When discussing cultural appropriation, it’s somehow comparable to deciding on how much fuel you want to pour on a raging fire. Naturally, cultural appropriation is a fervent topic which creates a hostile environment; increased discussion will likely increase the fire. In that sense, discussion of cultural appropriation is relatable to the discussion of politics or religion; it usually concludes with pernicious words thrown at the other side. This results in an ignorant state, where most people accept what they already know as true and aren’t interested in further assessing the topic with an open mind. According to the oxford dictionaries cultural appropriation is, “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society (The Week).” Two articles have decided to write about this daunting topic, the first is “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation,” by Bari, Weiss sourced through The New York Times. Bari Weiss is an American journalist who joined The New York Times as a staff editor in its opinion section. Weiss was an associate book review editor at The Wall Street Journal from 2013 until 2017. Weiss is an American writer and discusses her point of view on why cultural appropriation should be admissible especially in America. The second article is “I’ve Written About Cultural Appropriation For 10 Years.
Here’s What I Got Wrong,” written by Connie Wang sourced through Refinery21. Wang has a decade of experience in writing about cultural appropriation (Wang). Wang wrote this article to clear up misconceptions about cultural appropriation and what she has learned over the past 10 years writing about this topic. Unlike Weiss, Wang is from Asian descent, so her perspective of cultural appropriation in America is more from the “victims” point of view, being that Asian culture is part of the minority in America. Both articles are directed towards people who are interested in this topic; both for and against cultural appropriation. In both articles the authors go through deductive reasoning on why cultural appropriation should be ok in our society–if it is done with good intention. It should only be frowned up when done in mockery or derogatory fashion towards the other culture (Weiss). America has just crawled itself out of a long battle of segregation (Weiss). Our familiarity with segregation dates back to the foundation of this country; and wasn’t until 1964 that the United States Government officially outlawed public segregation. Although for millennials, this seems like a distant past because they were not alive during those times, but for many those deep-rooted ideologies still linger with us today. Sourced from our countries history with slavery, this paved the way for present time racism as well as feuded cultural appropriation debates.
Weiss utilizes very dramatic examples to get her message across to her audience. Throughout her writing she refers to cultural appropriation as something the left calls “stealing.” She then explains that America’s foundation of democracy is something that didn’t originate in this country; it originated from the ancient geeks. Some people would say that America “stole” ideology of governance. But Weiss puts it in the perspective that America “borrowed” this great ideology of government to better itself. This reinforces the idea that when the left calls cultural appropriation “stealing,” they are purposely misusing this word as an effort to persuade those who are not well informed on this topic. Weiss considers cultural appropriation as an innocent and beneficial case borrowing—if it does not mock or degrade the other culture in the process. Weiss connects to the millennials in the audience by drawing examples from famous musical artists in our current generation. She gives an example of the night of the MTV video music award, where multiple artist gave performances. On that night almost every artist appropriated another culture in some fashion. She connects with all the readers by saying that charges of cultural appropriation are being hurled at all corners of our American lives.
Weiss goes on the offensive and accuses notable American universities such as Harvard with racially separate commencements and the university of Michigan for promoting a job position of bias response team employee. Weiss tries to convince the readers that the left is trying to take us back to half a century of work distancing ourselves from segregation. She gives the comparison that the left has similar ideologies to the Nazis, and that protest against cultural appropriation satisfies white supremacist groups. Weiss calls for the acceptance of the idea of borrowing from other cultures so long as it is not used to degrade or mock the other party. Weiss attempts to appeal to readers with mostly pathos; this is evident by the tone used in her article when comparing protestors against cultural appropriation to white supremacist and Nazi ideologies. To some people showing this presence of strong emotion in her article shows conviction in her belief of pro cultural appropriation. But this can also be seen a rant from a deranged and one-sided protestor, who doesn’t consider counterarguments for consideration; which results in less conviction in the reader of Weiss’s stance.
Weiss take a strong stance in her position towards cultural appropriation, and she recognizes this by mentioning that she will inevitably get called a racist for cheering cultural miscegenation (Weiss). This shows to the reader that she is mostly one sided in her argument which would make a reader less confident in her article especially if they are trying to learn more about this topic as a whole to see where they fit in.
Wang has a more neutral tone in her persuasion. She doesn’t attempt to go on the offense, instead she focuses more on her experience in writing about this topic, and what she has learned. Wang focuses on bringing awareness to a complex issue currently plaguing our generation. She explains that there is no black and white, and this isn’t something that can be resolved over a short social media post. Wang explains that she doesn’t believe cultural appropriation is bad, but like Weiss, she is against cultural stealing. Wang uses artists similar to how Weiss used them as a supporting argument to the claim that cultural appropriation spreads through all parts of our American lives. Wang goes onto saying that in todays world, people appropriate other cultures as a means of gaining fame or financial benefit. Wang makes a point to her audience by telling them that, trying to stop cultural appropriation can be compared to trying to stop yourself from barfing when you have a flu, ultimately this will not cure the illness. Wang makes her call to action by saying that we should have empathy for other people, the same way we want empathy from them.
Wang concludes by saying that this is a complicated and messy topic, and it doesn’t have an easy answer. But what is needed in more awareness and unbiased knowledge of cultural appropriation. She ends by saying that she used to think there was a simple answer to this daunting topic in the past, but she now realized that the messier the topic becomes the closer you are to understanding it. Wang takes the approach of a teacher, she doesn’t go on the offensive in her writing, instead she attempts to show people that knowledge is bliss. Wang utilizes ethos and logos in her article to encourage readers to do more research about this topic before taking sides. This makes the environment much more welcoming and allows any kind of reader to feel comfortable reader her article. As a result this makes Wang’s article very effective in achieving her intended goal of more awareness on cultural appropriation.
Both authors include examples taken from what some would call our role models in todays generation; musical artist. This connects with the audience by showing them, that whether you agree or disagree with cultural appropriation, just be aware that it is currently happening all around you. And the people who engage in cultural appropriation are some of the most influential people in this country currently. Weiss utilizes a tone of pathos in her argument by comparing people against cultural appropriation as those who support Nazi ideology. Wang has more of a neutral tone and utilizes more of an ethos and logos tone in her writing.
She wants more people to open up to the discussion of cultural appropriation, and realize it is a complicated issue, that cannot be solved by a single social media post. She tells her audience that on both sides we need to show empathy the same we would want done unto us. Both authors are able to stay on topic throughout their writing. Both authors provided relevant examples that the readers can relate to. In conclusion both authors were successful in their message to their intended audience.