Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

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Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #1

Post by Purple Knight »

Question for debate: Do you agree or disagree with the parable below as an accurate analogy for the cultural appropriation paradigm in modern western society?

Once upon a time there was a very bad child. This was not surprising, as she was never taught any better by her parents. She hit other children and even stabbed them. She bullied them and hurt them. When she turned 10, she was taught to hunt and kill other people. It was a common practice in her family, and indeed, for them it was the norm.

One day the girl started having misgivings about her behaviour. When she turned 11, she decided to turn her back on her family and learn to be a good person. She was not alone, and many children from her large family were doing the same. She stopped going to the family school and went to the public school instead, though there, there were many people who had been hurt by her and other members of her family.

The girl still played her old games and clung to her old toys. Even though many of them were designed to help a child develop killing skills, she didn't think it mattered since they were just toys. However, when the other children took offense to toys like the stabinator and Mister Fleshpeel, the girl happily discarded them as parts of her old life that were best forgotten, even though she really loved Mister Fleshpeel and he was more her imaginary friend than a doll.

The girl started playing with normal toys instead. She got a Barbie doll and a jump rope.

When the other children saw the girl playing with her Barbie doll and jump rope, they didn't like it. Her face was different than theirs and it upset them to see the face of one of the murder family using what were once symbols of innocence, happiness and peace.

The other children told the girl to get rid of the new toys. It was cultural appropriation, they said, and it was wrong for her to play with things invented by those her family had oppressed.

"But then I have nothing to play with," said the girl. She was trying to be good, but sometimes it felt like the other children were seeking to punish her for her old life, not help her be one of them.

The other children said she should stop stealing things from other cultures and use things from her own. They didn't quite seem to understand that she had got rid of those things precisely because her culture was, in itself, objectionable.

The girl grudgingly got rid of her jump rope and Barbie doll and just resigned herself not to have any toys. Most of the children were happy with that and stopped there, but a few were still very angry about everything the girl and her family had done, so when they saw she was really trying to change and would heed them, they made more demands. Do this, don't do that, no don't do that other thing after all. They corrected her at every turn because they knew that she knew that they were fitter to decide what was right, since they lived in a good culture all their lives.

Eventually the girl got sick of it and went back to her family, who loved her and told her that she didn't need to change, even when she did. They are evil, they want to hurt you, so that is why we hurt them first. After the girl's experience, the bald-faced lies of her parents made perfect sense. The girl forgot about trying to change and hunted people for sport again. When she died, she, like all her family, went to Hell, and all the good children went to Heaven because they really were entitled to punish her for her misdeeds, but that didn't make anyone's mortal life any better.


The fundamental premise of the tale is simply that cultural appropriation really is wrong, and it actually is the worst sort of stealing, but that it may nonetheless be advisable for the sake of harmony not to chastise anyone for it. (That is, if you really want harmony. If your goal is justice then obviously letting people do wrong is contrary to that.)

I don't expect there to be anyone on the forum who doesn't concede that cultural appropriation is wrong; I expect everyone to already accept that. Might it be necessary anyway?

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #21

Post by Mithrae »

Purple Knight wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 8:19 pm See, it's that easy. You cite individualism in all your points; the idea that penalising someone other than the exact individual who did something wrong is itself wrong. I'm not sure how we're supposed to make up for racial injustice then, since all the perpetrators are dead but the legacy of their ills lives on.

Do I get your point when I understand that any punishment that violates individualism would be wrong?
Even if Bishop had been a victim of slavery (which he obviously wasn't) or rape and assault (which we don't know) and even if his victim had been the one to perpetrate those crimes (which she obviously didn't) it would still be wrong for Bishop to rape and assault her and still wrong to call him a "hero" who didn't "go far enough." In that scenario we might perhaps sympathize with his rage and desire for revenge, but it wouldn't be justice or punishment even by your own professed rationale: It would not make him whole, just further psychologically damage him and make him almost as evil as his abuser/s. More broadly it would constitute the kind of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, US Constitution and so on; even humane capital punishment (a topic which came up on another forum for me recently) is widely regarded as dubious on those grounds, not least because of the fallibility of human justice systems - to say nothing of individual victims of abuse hell-bent on vicious revenge!

I suppose there's a fair chance that Bishop himself was a victim of abuse or neglect in one way or another by his family or peers or the like, in order to become the kind of monster who would proudly rape and beat another person. If so that wouldn't make his actions right or laudable; at best, we might try to remind ourselves to spare a little sympathy for him and for any other damaged souls who act or think in similar ways.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #22

Post by otseng »

Suppose the victim's great-great-grandfather was a slave owner and raped and beat blacks, would she bear any of the guilt of her past relatives?

The situation must involve more than we read in the article. I think something got triggered during their encounter on the rooftop.

