| by Malhar Mali |
I am a minority and I prohibit you from culturally appropriating my native culture. I was born in India, hence, I prohibit you from stealing my culture, eating any foods that are representative of that region and engaging in my practices. But wait I have a reason. I have several: Since the British colonized, destroyed, and brutalized us for centuries, since they stole our dishes, customs, and foods and there is a long history of oppression of my people, you should respect our perpetual marginalization. And you brazenly engaging in my traditions subverts the struggles of those actually ingrained in them — like me.
Since the British transported our ways back to their motherland, and from there they made their way to the United States of America (otherwise known as the United States of Colonialism/Imperialism/ Racism a.k.a the worst place to live in the world), I prohibit you all in the Western world from enjoying our tangy delicacies. Since your Anglo-Saxon ancestors co-opted and invaded us, and they were clearly the dominant culture then and now, I prohibit you from enjoying our traditions.
Unless you want to be a cultural appropriator that is.
Enjoy some butter chicken? Tough luck you heteronormative, cis-gendered white male (otherwise known as the worst type of phenotypic variation a human being can have the random luck to be born into). Only when you paint your skin brown can you enjoy my culture’s food and practices. But if you do that then you’d be racist and engaging in Brown-facing. So too bad. You can’t enjoy it at all.
Like some chicken biryani? You’d better make sure before each bite you acknowledge Vishnu, Ganesh, Krishna, and Mahatma Gandhi as a sign of respect before you chew on the dreamy multi-layered goodness. Before every bite. We have enough Gods to cater to that strategy. If you don’t, then you risk hurting the feelings of all brown people everywhere — the hundreds of millions of people who still live in the shanties of the Indus will squirm in pain at your inconsideration. The hundreds of millions focused on their next meal and where they can get their clean water will writhe in agony at you being evil enough to “erase and marginalize” them. By focusing on people eating ethnic food and engaging in different cultures, clearly, we can raise the standard of living of billions. That’s the real crux of the matter.
Think Yoga is cool, groovy, and a neat way to connect with your inner spirituality? That’s fine if you’re from India (or, if you’ve suffered enough “oppression”). Think Yoga is cool, groovy and a neat way to connect with your inner spirituality? Seriously problematic if you’re from anywhere else (read: white).
Don’t even get me started if you have white skin and make money off yoga — or, try to teach it to others. The gall it takes for you to co-opt and monetize another culture’s practices is inexplicably evil and ghastly. You should only be allowed to work in industries related to your “race.” Even though I believe race is socially constructed and evil groups collude to exercise power over others via hierarchies and — to use my favorite terminology — oppressors oppress (thanks Derrida, Foucalt), I’m fine to use it as a demarcation for mandating what types of activities certain ethnicities are allowed to engage in.
Like Henna tattoos? Go get a real tattoo you racist.
What’s that? You have a rebuttal? No you don’t. You don’t share my skin color and/or sex so you can’t possibly connect with my lived experience. You can’t possibly know what it’s like to have violent words uttered at you and the history of your people’s oppression rubbed in your face every time you see a picture of the Queen on your currency, or see Adele speaking in her posh accent on a late night TV show, or see the statues of British colonialists. Tear them down, I say!
Erase history so it doesn’t hurt.
Besides, you’re probably white so you have to listen to me, a little old P.O.C. Never mind how deranged my ideas might be (but if you say that my thoughts are deranged, you’re automatically a bigot and a racist). We must never judge an idea on its merits, only by the sex/race/gender of the person who is uttering it. And because white, cis, hetero males have traditionally dominated discourse they must be silent.
I prohibit you from not listening to me and my demands since I am a minority and automatically should be given more credence than others. Individual rights are great and all — but it’s better when you take them away from those in “powerful” or “oppressive” groups. Group rights are better than individual ones.
If you do not do all the things I ask you, I as a minority, obviously having no autonomy of my own and being so sensitive that I am troubled by people enjoying and engaging in my culture, will report you to the pertinent authorities. Or whip up a storm on Social Media. Or write a heartfelt, rambling article calling out all the whiteys who oppress me just by existing and show everyone how #woke I am. Or come yank your Vindaloo away from you if you don’t have the right skin tone while you’re basking in its spicy goodness.
I was going to prohibit you from the practices that are popular in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as well since I have lived, and loved living in those places and consider parts of their culture to be my own, but since I am solely defined, and gain my identity by the color of my skin, and my sex, I suppose I’m not allowed to — though I really wish I could.
[Authors note: I published this article nearly a year ago. I’ve republished it because I’ve gotten more woke since then. #staywokefam]
Header Photo: Akhil Chandran