racist, but those same people will often overlook casual racism in others, without saying anything. Sometimes they say racist things themselves without actually realizing it, and become defensive when confronted about it, as if it's an attack on them, rather than an attempt to be honest and helpful.

    Which brings us back to the important thing in this thread: understanding that cultural appropriation is actually damaging. It is not only disrespectful and offensive, but actively harmful. When a Native child reads a YA book with a Native character, how does the representation impact them? What will they learn and internalize about who they are? What will their friends believe and think about them and perpetuate if they read that same book? How does that impact how society views us and our cultures as a whole? How do those views impact our political and legal battles against oppressive imperialistic exploitation such as DAPL? It's all connected.

    So why should (generic) you feel responsible?

    Because we're not asking anyone to feel guilty, or for penance for the crimes of one's ancestors. We're asking you to stop hurting us now, and stop perpetuating a legacy of colonialism and oppression.
    Last edited by kuwisdelu; 06-03-2017 at 06:28 AM.

  12. #287
    deceives Tocotin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwallowFeather View Post
    So tired of authors using WWII as their playground, as if it was something that didn't really happen. Sometimes it's not this egregious. But all of it cheapens. WWII and Nazis are not "instant drama, just add water." Write with respect for the real human beings it happened to, or go somewhere else and make your own drama.
    So much this.

    I read the whole review and it made my hair stand on end. I'm Polish with a possible Jewish background (family secrets & records lost in the war) and I'm sick of Nazi-fantasy books masquerading as historical fiction, especially if they are set in Poland. The Nazi occupation in Eastern Europe was NOT the same as in Western Europe. Jews and Rroma were vermin to the Nazis, Slavs were only a notch higher and deemed temporarily useful as slave labor, but they were the next target. Poland had the largest Jewish community in the world (a very varied one too, with different degrees of assimilation this is one point on which I can't agree with the author of the review), now almost inexistent, because they were viciously and methodically wiped out. If you were Polish and helped someone who was Jewish, the Nazis would kill you, your family and sometimes your neighbors as well. In occupied Poland, there was no fraternizing with the Nazis even if you wanted to, because they didn't want you. It was all unspeakably brutal and merciless, to the extent that there is a theory of the Polish nation suffering from PTSD right now. The "decent" Nazis I only heard one story in my entire life, versus countless cruel stories, but the WW2 historical fiction is somehow focused on this "decent" 0,01%?
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  13. #288
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    In light of all that's been presented in this thread SO FAR, I still have burning questions:

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to speak up when marginalisation, theft, abuse, come up?

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to yell "Stop hurting us!"?

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to ask for even a modicum of respect?

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to BE RESPECTED PEOPLE?

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to NOT have our cultures stolen and abused?

    Why is it wrong for marginalised peoples to NOT be marginalised???

    So damned fed up of cultural theft, abuse and exploitation, and marginalisation.
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 06-03-2017 at 01:20 PM.
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  14. #289
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cobalt Jade View Post
    Out of curiosity, what were your issues with Mulan?
    As I recall, the following were included in my issues, but I'd have to watch to this depiction again to figure out the details:

    • Before enlisting, Mulan was already a practitioner of martial arts, rather well-versed, I believe. She could also handle a sword.
    • She was never discovered as female, and fought in the war for 12 years. (I don't recall if this happened in the movie any more, but might have done for me to recall it so clearly.)
    • She had 2 siblings: a younger sister, and a young brother who would not have been able to enlist in his father's stead.
    • Mulan was born and raised in a time where the lady never invited a man to stay for anything. That would have been her father's decision.


    /derail
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 06-07-2017 at 02:41 PM.
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  15. #290
    practical experience, FTW LucidCrux's Avatar
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    I don't mean for this to be cultural mansplaining. These are NOT rhetorical questions, I am really curious what people who feel their culture is being stolen think.

    Two things:
    1

    Why are people who want to restrict culture spread given priority? There are people of marginalized and minority cultures who actively try to spread their cultures. They want it to be including in the melting pot, so to speak. Don't those people have a right to promote that since it is their culture too?

    Here are a couple I know of: Native American jewelry making, pottery, and dance classes, all run by Native Americans. Ceremonies and events where the public is invited and they tell stories to the children. Are the kids supposed to then forget it? What was the point of telling them if not to spread the knowledge and themes?

    There have been a number of books and documentaries collecting stories and songs that were willingly shared by all sorts of cultures, not just Native Americans or Africans. How does someone else have the right to take back what they shared? When one member of a group calls it cultural appropriation and another cultural diversity, who gets to decide which is correct?

    -----
    2

    I suppose the other question is, how can something as nebulous and ever-shifting as "culture" ever be expected to remain locked up at all? If someone grows up or lives a long time in close relation to a minority, can they not call that their culture even if it isn't in their blood? They don't know all the ins and outs, but it has certainly played a role in their life. What about the reverse, when a native by blood lives most of their life in a big city? Where do you draw the line and say you need to understand this much or have lived it this long? Most people don't understand half their own culture.

    It seems like people try so hard to stop the spread, which results in most good, honest people who would try to be respectful and well-rounded (but sometimes fail) saying "okay, we'll wait," and then jerks who could care less show up and turn out failed caricatures on purpose. And that is what ends up spreading. Que the cliche. You can't hold back the ocean, so why don't you channel it and help other people channel it in a positive direction?

    If a people walled themselves off from the world, fine. Removing things in that case would be theft. If people want to remain part of the modern world, cultural drift and sharing and mixing is part of that. That is how the world functions most peacefully and how wars are stopped before they start, which with the state of the world is saying something. Even if there were some magical way to re-segregate the world and wall off huge sections for minorities where no culture went in or out and everyone had more room than they needed, how many would honestly want it, knowing how much diversity lay outside their walls? My guess is that it would be a minority of the minority. But I don't know, I'm not really qualified to guess.