This is not a case where it's a random victim. They had met each other before.
The victim met parolee Temar Bishop, 23, with other friends and ended up hanging out with him on a rooftop on Alexander Avenue in Mott Haven, sources said.
https://nypost.com/2019/06/03/woman-bru ... ronx-cops/

She seemed to have trusted him in order to go meet him at a rooftop at 5 in the morning. And I doubt they planned on meeting together to play checkers.

What I'm guessing is she must've said something that revealed her relatives are slaveowners. Then he reacted by releasing his rage of his heritage of being slaves.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #23

Post by Mithrae »

[Replying to otseng in post #22]

Or maybe Bishop was a first or second generation descendant of voluntary African immigrants, thought he was getting an easy hookup with a random friend of a friend and, as happens all too often, turned violent when she didn't go along with his plan. 'Punishment for slavery' would be an equally pathetic excuse or attempt to gain fame/notoriety in either case. There's no need to assume that there must be more than we're reading; even the possibility that he himself may have been a victim of childhood abuse or neglect is pretty thin speculation.

For what its worth it seems that two years and two months before the rape, he had been imprisoned with an aggregate minimum sentence of two years and four months for robbery in the third degree, and was released on parole eleven months before the attack. Perhaps he had forcibly robbed a white person and been told that he was a "hero" for that but didn't "go far enough" :|

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #24

Post by Purple Knight »

Mithrae wrote: Tue Dec 15, 2020 4:30 amit wouldn't be justice or punishment even by your own professed rationale: It would not make him whole, just further psychologically damage him and make him almost as evil as his abuser/s.
If his wound is the inequality he suffers as a direct result of his ancestors being enslaved, beaten, and raped, I fail to see how the enslavement, beating, and rape of every member of the white race wouldn't make him whole.

If everyone suffers the same, at very least the inequality is gone, and I find that the inequality is what people are complaining about. I don't find it likely that a rapist suffers as a result of raping, but I do find it likely that he gets AIDS. So yes, there's a potential for the reparation itself to inflict new wounds, which is why, if we can't find a better way, my thinking was that the victim should be the one to decide if he wants that reparation or not.

Can we get rid of the inequality? Of course we can. Whether we should is not for me to say.

What I will say is that if we can make it right, but we decide that we shouldn't, then I think the people self-flagellating are wrong.

If we can't have actions, I don't see the point of words. If justice is in reach, but distasteful enough that it shouldn't be pursued, perhaps we should say no more of justice.
Mithrae wrote: Tue Dec 15, 2020 4:30 amMore broadly it would constitute the kind of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, US Constitution and so on; even humane capital punishment (a topic which came up on another forum for me recently) is widely regarded as dubious on those grounds, not least because of the fallibility of human justice systems - to say nothing of individual victims of abuse hell-bent on vicious revenge!
But why shouldn't they have their revenge? This is my main problem with Christianity. I don't think everyone can simply be forgiven with no strings attached* and I tend to think the Expected Value of hurting another person should be negative (that a criminal should expect to lose, not gain, from crime) in order not to incentivise wantonly hurting people just to gain from it.

Vengeance is healthy to some degree. It doesn't exist for no reason; it exists to keep people who hurt others from continuing their behaviour. If we can simply forgive everyone and not have crime or oppression, then perhaps we put vengeance away as a useless emotion and go full Vulcan on it. I just don't see that happening.

(*Okay, in Christianity, there is one single string attached, but it's a big one.)
otseng wrote: Mon Dec 14, 2020 8:49 amI'm not supportive of financial reparations, but I am supportive of reconciliation through admission of wrong and forgiveness.
The problem many people have with this is that what happened long ago doesn't have anyone culpable alive today, but that nonetheless, the wrongs committed have lasting and very direct effects.

It's almost as if some parent slaughtered a bunch of people, stole all their money, impoverished their children, gave all that money to his own child, and then put a bullet in his own head. It's easy to say in this scenario that the money was stolen, and should be returned to its rightful owners, but it's important to realise that this particular case is an example of a larger pool of possible historical injustices, and happens to be the case where we already have a way to describe that this situation needs remedy.

I'm not saying I know what's right. I definitely don't. In fact it often seems to me that both options (repair; don't repair) have inescapable horrible consequences.

However (and this is just my personal feelings on the matter) what would sit easiest with me is reparation, but not admission of personal guilt. Basically the opposite of what you see as just. I don't think individual lack of guilt precludes just punishment because I think punishment is about the victim, not the aggressor.

I also don't think people should have to admit they did wrong when they didn't... but an organisation that did wrong though the person making the admission might not have, is kind of a bag of worms and I can't say how I feel about it.

My personal choice would be yes to punishment, and as much punishment as possible, but no to verbal floggings, no to self-flagellation, because I think that may be the reason a lot of people are bucking social justice: With all the self-flagellation and nobody actually doing anything to right the wrongs, it can feel cheap. Actions, not words.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #25

Post by otseng »

Purple Knight wrote: Wed Dec 16, 2020 2:49 pm
Mithrae wrote: Tue Dec 15, 2020 4:30 amit wouldn't be justice or punishment even by your own professed rationale: It would not make him whole, just further psychologically damage him and make him almost as evil as his abuser/s.
If his wound is the inequality he suffers as a direct result of his ancestors being enslaved, beaten, and raped, I fail to see how the enslavement, beating, and rape of every member of the white race wouldn't make him whole.

If everyone suffers the same, at very least the inequality is gone, and I find that the inequality is what people are complaining about. I don't find it likely that a rapist suffers as a result of raping, but I do find it likely that he gets AIDS. So yes, there's a potential for the reparation itself to inflict new wounds, which is why, if we can't find a better way, my thinking was that the victim should be the one to decide if he wants that reparation or not.
Again, two wrongs do not make a right. Also, who is everyone? Were all blacks slaves? Were they all raped and assaulted?

There is a sense that there should be fairness, but what exactly is fair? Everyone should suffer equally? If someone in Africa is starving, should all also be made to starve? If someone in India is raped, should all also suffer the same fate? If someone suffers a disease, should all be forced to have that disease?

I find it interesting that we all have this innate sense that things should be "fair". We can't quite define it though. And it's a mystery why we all feel this. And if evolution is true, it's quite ironic that survival of the fittest would program us to think things being fair is how things ought to be, esp since the animal kingdom does not seem to care about fairness.

This sense of fairness is evident across all races, age groups, socioeconomic groups, nations, etc. The whole point of revenge is trying to make things "fair". You do something bad to my people, we will do bad to your people. If you give one kid ice cream and not another and they will complain it's not fair. Prisoners who discover an inmate that has been sexually abusive to children will be targets of rape to make things fair.

But, our goal of trying to remediate fairness generally goes wrong. We have this sense that things should be better, and when we try to make things better, we often fail.

Ultimately, there is only one that can make things fair ... God. For Christians, we have to leave vengeance to God. We have to trust that God would enforce justice. We are to love others and not seek "fairness". If someone strikes our cheek, we should not strike back. If someone hurts us, we are to forgive them. If someone curses us, we are to bless them. As Christians, we are called to not be fair, but to respond with love and mercy.

For non-Christians, I believe this is another pointer to God. This innate sense of fairness inside everyone has a strong influence on us from our childhood to when we die. It cannot be adequately explained by natural selection. It is not taught to us. Yet it resides in all of us. And when we try to make things fair, we see our failings at actually making things fair. And only the one who created us with this innate longing for fairness can make things fair.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #26

Post by Purple Knight »

otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:40 amAgain, two wrongs do not make a right. Also, who is everyone? Were all blacks slaves? Were they all raped and assaulted?
I don't estimate it would matter if the objective is to get rid of the inequality. Whether enslaving, beating, and raping every white person is morally permissible is dubious to say the least (most people would say it's not) but I can't see how it would possibly fail to remove the inequality.

If we can get rid of the inequality, but we just don't want to for whatever reason, it's an entirely different situation to the one where there is this injustice and it's anything goes to right it, because it's an injustice, and injustices must be eliminated at all costs.
otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:40 amThere is a sense that there should be fairness, but what exactly is fair? Everyone should suffer equally? If someone in Africa is starving, should all also be made to starve? If someone in India is raped, should all also suffer the same fate? If someone suffers a disease, should all be forced to have that disease?
If the disease or starvation is a result of deliberate human action, and if the first goal is to remedy that injustice, and if starving and infecting others would indeed rid the world of whatever lasting injustice resulted from those evil actions, then the answer is yes. But as you can see it's a lot of conditionals and my statement is purely about goals. If you don't want justice then you don't want justice. If harmony is more important then obviously infecting and starving a bunch of people is likely to create more strife, so don't do it.

This author, however, says she doesn't want peace, she wants justice.

https://insidethekandidish.wordpress.co ... you-to-do/

"I don’t want peace. I want justice."

I can't call her wrong to ask for that. I can't call it wrong to give her that.
otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:40 amThe whole point of revenge is trying to make things "fair". You do something bad to my people, we will do bad to your people. If you give one kid ice cream and not another and they will complain it's not fair. Prisoners who discover an inmate that has been sexually abusive to children will be targets of rape to make things fair.
To me it's not about fairness, it's about justice. Only the victim matters. Everyone else is out of the spotlight. Will doing this action remove the injustice? Then do it. Obviously some of the actions I suggest will create what I wouldn't really argue against being more unfairness.

But it's not for me to say whether there should be justice or not.
otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:40 amFor Christians, we have to leave vengeance to God. We have to trust that God would enforce justice. We are to love others and not seek "fairness". If someone strikes our cheek, we should not strike back. If someone hurts us, we are to forgive them. If someone curses us, we are to bless them. As Christians, we are called to not be fair, but to respond with love and mercy.
And as an atheist, one who notices that the world is often cruel to you, I believe I should be logically charitable, loving, and merciful to Christians. Among the religious you alone are losing your special protections. You alone may be verbally abused, made into laughing stocks, and even discriminated against, while you are the glue that has held Western society together.

It is not loving and merciful to watch you be abused and say nothing. It is not loving and merciful to tacitly support those who strike you on your cheeks by agreeing that they deserve no justice for that.

To my thinking, it is loving and merciful to disabuse you of the notion that you must tacitly support your abusers and wait until you're both dead for that other guy to be punished. If I see someone taking advantage of turn-the-other-cheek, I hope I have the courage to break his [expletive deleted] neck, because I believe that is the right thing to do.
otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:40 amFor non-Christians, I believe this is another pointer to God. This innate sense of fairness inside everyone has a strong influence on us from our childhood to when we die. It cannot be adequately explained by natural selection. It is not taught to us. Yet it resides in all of us. And when we try to make things fair, we see our failings at actually making things fair. And only the one who created us with this innate longing for fairness can make things fair.
That seems to be basically the idea that because we're fallible, we shouldn't try to do anything. I don't see our fallible punishment systems as making things worse; I see those systems as necessary even though they are flawed. I don't think a genuinely fair and good entity would want us to simply take infinite abuse. If it cared about us it would want us to try to end that abuse, because it wouldn't want us to be abused.

It may be a little warning that we really ought to be sure before we turn into mobs and punish anything in our paths like a steamroller, but I don't think such a thing points to never punish anybody. If never punish was the mantra, we would quickly get a world of all aggressors because they would win, and everything would be punished.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #27

Post by otseng »

Purple Knight wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 2:06 pm I don't estimate it would matter if the objective is to get rid of the inequality. Whether enslaving, beating, and raping every white person is morally permissible is dubious to say the least (most people would say it's not) but I can't see how it would possibly fail to remove the inequality.
If the only objective is "equality", then having everyone be beaten and violated could achieve that goal. But, would it be the right thing to do? I would say no. What about the blacks that were not beaten and violated? Should they also be beaten so they could join the crowd and be counted among the equals?

Simply achieving the goal of "equality" does not make something right. Taken to the logical conclusion, why not just kill everyone and then everyone would be equal to all the dead people? The goal of equality is worth pursuing, but it needs to be done in an ethical framework. The methods of achieving equality needs to be where the process is not wrong. As for an ethical framework to operate with, I had mentioned the criteria of free will.
If we can get rid of the inequality, but we just don't want to for whatever reason, it's an entirely different situation to the one where there is this injustice and it's anything goes to right it, because it's an injustice, and injustices must be eliminated at all costs.
I agree injustices should be eliminated. But, it also has to be done within an ethical framework.
To me it's not about fairness, it's about justice. Only the victim matters. Everyone else is out of the spotlight. Will doing this action remove the injustice? Then do it. Obviously some of the actions I suggest will create what I wouldn't really argue against being more unfairness.
I'll add the perpetrators of injustices also matter. They need to change their behavior.
That seems to be basically the idea that because we're fallible, we shouldn't try to do anything.
We should do things to make things fair and correct injustices. But, it has to be done in the right way.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation: Nasty but Necessary?

Post #28

Post by Purple Knight »

otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:40 pmIf the only objective is "equality",
It's not. I was proceeding from a starting point of the first goal being justice. Injustice can be almost anything. It can be a thump on the head, a kick in the privates, a stolen item, or in this case, the victim (and most of society to be fair) has identified inequality as an injustice.

I do not think this means inequality is an injustice in every case. I don't think inequality that results from one person working harder than another is injustice, and again, the whole of society would probably agree with that. Nor do I think that inequality as a result of having committed a crime and being in jail would be injustice either; that would be justice. But in this particular case, the inequality that results from having his ancestors enslaved, beaten, and raped has been collectively identified as an injustice by people better qualified to make that determination than I am.
otseng wrote: Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:40 pmI agree injustices should be eliminated. But, it also has to be done within an ethical framework.

We should do things to make things fair and correct injustices. But, it has to be done in the right way.
That's why I cited numerous examples of things that would otherwise be horrible crimes themselves, but, in pursuit of justice, you actually can morally permissibly imprison or even kill people.

Now, if the limit of that... if that principle is curtailed by individualism... and individualism simply prevents anyone other than the aggressive agents from being punished, I can accept that, but I also believe it to be highly exploitable.

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