A Chinese dress on a white high school girl. An Indian character on a cartoon show. A Vietnamese sandwich at a college cafeteria. A sombrero, a headdress, a kimono, a poncho. "My culture is not your prom dress." The meme has become a laughingstock.
The hunt began with trace amounts of legitimacy, with outrage at understandably offensive things, then spiraled into demands about an ever-growing list of "offenses" so numerous and minor they had to create a term for them—the microaggression. And now, the entire world has become a microaggression.
The Atlantic published a 1,900-word examination of the concept of cultural appropriation, which lies at the heart of identity politics and PC Culture—in other words, it is the ultimate microaggression. One startling revelation: The Chinese dress that the young woman wore as her prom dress in what has become a firestorm of political correctness, was in fact co-opted from European culture. Yes, it was culturally appropriated.
The article, titled "Every Culture Appropriates" examines many examples of so-called cultural appropriation throughout history. The conclusion is potent:
The policemen of cultural appropriation do not think that way. They have a morality tale to tell, one of Western victimization of non-Western peoples—a victimization so extreme that it is triggered by a Western girl's purchase of a Chinese dress designed precisely so that Chinese girls could live more like Western girls. In order to tell that story, the policemen of cultural appropriation must crush and deform much of the truth of cultural history—and in the process demean and infantilize the people they supposedly champion.
Amid cries of cultural appropriation, there is an utter brilliance at play: By accusing people of using power to intimidate less powerful people, they become empowered.
The rules have outfoxed the rule-makers. The web of violations and aggressions and offenses has grown so thick and many-vined that it has subsumed the very people who contrived it in the first place. The culture police who have devoted their lives to exposing injustices have themselves become the insensitive and ignorant bullies that they supposedly pursued.
Despite their often mind-numbing behavior, they tend to be incredibly sharp, and massively intelligent. Their world, of course, finds its basis in theories. A life of abstractions. Revolution-minded, combative, oozing with rancor. And they've followed the lead of professors, who, most often, especially in the Humanities, sell these ideas as fact.
There is tremendous power in accusations of racism and privilege.
They've learned that there is tremendous power in accusations of racism and privilege. With these accusations, they become powerful. And part of what makes the approach so effective, so immune to counterarguments, is its philosophical basis, a blend of Post-Modernism, New Age Empiricism, Relativism and Post-Structuralism, which, when fused together, are able to support a copse of often incongruous ideas that would be laughed away if not for their foundational premise: There is no objective truth.
As Saul Alinsky wrote on the subject of relativism and his faith that people will reach the right decision:
I am not concerned if this faith in people is regarded as a prime truth and therefore a contradiction of what I have already written, for life is a story of contradictions.
Life is indeed a story of contradictions, Mr. Alinsky, but that doesn't mean we ought to accept chaos as the norm.
Contradictions exist, no doubt, but they're a bit like tangled wires: If we can untangle them, we might as well untangle them, especially if doing so makes life safer and easier.
The Left has become the authority, the power structure, the bully. They have taken control. To them, their voices deserve to be loudest, and nobody with opinions contrary to theirs deserves to be speaking at all.
But... A new form of politics is forming: The intellectual dark web. Hence, the mass exodus of people from the Left—people who have always considered themselves liberal but who can no longer suffer the hysteria of the Left. With their NPR tote bags all caked in soot, and their ball caps logoed with the New Yorker, they feel homeless, bereft.
The expatriates need a place to go. Like refugees, we invite them in. They huddle through the doorway. Their faces hang dark and disbelieving, slack and expressionless. "Come in," we say. "Grab a seat and join us. You must be exhausted."