Our cultural heritage – or theft?

Please consider this quote.

Ms. Allen was a liberal, mixed-blood (Asian, Scots, various AmerInd) in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century.

It is, let me add, a statement with which we at TPOL do NOT agree. The Fifty States – and indeed Canada and Mexico – DID derive SOME of its wealth, its values, its food, and its vision of goals and objects from many different nations and cultures of AmerInd people. But hardly all. Our heritage comes from many sources, from every continent (with possible exceptions of Antarctica and Australia), and from every racial and cultural group. Including people such as the Pueblo (Laguna, Zuni, and others), Lakota, Dineh (Navajo), Wabanaki, and many others.

But Americans adapting the customs and products and ideas of other cultures is no longer seen as a good thing. The melting pot must have its heat turned down, or even off. All those chunks of this and that must remain separate and even uncontaminated by the other chunks.

What Ms. Allen described is now called cultural appropriation, and it is a very bad thing. Wikipedia defines it as “Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.” Wikipedia There are, of course, definitions but it always is treated as disapproving. Doing so is an excuse to attack, condemn, and cancel people. The popular opinion today in 2022 is that cultural appropriation is wrong and should not be done, or stopped if we are doing that.

Yet we do it all the time. All the things that Ms. Allen claimed fit into this definition. Corn? Beans? Fry bread? Beadwork? Concepts of government? Camping? Hunting? Even environmental awareness? All of these things are claimed by many (especially activists like her) as being the heritage of the tribes of North America. So that makes it WRONG for people of other ancestry (especially European) to use these things. At least to use them without paying for them to the people who (probably) originally used them, or which are now associated in the public mind with those people who are a minority.

Consider food, as that has come up frequently. For groups which are predominantly NOT Mexican in heritage, it is wrong to fix and serve tacos, burritos, even tortillas – those are Mexican foods. If you are not Chinese, it is wrong for you to prepare and serve General Tso (and many other) dishes. If you are not Mongolian, you may not use a “Mongolian grill” to prepare food. It may even be wrong for you to EAT those foods!

Sometimes it gets even more confusing. Serving (and eating) traditional Southern dishes such as fried chicken, chitlins, collard greens, with watermelon for dessert, is cultural appropriation from black people – unless you have black heritage. Yet it is also considered racist to serve and eat those foods – especially under certain circumstances.

Some people carry it even further: it is wrong for people without Irish ancestry to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and drink green beer or slurp green milkshakes. Because the Irish are a minority (and once a despised minority) here in the Fifty States. It is evil to even use some names for sports teams or businesses: Chiefs and Warriors, for example. Although using Vikings and Centurions is NOT bad – although both Scandinavians and Italians are minorities. You can’t have an Eskimo Pie or fry-bread (or Navajo tacos or Indian tacos) if they aren’t made by someone with the right ancestry – and even then, you may be a racist for the name or the contents or the method of preparation.

It seems to be getting worse. And then we throw in politically correct nonsense: Because Russians are bad because they invaded Ukraine, that means vodka is bad – even if it is produced here in the good old USA. Ditto for piroschkis and of course, singing (or playing) Russian songs. (I wonder what has happened to Russian dressing? It has nothing to do with Russia except that the original recipe used caviar, and was invented by a guy in New Hampshire that apparently didn’t have any Russian heritage.) Of course, we have seen this nonsense before: liberty cabbage instead of sauerkraut back in 1917-1918, and liberty fries instead of “French fries” time and time again.

So why is it “cultural appropriation” to wear buckskin with beadwork but not a dirndl? To wear a sombrero but not a ushanka? To eat tacos but not to eat falafel or hummus or lutefisk? Why isn’t it appropriation to celebrate Chanukah? Is it because they are not associated with “minorities?” No, for many foods, clothing, even tools are the products of minority groups, both worldwide and in the Fifty States.

What’s cultural appropriation?

(And why aren’t cowboy hats? Talk about minorities without power!)

Perhaps it is because it is only things that can be twisted and warped into attacking mainstream American culture that are used as examples. That are bad – and that demonstrate the cognitive dissonance of the politically-correct social justice warriors which infest American society. But making fusses about things like this disrupt society, divided people over needless and often silly issues, and let change agents instigate change.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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3 Responses to Our cultural heritage – or theft?

  1. Grey says:

    Good points. I apologize for using the general term Native American. You are correct that there is unfortunately a wide range of people and cultures included in the term. The same holds for for the term European. The English, French, and Spanish all had different approaches to colonization.

