Are some people so insecure in their identity and so desperate to be offended that they have breathed new life into H. L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism, Jonah Goldberg puts forth to readers at NRO.
By now, you most likely have been over-enlightened on the massive culturally inappropriate gall from a white Utah school student. Although Keziah Daum is definitely not Asian, her sin was to wear a traditional Chinese dress to her Senior prom. From the responses on Twitter, her dress code infuriated a lot of people. Among thousands who blasted her, one objection was, “my culture is not your god-damn prom dress,” Jonah Goldberg informs readers.
Jonah makes clear that his imminent praise for China is “selective, even grudging.” But, as he note, “You’ve got to hand it to China. It has something we’re sorely missing today: civilizational confidence.”
Cultural appropriation was originally a sociological term to describe how a majority culture borrows or adapts from a minority culture some custom, fashion, cuisine, or practice. At some point, alas, it went from being descriptive to proscriptive.
Proscriptive rules — the opposite of prescriptive rules — tell people what they cannot do. And while it’s not quite a law (yet), save on some college campuses, there’s an organized and passionate movement to pass a new social commandment: “Thou shalt not appropriate someone else’s culture.”
And this is idiotic.
Without cultural appropriation, American blacks would never have picked up European musical instruments to create the blues and jazz. Without cultural appropriation, white and black artists alike would never have spun these wonderful creations into rock ’n’ roll.
Nearly every meal you’ve ever eaten is the byproduct of centuries of cultural appropriation, to one extent or another. This column is written in English, a language that contains hundreds of thousands of words appropriated from other tongues. Just under two-thirds of our language derives from Latin or French. About a quarter is Germanic in origin. And about a sixth comes from Greek, Arabic, and other languages.
Cultural appropriation manifested itself in every society and civilization since the concepts of society and civilization were born. We are living through the greatest period of poverty alleviation in all of human history right now because countries in Asia and Africa have appropriated many economic policies and practices — free markets, property rights, etc. — that began as quirky artifacts of English and Dutch culture.
But Western civilization is a bit different from other civilizations because, until very recently, it prided itself for its ability to embrace, and borrow from, other cultures. To be sure, some of that appropriation happened at the tip of a sword or gun, but show me a civilization that wasn’t true of at one point or another.
… today, people can appropriate a different gender, but don’t you dare wear a sombrero if you have the wrong DNA, never mind invent a Korean taco or wear a Chinese dress to the prom.
So how offended were the Chinese by Daum’s “hate crime?” Not at all, reports JG. According to the NYT (ah, the irony), “Chinese social media and cultural commentators celebrated Daum’s decision as a compliment.”
Read more here.
Here’s the Tweet that set off all the reaction:
— Keziah (@daumkeziah) April 22, 2018