Cross Culture or Cultural Misappropriation?
Yesterday’s Après-Midi was the second Zoom meeting we held since confinement, but won’t be the last. Our last meeting of the season before the summer break (we take August off) with author and Nice expert, Ella Dyer, will also be held on Zoom at the special time of 6 p.m. Paris Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time to allow people from coast to coast and here in Europe to participate, but take note…it will also be held one week in advance on July 7th from the regularly scheduled “second Tuesday of the month” due to Bastille Day falling on that particular day.
Award winning author of five novels, seasoned lecturer at international women’s economic forums and former publisher of Savvy Woman magazine, Talia Carner delighted our Zoom audience from her Boca Raton home — where she has been since confinement — with a talk about her novel, Jerusalem Maiden, because half of the story takes place in Paris in 1924 during the avant-garde era. It is the story of a young Jewish woman’s struggle between her religion and her passion for art. She chose this topic because we all thought we’d be in Paris for her talk where the topic was particularly relevant.
Talia’s newest book is The Third Daughter, a remarkable story, inspired by little-known true events, about the thousands of young Jewish women who were trafficked into prostitution at the turn of the 20th century, and whose subjugation helped build Buenos Aires. Talia was born in Israel and develops many of her characters as Jewish, something she culturally knows and feels deep within her.
Answering one of the questions that arose out of the attendees:
“What advice would you give to someone who has always wanted to write a book, but has not yet done so,” her response was what she called “TIC” — meaning “Tush In Chair.”
I understood that immediately to mean “doing the work” or just sitting down to actually write it. For those of you who don’t know what a “tush” is, the word comes from the Yiddish word, “tókhes,” meaning buttocks. But if you use it, don’t pronounce it like “hush,” pronounce it like “tooysh.” The vowel sound is somewhere between an “o” and an “oo” and if you don’t say it correctly, we’ll all know it’s been culturally appropriated!
“Cross Culture or Cultural Appropriation” is the topic of a panel open to the public that I am moderating for the Paris Writers Workshop to be held July 5-12, 2020. I must admit that I had to do a bit of research to fully understand the topic to keep up with the brilliant authors on the panel: Alecia McKenzie, Caroline Vu, and Ian Thomas Shaw.
“Cross Culture” I fully understand, but Wikipedia gives “Cultural Appropriation” a complex definition — “at times also phrased cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.”
So, does this mean that my habitual wearing of berets, a hat associated with the French culture, worn on the head of an American, is cultural appropriation or is it misappropriation? And do the French think I look silly trying to look more like them?
What sparked even more interest in the topic was today’s CNN headline: “Congressional Democrats criticized for wearing Kente cloth at event honoring George Floyd.” “Congressional Democrats wore stoles made of Kente cloth during a moment of silence for George Floyd, drawing criticism from observers who felt they made the traditional African textile into a political prop.
“Is that “appropriation or misappropriation?” Jade Bentil, a Ghanaian-Nigerian researcher at University of Oxford got bent out of shape and commented on Twitter that “My ancestors did not invent Kente cloth for them to be worn by publicity (obsessed) politicians as ‘activism’ in 2020.” I’m sure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the other members of Congress, who knelt to observe a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall on Monday wearing their Kente cloth, never dreamed for a moment that their show of solidarity would have been taken as offensive. But, if they had been wearing yarmelkes (skullcaps worn by religious Jews), I might feel the same way.
I watched the funeral and memorial for George Floyd on CNN last night and found myself verbally responding to the preachers as if I was in that church mourning and praying to God just like the audience, most of which were African American and hugely appropriate. When Reverend Bill Lawson said, “Obviously, the first thing that we have to do is to clean out the White House,” I said “Amen, Brother!” Was I culturally misappropriating, just by acting out in a way that’s not part of my own culture?
(Note: you can read the full transcripts of all the eulogies and speeches here)
As an American living in France, it seems we can’t help but cross our cultural divide or appropriate the other culture on a regular basis…like my beret-wearing or eating foie gras or uttering “oh-la-la.” Aren’t we all guilty of wanting to fit in and crossing the cultural divide or appropriating the other culture? For the panel discussion among authors, the topic will take a different bend — leaning toward how this affects their writing and their storytelling.
I’m looking forward to the panel and what the panelists and participants have to say about the topic, as I question myself how I view this within my own Franco-American realm in which I am constantly faced with the dilemma.
Take note:Join us for the Après-Midi Zoom Meeting with Ella Dyer
Time: July 7, 2020, 06:00 p.m. Paris Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 304 126 3588
A la prochaine…
Editor of Parler Nice