Social media bring many gifts. Some, I’m glad I opened. Others, not so much, because they trivialize important matters in misleading ways. Such was the case with several ongoing social media threads about cultural appropriation.
The discussion centered around the fact that dreadlocks are not native to PWOC (people without color) and so should not be worn by them. If white folk fixed their hair in dreadlocks, it should be considered “cultural appropriation.”
So does this mean every Caribbean or black person should wear dreads? And what about a ‘fro? My naturally curly hair defaults to something suspiciously like an Afro if I do not rein it in with flatiron and blow dryer. My “natural” is much like a woman of color’s “natural.” Must I flatiron my hair because I am white and therefore should have straight hair? But then, what about African-American women who straighten their hair? Are they culturally appropriating Caucasian hair? Apparently my DNA says I’m around 10 percent North African. Does this give me the right to wear dreads or a natural?
See what I mean? It’s complicated. Silly, at times. Definitely divisive. And I can not tell you how many hundreds weighed in on these threads. But wait, it’s not just dreads.
Facebook’s new rainbow emoji for June Pride was also a target. The other week I saw several threads asking why straight people were using rainbow emojis? And why were they using them on non-gay related topics? After all, these posters, reasoned, it’s not a straight or “cis” symbol. And, they said, “no one’s given a shit before, so why just during Pride?”
My Calfornia soul –San Francisco Bay area, California soul–is incredulous. So much silliness and not even valid. Because I’ve had gay and lesbian friends since before most of the commenters were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. And so have most of my friends. My mother went to a gay “wedding” in the 1970s, before it was a legal thing. I volunteered for more than a decade during the HIV epidemic, when it was hitting mostly gay men. One of my emotional support clients was transgender. Don’t give a shit? DON’T GIVE A SHIT???
Give me a break.
As these people take these stands, complaining about cultural appropriation, flying their flag “as a bi woman of color” I want to tell them to do some reading. There’s a continuum of sexuality and everyone falls somewhere on it. Very few of us are 100% straight. Lots of people could fly that same flag. Most of us have some sort of non-straight sexual orientation status if we choose to claim it.
As these people make their divisive posts, I’m in California getting ready to attend a LGBTQ business referral group that I was invited to join by one of the lesbian members. Me. “Straight me.” Because they aren’t worried about “cultural appropriation.” They’re INCLUSIVE, as my husband pointed out. Many of my service providers are gay–I do, after all, live in the Bay area. I refer to a longtime close friend of almost 30 years standing as my gay husband. He and my legal husband go to hockey games together. One of my nephews is gay. As a rule, I do not concern myself with the sexual orientation of anyone except if they are the target of disrespect or hate. And then I DO concern myself. And always have.
So do not tell me that our entire society “does not give a shit” about gays. Maybe that’s true in Cowtown, USA but it is not true across the board and it is absolutely not true where I live.
Most of us do not see these divisive boundaries. I’ll use the damn rainbow emoji to show my support whenever the hell I want.
And I’ll let my hair go natural any time I want. Or I’ll straighten it. Or I’ll shave it.
BUT HERE IS THE REAL POINT:
WHY do we need to set up artificial boundaries between human beings? Why aren’t we more concerned with tearing DOWN boundaries? Why do we feel we need to entrench cultural differences instead of celebrate them?
No one owns their culture. It can’t be appropriated or misappropriated. And besides, appropriating dreadlocks? rainbow flags? Seriously? Is this even important? I’ll answer that. NO. It’s NOT.
WHY are we concerned with these trivial matters when people are being attacked on trains when they stand up to defend a blind woman and her seeing eye dog being kicked by thugs? Dying with throats slit on a train because they stood up for a woman in a hijab? When women’s rights are being trampled? When affordable health care for all is under attack?
When all people are being targeted by terrorists and bigots, is a white person wearing dreadlocks really worth a moment’s thought?
When there’s a madman in the White House, don’t you think we need MORE rainbow emoji and not fewer?