I couldn’t believe this comment exchange. It comes after an article on hip-hop and appropriation.
This article made me uncomfortable too. It ends on a creepy “we” (emphasis mine):
Black men’s bodies and sexuality are all over the media. We have to admit we both love and fear ideas of the Black gangster. Black swag is fetishized, feared, appropriated, assimilated into western pop culture. It is hybridized, transformed and assimilated by users as subgenres, commodified as lifestyles and given meanings that have little to do with its history and politics. We feel alienated from rap and find the glamorization of drugs, bitches, and guns laughable; we find entertainment in what’s Other to also be cool. The culture industry and the art world alike tend to reduce their talents to easily-digested archetypes.
My hope is that viewers become sophisticated enough to recognize these representations and to talk back to them. We should recognize that the line between co-optation and appropriation is very fine; sometimes, an artwork may be both. It’s impossible to mark off a politically correct turf for commentary on hip hop without implicating our race and our intentions, and we should remember the importance of questioning the author’s assumptions about race and class when we encounter a work with hip hop. In the case of Lindy West: a hipster does not a young white poor creative make, and hip hop doesn’t equate to American Black culture.
Trying to preserve cultural sovereignty over hip-hop is a losing battle. Hip hop has become a diverse hobby for people around the world, and should be as open to cultural criticism as anything else in the public domain. When Ang Lee made Brokeback Mountain, he stretched and queered the archetype of the American Western; was he ripping anyone off? Users are seeing opportunities to play with language in the informal space of the web, and not all of it can be read behind a lens of “appropriation”. Appropriation is what keeps the swastika from becoming a religious symbol again, but the next guy who does a Drake cover probably just likes the music.
I am still trying to catch up to my upset responses to this text. Not least of which is that the person who sent this to me is going to feel apologetic, again. Being Righteously Upset All the Time has the unpleasant side effect of making your friends into sorry factories. Don’t be sorry. I’m just really upset.
Can I give a brief writing suggestion to Jennifer Chan & whoever else? The suggestion is, don’t ever write using “we” in this way unless you are really, really, really sure that you mean “you and every person who will read this.”
I don’t care if you and Ryder Ripps both seem to assume that no black people read artfagcity.com. I don’t care if you’re a woman of color. When you’re venturing an opinion on CULTURAL APPROPRIATION, don’t talk from the “we” perspective without checking yourself to see if you’re REALLY INCLUDING THE OTHER.
“We feel alienated from rap and find the glamorization of drugs, bitches, and guns laughable; we find entertainment in what’s Other to also be cool.”
Do you mean, maybe, that you and the people you know feel alienated from rap and find the glamorization of drugs, bitches, and guns laughable? Do you mean that you and the people you know find entertainment in what’s “black people’s” to also be cool? Or do you mean that black people find entertainment in what’s white people’s to also be cool? But your capitalization of “Other” suggests that you know that only one group gets to be the Other…
It’s impossible to mark off a politically correct turf for commentary on hip hop without implicating our race and our intentions,
What is “our race?”
we should remember the importance of questioning the author’s assumptions about race and class when we encounter a work with hip hop
Maybe some people flinch and immediately find themselves questioning the author’s assumptions about race and class? Perhaps they find themselves the targets of the author’s assumptions about race and class?
I don’t mean to pick on you. I’m just surprised no one’s picked on you already. I mean, I mostly let people get away with assuming broad things about their audience. That’s part of the fun of reading, right? You can learn a lot about someone from picking out what they expect their audience to think and to know.
But please don’t talk about race assuming that your audience is not the Other.