Cultural appropriation for white people

Sometimes when we hear what women of colour are telling us about our experiences, we don’t truly get it until we find some white parallel.

This is maybe why feminists, especially the radical ones, can be better equipped to really see the power structures applied by white supremacist patriarchy to women and men of colour – because we already have in our feminist analysis the right concepts and tools to understand something about power, dominance and oppression. It’s not the same, but analogies can be drawn and they help to make things clear, to help us finally get it.

So the other day I was in a pasty shop.

An Authentick Corrnwall Pastie Shoppe. In Cirencester, which, for the geographically challenged, is many a mile from Cornwall. I’m not from Cornwall, but I visit fairly often, and it is beautiful, with a rich history of which many Cornish people are justly proud.

This shop stole a little bit from just about every aspect of Cornish culture, and turned it into an ugly caricature. It was an ungainly hodgepodge of old prints, surfing memorabilia, fisherfolk, posters patronisingly reproducing a thick Cornish accent, all set off by the brightest blue and ruled over by a grinning one-eyed mockery of a black bearded smuggler-pirate. Layered over this were the same overpriced coffees and smoothies, served by the same gormless locals, that you can find in pretty much any contemporary cafe-culture hangout.

It jarred. It jarred so badly it hurt. The stuff in there was both fascinating and repellent. I wanted to know what the hell they thought they knew about Cornwall.

This visceral reaction hasn’t got a lot to do with race. But it is something I will draw on when I hear talk of cultural appropriation. I will remember that jarring, repellent mockery of Cornishness and I will imagine a layer of hate smeared on top, a layer of hate so thick that it took centuries of dominance and oppression to create.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: