hall_of_rage ([personal profile] hall_of_rage) wrote2011-10-28 01:49 pm
Entry tags:

think the world is theirs for the taking

Here is a post from Goddamazon, on Tumblr, explaining the original purpose of the "we're a culture, not a costume" poster campaign. It is a very clear, well-presented lecture on the broader topic of cultural appropriation by white people.*

The context is that a college student (read here) has started up putting posters on Tumblr about cultural appropriation in Hallowe'en costumes. The posters say "We're a culture, not a costume. This is not who I am, and this is not okay". There is now a backlash parody meme where people make fun of these posters. They obviously didn't get the message.

What she says, about and in the video:

This is the first video I’ve ever made regarding anything aside from dance. And since my text doesn’t seem to be getting through to some of you, perhaps me talking to you will. I know no one’s reblogging this, but the video took so damn long to upload, man…

Some of you will vehemently disagree with the anger of this post, but quite frankly…I don’t know how else to explain it because diplomacy has failed on so many levels. I was pissed when I made this, hence my Nigerian accent coming out thick, so if you can’t understand some things that’s okay.


“Good afternoon, my name is Aisha. You know me on Tumblr as Goddamazon. Don’t ask me what the name means O; I put it in the sidebar—do not ask—let’s not waste time.

Recently on the site there has been this talk of cultural appropriation, where people of another race—particularly white people—take pieces of another race’s culture and traditions and incorporate it into their daily life. Sometimes as a Halloween costume, sometimes as just fashion or anything. And recently, POC—not just Blacks and Africans—Natives, Mexicans, Latinos—basically everyone who is brown, have complained that they’re tired of seeing this.

You go to any costume shop you’ll see “Sexy Indian Princess” or “Sexy This” or “Sexy That” or “Sexy Belly Dancer” or “Sexy Arab Princess”—I don’t care. You’ll see all of these things in the store, and the problem with white people throughout history is that they have this mentality that the world is theirs for the taking. That includes people’s cultures, people’s traditions, people’s everything. And it’s so ingrained in your psyche that you don’t even realize that it’s offensive to those of us who have been oppressed in the past, and are still being oppressed today.

When I go and see Fashion Week and I see some skinny white girl walking down the runway with Ghanaian or Nigerian symbols all over her dress and her hair is wild and free and she’s wearing chunky necklaces and ivory bangles on her arm and they call it ‘going tribal’, how do you think that makes me feel? I’m from Nigeria O! I don’t dress like that! And she doesn’t even know what those symbols might mean! They might be a curse or something and you don’t even know, and you’re wearing them and calling it ‘fashion’.

So, when you see somebody like these little hipster kids who drink their shitty beer and sit in coffee shops making fun of people with ironic jokes—usually racist ironic jokes—wearing feather headdress talking about they’re Native American and they have one drop of Native American blood and they think that it gives them a pass to wear headdress and paint their face wild and act like they have been part of this tribe since Creation. Just because you have one drop of Native blood does not give you a pass to do these things. If they say they’re offended, then they’re offended, O! It’s as simple as that. You don’t offend somebody and they tell you that they’re offended and you continue to do the thing that offends them! You don’t do that, that’s disrespectful, and that’s the whole point of this argument. You’re disrespecting these people and they are telling you you’re disrespecting them, but you’re continuing to disrespect them because this is America and everybody is free to take what they want. Hey! I have news for you O! The bank has taken they want! They have taken your money, and you’re now fighting with the bank to get your money, but the bank is saying it’s a free country and they can take what they want. Same difference, O!

So, you have POC who are trying to tell you something that is bothering them, and has been bothering them, but because this has gone on so long and has become normal to everyone who is white, you suddenly think that it is okay to yell at us because we are offended. No! We’ve always been offended, we just finally decided to say ‘Let us tell them we are offended, now!’

I don’t like to see people dressed in a loincloth and carrying a spear thinking that I live life in Nigeria like it’s ‘Coming to America’. I’m not the Princess of Zamunda, now, there is no Zamunda in Africa [laughs]. I don’t ‘speak African’, alright? I’m from Okpella. And I don’t care that you don’t care. I’m telling you that we’re all offended and you continue to ignore us. But then when everything backlashes then you act like we are some kind of savage animal that has suddenly attacked you, and then you cry your ‘white woman tears’ and you cry your ‘white man’s burden’ and all of these things like you are so oppressed. You know nothing of oppression, O. Your race has been oppressing since the Vikings sailed from Scandinavia to come here. The Native people were here first; they still live on the reservations that your ancestors put them on, O! They have not reclaimed any of their lands—by rights this whole continent belongs to them.

So I don’t appreciate when somebody tries to justify something we all find offensive. If somebody tells you they’re offended, you have no right to say anything else. What you have done is offending them. That’s the end of the argument. I have nothing to say to you. We’ve said everything we want to say and can say, but you’re not hearing us O. You don’t hear our words. But when the backlash comes you will cry your ‘white woman’s tears’ and act like someone is oppressing you. Nobody is oppressing you. We’re just telling you how we feel about what is going on.

You can appreciate our culture; you can respect it. But don’t take bits and pieces and fasten it together and call it fashion—that is not respect, and that is not honoring our culture. Respect it as a whole; respect the people who have brought this culture and these traditions into your life. But do not tell us that we cannot be offended. Do not wear my culture as a Halloween costume for one night because you decided to ‘go tribal’. I don’t care, O. I will knock your head if I see you in the street.

That’s all I have to say because it seems my text is not getting through to you so I decided to make this video.”

*As always, and as she explains, this means "some white people" not "all white people".