    Actually, just thought of a third. How does discrimination (which most people agree is bad) relate to cultural appropriation?

    I'm relatively new to the cultural appropriation thing so I might be missing some important aspects, in which case I am happy to learn.

  16. #291
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    This has become a long thread; I'll grant you that. Appropriation vs sharing has been well covered, though. So I'll try for a shortened version.


    Quote Originally Posted by LucidCrux View Post
    I don't mean for this to be cultural mansplaining. These are NOT rhetorical questions, I am really curious what people who feel their culture is being stolen think.

    Two things:
    1

    Why are people who want to restrict culture spread given priority? There are people of marginalized and minority cultures who actively try to spread their cultures. They want it to be including in the melting pot, so to speak. Don't those people have a right to promote that since it is their culture too?

    Here are a couple I know of: Native American jewelry making, pottery, and dance classes, all run by Native Americans. Ceremonies and events where the public is invited and they tell stories to the children. Are the kids supposed to then forget it? What was the point of telling them if not to spread the knowledge and themes?

    There have been a number of books and documentaries collecting stories and songs that were willingly shared by all sorts of cultures, not just Native Americans or Africans. How does someone else have the right to take back what they shared? When one member of a group calls it cultural appropriation and another cultural diversity, who gets to decide which is correct?

    -----
    2

    I suppose the other question is, how can something as nebulous and ever-shifting as "culture" ever be expected to remain locked up at all? If someone grows up or lives a long time in close relation to a minority, can they not call that their culture even if it isn't in their blood? They don't know all the ins and outs, but it has certainly played a role in their life. What about the reverse, when a native by blood lives most of their life in a big city? Where do you draw the line and say you need to understand this much or have lived it this long? Most people don't understand half their own culture.

    It seems like people try so hard to stop the spread, which results in most good, honest people who would try to be respectful and well-rounded (but sometimes fail) saying "okay, we'll wait," and then jerks who could care less show up and turn out failed caricatures on purpose. And that is what ends up spreading. Que the cliche. You can't hold back the ocean, so why don't you channel it and help other people channel it in a positive direction?

    If a people walled themselves off from the world, fine. Removing things in that case would be theft. If people want to remain part of the modern world, cultural drift and sharing and mixing is part of that. That is how the world functions most peacefully and how wars are stopped before they start, which with the state of the world is saying something. Even if there were some magical way to re-segregate the world and wall off huge sections for minorities where no culture went in or out and everyone had more room than they needed, how many would honestly want it, knowing how much diversity lay outside their walls? My guess is that it would be a minority of the minority. But I don't know, I'm not really qualified to guess.

    Actually, just thought of a third. How does discrimination (which most people agree is bad) relate to cultural appropriation?

    I'm relatively new to the cultural appropriation thing so I might be missing some important aspects, in which case I am happy to learn.
    It's not about restricting culture spread. It IS about who has the right to decide which cultural elements should be shared and how those elements are to be shared. It's about sharing vs theft. In your first example above the owners of the culture are choosing what to share and how to share it. Appropriation is theft; it's taking something belonging to someone else for one's own use without permission, without regard to meaning, and without respect.

    Also, the cultures of marginalized peoples are not nebulous and ever-changing. Their cultures are rooted in their histories, their religions, their ways of living. Even their views of life. These cultural elements have been handed down for centuries (and even millennia) almost entirely intact. Their cultures are their identities and are of deep significance.

    Some outward expressions of a culture may change; their meaning and significance don't. Without a respect for and an understanding of meaning, adopting those expressions for one's own use is appropriation (theft).
    Last edited by Ari Meermans; 06-20-2017 at 02:33 PM.
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  17. #292
    practical experience, FTW LucidCrux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    It IS about who has the right to decide which cultural elements should be shared and how those elements are to be shared.
    That's what I'm asking, though. How do you decide who is right and who is wrong? Take the very public backlash against dreadlocks recently. If a few African-Americans or Jamaicans happily help some white girls learn how to do it so they in turn can teach others, thinking it is cool to see the style spread, while others say no, it's cultural appropriation, who is in the right?

  18. #293
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    You may be over-simplifying cultural appropriation. It is a case by case basis. The main concern with the dreadlocks case is not that there's a Caucasian woman "daring" to have dreadlocks. The concern is that when a white woman does it, it's often praised - see the Kardashian or fashion spreads, while when a black individual does it, they could be told by the same fashion magazines that the hairstyle is dirty and most likely smells of weed (I believe it was Zendaya that happened to). It's not "you can't touch my culture, how dare you wear it", there's a concern over the difference in treatment. Should someone go around in dreadlocks regardless of their race with an appreciation from where dreadlocks came from an an internal understanding that they may be benefiting from their race if they're allowed to wear their dreads at work, then I personally believe they are respecting the matter and are allowed to wear it.

    Respectful? Fine.
    A white / asian / armenian calling herself "so ghetto" looking for deciding to wear long nails and dreads? I don't find that appropriate, no.

    If you are looking to become more familiar with a black man's struggles in regard to your characters, I would suggest the book New Black Man as a good place to start.

    Also, remember that cultural appropriation is in the gray area of life: there is no one correct answer. It's a bit like engineering that way or the writing queries - there is no one answer, just a general consensus. And there is no overarching consensus that doesn't have exceptions. There are just general rules.

    And if you're thinking that engineering is math- and science-bound so it can't possibly be as frivolous as writing styles and culture, trust me, I'm an engineer. There's bad answers and better answers, but on really complicated problems (like ones as complicated as cultural appropriation) there generally are just good-enough answers.
    Last edited by ConstellationSkies; 06-21-2017 at 04:16 AM.

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