Celebrities and artists have long been accused of appropriating Black culture. Many are guilty, perhaps more than we can recall or recount. Recently, Bruno Mars has come under fire for cultural appropriation.
And most people know cultural appropriation is bad in so many ways.
The picking and choosing within a culture without its original intent, or individuals, is at the heart of cultural appropriation. People need to realize there’s a cost to a culture and a process to its creation.
To me, cultural appropriation also has an inauthentic element. And, I don’t want anyone who hasn’t been authenticated to represent a culture.
Cultural appropriation steals and robs from people. It is shoplifting what would take a different lifetime to earn. It’s skipping the line and snatching what others have in their hands.
It’s a theft of social, communal, intellectual, and spiritual property. These are cultural properties other people created, earned, and paid a social price to have.
And the perpetrators we call “culture vultures” get something for nothing. They then resell their ill-gotten gains for a huge profit. This is the opposite of a fair-trade deal.
And, here’s what I want to know — where are the receipts?
Cultural appropriation has always been an industry. And multiple individuals and systems run industries.
So, I want to uncover, inspect, and disrupt the whole supply chain of cultural appropriation.
I need to see the SKU numbers and I need to see the work orders. Show me the parts and the labor, please. I want to know who the suppliers are and who approved these transactions.
These are important questions because we often see cultural appropriation in its final form.
We see it when it hits the stage or the screen. And then we blame the stars in our eyes for cultural appropriation.
We show our disdain and distaste for these practices with boycotts. And of course, we’re upset that the credit and cash go to those who whitewash the fruit of the Black experience.
But, shouldn’t we ask, who is selling and sharing the fruit?
We boycott the ‘Blackface' we see but we don’t consider who supplies and applies the makeup. Right now, our boycotts focus on the performance side and the purchase side.
But, my questions are about the production side too.
Do we think these celebrities have no one behind them? Are we supposed to believe they are lone actors? Or, is it possible more people form in a long line of thieves? I believe props of people are behind the curtain who support cultural appropriation.
So, I want to see the faces of the choreographers. Show me the people on the lookout for the latest trends and moves?
I can tell someone is giving away trade secrets and prototypes. So, I need to ask who are the consultants and informants?
Who are the stylists and vocal coaches and where are they getting their tips and techniques? And, which races of people are the links in these supply chains?
Are Black people complicit in the appropriation of our own culture?
Could it be that we serve as the producers of our own stolen property, too?
That’s what I want to know. And if so, to some extent our ability to complain and critique is limited by our involvement.
Because there’s a cultural trade that happens when a choreographer takes from their community and gets paid to train someone not from the community. So, tell me, who are the traders and traitors?
And, I blame the markets too.
Because the market forces force Black creators into roles. People with purses and power only value the bits and pieces of Blackness that pigeonhole us. And if they pay for those goods, then a market has been created. This market limits and steals from the Black community.
So, I’m not interested to slice and dice the figureheads of celebrity. My question to them is, where did you get this from exactly?
My charges and indictments aren’t only for the big fish alone. The big fish doesn’t satisfy me. I’m fishing for the assembly line that’s as long as a whale.
I have a hunch there’s been collusion with the acts and actors of cultural appropriation. And, we need to see all ‘the Russians’ behind these efforts. So, all the collaborators, accomplices, and co-conspirators must show their faces and face the charges too.
Because, even if we remove the fish heads, the bodies will continue to flap and function. They’ll find new white and light brown heads to talk, sing, and dance. This makes the work harder for us.
Because, one problem with cultural appropriation is that it’s not always apparent when someone steals from a culture.
That’s why it’s important for the artists to cite their sources and give credit where it’s due.
Or, the artists should tell their personal stories to show their receipts for their cultural expressions.
Their cultural bibliographies and their cultural works-cited lists must be more than a few thank you’s from the stage, fine print, and footnotes.
And so, when we see something that looks hot, and there are no references, we need to ask questions. Both the performers and the public need to do the work to make sure we don’t have bad goods on the market.
Every industry needs to do quality control checks and inspect their products before they hit the streets.
Because if not, the people must take action. I’m not aware of any cultural appropriation watchdog groups. I can’t find any ratings, scores, or grades for cultural appropriation. I’m not sure we have an Anti-Defamation League or a GLAAD for cultural appropriation.
So, we the people are the loss prevention personnel for culture. And we can’t look at the artists alone. We can’t just catch and release the artists we see. That would be shallow and shortsighted.
Instead, we need to go after the dealers and not just those who face forward. If we’re serious, we must go after the whole industry to shut this down.
I know people say the buck stops at the top, and the artist is responsible.
But, I want to see all the bucks and all the faces on the bills.
The industries have made it so that the bills at the bottom and in the middle have Black faces too. We need to see and support those faces on their own.
And if we accuse artists of cultural appropriation and it bothers us, then we need to round up the people behind them.
Once we get a look at all the faces in the mix, then we can face the music and make changes to the channels.