We live in a world now where everything we say, do, wear, smell like, and, God forbid, observe/think, is up for debate. There's absolutely no room for discussion and civilized conversation anymore. That's at least, the sense I get when I read these stories, whether they involve public figures or private citizens, where the term "cultural appropriation" is being alleged. It's not being alleged by the "offenders" involved. It's always from someone behind a computer screen or mobile device or in person or from the supposedly aggrieved, and it's more often with an incredible lack of context.
I provide two examples. One involves a third-grade New Jersey boy who was attending an end-of-the-year party at his school and made a comment that another student, not participating in the conversation, deemed "racist."
A third grader had made a comment about the brownies being served to the class. After another student exclaimed that the remark was "racist," the school called the Collingswood Police Department, according to the mother of the boy who made the comment. (Philly.com)
Take a moment to let that sink into your mind. He made a comment about a food that was being served at the party, and someone took that to be a "racist" comment. This "offended" person took umbrage to a comment that was neither directed to him/her and took it upon himself/herself to notify an adult who then proceeded to call the police. The police followed up on the call and ended up investigating the comment. The boy was sent home for the rest of the school year. I feel terrible for this kid. He did nothing wrong and it's not as if he said something to the effect of, for example, "dirty Mexicans," or something of the like (side note: I do not condone such language or connotations before you try to strangle me with your words).
Did this student make an inappropriate comment? Looking at the context, absolutely not. So, why should he be punished? If the aggrieved party was so upset, why did the adult have to take such drastic action? It seems like this story was, yet again, another example of a rather innocuous and genuine comment about something we eat rather than a derogatory and "racist" term used toward a particular group of people. The person who ended up calling the police to investigate this incident should be reprimanded in some way, shape or form. If it was a teacher at the school, he/she should be fired on the spot. That was a waste of taxpayer money and time from police officers.
The second story I'll provide involves actress Vanessa Hudgens. She is a very photogenic woman who likes to connect with her fans and friends through social media, specifically Instagram. She's no different than the rest of us in how we use the photography application.
The High School Musical star came under fire after posting a series of fashion snaps on Instagram, some of which showed her long curly locks adorned with a purple dreamcatcher...
While many fans commented on how “gorgeous” their “queen” looked, a number of followers lashed out at the actress.
"Why are you like this???" one user commented. "You constantly go out of your way to disrespect cultures to look ~boho. It's rude as f*ck. Don't put dreamcatchers in your hair! That you have to constantly be told not to do this and dragged means you are not listening and it's frustrating af!!" (Entertainment Tonight)
Let's try to look at this objectively. Do we know whether or not Vanessa Hudgens is of Native American descent? If she is, then is she still culturally appropriating even if she's Native American? What about people who get together at parties and serve chips, dip, vegetables, and other foods surrounded by a sombrero? Are they culturally appropriating those who are of Mexican descent? If I eat hamburgers and hot dogs on a daily basis, am I constantly culturally appropriating German people? If I'm researching in a library for a paper on slavery and how terrible it was, am I culturally appropriating against blacks and any other types of people who had been enslaved for any number of years? No! What if I decided I wanted to dress up as a geisha for Halloween? You may question my lifestyle choices, but for the sake of argument, it's a ridiculous one.
What about schools and workplaces celebrating Cinco de Mayo and Christmas and Thanksgiving? Are we culturally appropriating? Not necessarily. It's all about perspective and perception and context. Just because you don't agree with something doesn't mean you're always in the right.
I feel I am not allowed to eat anything except boiled cabbage and pasta, as well as drink beer and wine because I'm of Irish and Italian descent. It makes absolutely no sense that so many people think we wear different types of clothes, eat items which names are different when used as part of a conversation that doesn't involve food, and engage in other activities that cultivate cultural appropriation. It's complete and utter nonsense. Now, stand-up comedy and sketch shows constantly parody many different types of people and it can be done tastefully and many laugh and go home at the end of the day. Why are you not upset with those who use the public eye for their own comedic gain?
Just because you don't like something about someone, whether they said something or wear an article of clothing, doesn't give you the right to be/act offended. If your feelings were hurt, that's one thing. Sometimes the damage done to you is not intentional, but more often than not, it's much ado about nothing. Please apply some hand sanitizer to your very thin skin and grow up a little bit. Life is not all about you sometimes. Yes, you are in control of your life, but you are not in control of the lives of others.
My father always told me that one shouldn't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff. Why have we strayed from such pearls of wisdom? Why do we have to constantly live on eggshells for fear of offending anyone? One shouldn't engage in derogatory insults toward any group of any kind of people, but we all joke around here and there. Anything and everything CAN be discussed in a joking fashion when placed in the right context. That's what was lacking from the conversation that South Jersey third-grader, at least according to the student who felt offended by his "racist" comments. You shouldn't jump to conclusions on what you may or may not know about anyone unless you're directly engaged with that person in that moment in time.
My conclusion here is that some comments don't deserve any sort of punishment as they are as innocuous as the person who made said comments. We don't need to involve any form of government or police body when someone's feelings are hurt. It's an absolute waste of time. Our parents and other grown-up and mature adults should be, if they're not already, teaching us how to grow thick skin.
P.S. Do not try to excoriate or crucify me for the bullying among kids. I know bullying is an epidemic among elementary, middle-school, and high-school students, and we must work together to help reduce and ultimately end bullying. In contrast, this is about avoiding coddling kids and adults and helping them develop relatively thick skin and realize that you are in control of your own life.