    As a thought exercise, consider what would have occurred if the Americas had not had indigenous people. European explorers would have found lands with vast natural resources. It may have taken them a little longer to find things. Spain likely would have moved a lot slower, while the French, English, and Dutch colonization efforts would likely have been about the same or greater.

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  2. Grey says:

    The Native American people contributed almost nothing of value to American medicine, wealth, food, values, and culture.

    Native Americans in North America were largely tribes of stone age people, with some groups transitioning to very early bronze age agrarian technology.

    When the Americas were colonized, the colonists had agricultural and industrial technologies, as well as scientific and mathematical knowledge, that were several thousand years more advanced than the Natives.

    The Native Americans had corn, but the Europeans already had grains.

    The Native Americans did not have the wheel. At best, they generally had three of the six simple machines of antiquity with the wedge, lever, and inclined plane.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Grey, I understand your point, and you make good points. But I do not fully agree with it. And you can see we here at TPOL were particularly trying to see it from Ms. Allen’s perspective. I’ve dealt with many traditionalists and activists from a fairly wide range of tribes (nations) and can see it from their point of view – even though I do not agree with them.

      First, and not to be demeaning or insulting in any way, but the “Native Americans” included as many cultures and societies and political groupings as any place in Europe, Asia, or Africa. One reason I find that term (Native American) to be so frustrating and distasteful is because it intentionally is used to make it easy to lump everyone together. A Lakota is not a Seminole or a Tinglit or a Pueblo. And not even a Comanche or Kiowa – though they have some cultural similarities.

      Yes, many of the AmerInd nations WERE stone-age people, not even early bronze age. But far from all, and European settlers DID learn and adapt from them. In many ways. And metalworking is far from the only indicator of a viable civilization, of course. Technology is just one aspect of society and culture. Very important, but just one aspect.

      Regarding foods: yes, corn was a significant contribution to the rest of the word, and still is today, grown on all continents and an important staple. But so are potatoes, and many vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, and many other items that are basic essentials of modern American food. If there had been no one living in the New World when the first Spanish, Portuguese, and French arrived, it may be that such foods would have been discovered by the explorers or settlers. But remember that these were actually domesticated by various AmerInd nations. They likely would literally not exist if ancient red-skinned people had not made them what they are.
      Medicine is a more subtle influence, but there are many examples – more than 200 botanicals used by various New World peoples have been used to produce medicine in modern times. Consider tobacco as a source of chemicals and medicines for one very significant influence not just on the Western world but on Asia and the Middle East as well.
      Wealth? If not for the various tribes in Central Mexico and Peru and Bolivia already mining gold (and, I think, silver and copper), the Spanish would not have learned of the presence of vast quantities of the ores, and mined and shipped so much to the Old World until possibly centuries later. The finding of gold, especially, massively impacted European and African/Middle Eastern history. Mostly negatively. And if you claim (as Ms. Allen certainly did) that every ounce of gold and silver, copper and platinum (to name just major metals) was “stolen” from some tribe or another? Well then, indeed, they made significant contributions to the wealth of white-eyes (European-descended people) over the years.
      Rightly or wrongly, the various cultures in North America – including those in MesoAmerica – have fairly important cultural features which “American culture” has adopted: history and traditions such as Thanksgiving claim to have come from there and not Europe, as other traditions did. It is not an overwhelming influence, but important enough to understand her claims. And the American grand dream and manifest destiny could not have existed without a relatively strong cultural enemy to develop a mythos around.
      I’ve saved the issue of values (closely related to culture, of course) for last, in part because it is a significant NEGATIVE influence on modern American culture – which has unfortunately spread worldwide. I am speaking of environism and its related beliefs. Worship of the natural world had been obliterated or pushed well underground in Europe and the Islamic world and much of the rest of the Old World, while it was prominent and even extreme in much of the New World. It is this cultural thread that led (with much warping) to the modern Green movement and earth-worship.
      When you are (as so many people seem to be today) absolutely convinced that (a) your (selected) ancestors were abused and defrauded and maltreated, then you grab at every possible claim that without YOUR people’s contributions, the entire civilization would not exist. And boast about your essential nature. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t at the root true. Just as modern American society would not exist without the massive contributions of Hispanic people and cultures, German people and cultures, or even Scandinavians!
      Please respond – and thank you for your comments.

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