Why the “Cultural Appropriation” Argument is Illogical
The Progressive Perspective
Imagine a world in which liberals can make extreme accusations against Asian, Latino, and White people who listen to, love, and create rap and R&B music. In this world, artists who are considered by some arbitrary, invisible authority to be “non-Black” are vilified as criminals — thieves of the highest caliber.
Not only are these villeins guilty of theft, they are repeat offenders who carry out their crimes in broad daylight! These so-called artists are making money by the million off of musical traditions that do not rightfully belong to them. It is the responsibility of the virtuous progressive to call out and punish the wrongs done by these cultural thieves.
The Upside Down Perspective
Now let’s imagine another world, or perhaps a parallel dimension of the world in which we live. (Because of my all-consuming love for the Stranger Things universe, let’s call this dimension “The Upside Down.”) This world is dark, stinky, and inexplicably slimy.
In the Upside Down, Black people are routinely criticized my the conservative media and intelligentsia for their heinous crime of stealing the predominantly “White” style of country music.
After all, why should Darius Rucker be allowed to gain money and popularity by standing on the backs of White artists? How dare he bask in stolen glory when five out of his six first singles hit the top of the country music charts! White artists should not stand for it; they should systematically condemn and exclude him for his crimes against White culture.
The Logical Perspective
The world we explored in the Progressive Perspective is the world in which we currently live. Even Bruno Mars (a man of color) is criticized for cultural appropriation. If Darius Rucker where treated the same way by conservative commentators and critics there would be serious backlash, and rightly so. I am sure that the fringe,racist elements of the Right do, indeed, troll Rucker. Those who loosely throw around accusations of “cultural theft” on the Left, however, are rarely recognized as “fringe elements” as they have become largely mainstream.
So let’s strive to live in the world of logic. Let us imagine a dimension in which we ditch the whole “culture thieft” myth.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is important to give credit where credit is due. I think the scientific community can offer us a model of credit that the artistic world might find instructive.
Science could not move forward without first using the work of other scientists as a starting point. This is how scientific thought brought us to our time of epic technological advancement. When scientists use the work of other scientists, they give credit in the reference section of their article when they publish.
In the music industry, songs are copyrighted. So…why is it such a bad thing that even a White person adopts the styles that originated in from another culture, so long as they are not copying the work of individual artists? All artists should give credit to those who inspire them…and then they should blithely move along with their creative lives.
It would do us all a world of good to remember an old saying: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”