Cultural Appropriation What It Is and How To Avoid It

New Webinar: Cultural Appropriation – What It Is & How To Avoid It

My next class for Writing the Other is a one day webinar on Cultural Appropriation. A topic that continues to be fraught and also continues to attract opinions on the subject that are wrong-headed, maddening, and just plain dangerous. Hopefully this class will alleviate some of those problems.

When: September 9, 11AM – 2PM Eastern (Click to see when this happens in your time zone)
Where: Online via Zoom meeting  (video only registration option available)
Price: $50

Most writers want to avoid Cultural Appropriation but worry that they don’t fully understand what it is or how to ensure their work does not include it. They wonder what the difference is between appropriation and exchange or between appropriation and influence. And they hope avoiding cultural appropriation doesn’t mean only writing stories about people from their same race, culture, or ethnic group.

In this 3 hour webinar, authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford will offer concrete answers to those questions and a set of resources to help authors navigate these tricky waters. The webinar includes two short lectures and a lengthy Q&A.

For all the details, including information on scholarships, or to register, go to

Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation by Shannon Wright

A Place For Commentary on Cultural Appropriation

Today NPR published my piece on why “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible.” I was inspired to write this article by a recent NYTimes op-ed on the matter that floored me with how the writer misunderstood the topic, conflated it with other issues, and in general did not take into consideration or seem to know about any of the many articles and posts and books that already exist talking about cultural appropriation. It’s frustrating because that often seems to be the case. That’s why my piece has so many links to so many other essays as well as to resources.

It’s been a while since I submitted a piece to NPR, and so I didn’t know that they no longer have comments (I did do a little cheer when I saw). However, some folks are super not okay with not being able to scroll to the bottom and tell me how wrong I am! And thus my Twitter mentions, the Inbox on the Writing the Other account, and comments on unrelated posts here are full of folks offering me their thoughts.

Since this is the case, I thought a post giving folks the opportunity to scratch that itch was in order. Ta da! However, since this is my blog, I have rules, and you’ll have to be bound by them.

First time commenters are always moderated.

If you’ve never participated in discussion here, then your comment will not appear below automatically. It goes into a queue, and an admin has to rescue it from the queue. Since many folks who will rush here to argue with me do not often do so in good faith and/or can’t resist wallowing in racism or misogyny as they type, I will not be looking at the mod queue, someone else will. They will let your comment out if it doesn’t have those issues. If it does, they’ll delete it and I won’t see your words.

Side Note: Someone is moderating the email address my contact form goes to as well, so I won’t see anything deemed to be mired in bigotry there, either.

Before you argue with me about cultural appropriation, read all the links.

I put a ton of links in that piece for a reason. Cultural appropriation is a complex topic that can’t be 100% covered in one 1000 word essay. So I gave all readers the opportunity to delve deeper into it via other great essays. Click every link in that piece and read what’s behind it and click all the links in those pieces as well. Only then should you come here to ask questions or make objections.

“But I don’t have time to read all that!” you might say. “I have a life to lead!” Okay. But if you don’t have time to read up on the subject you don’t have time to argue with me about it. Go do something, anything, else.

Don’t argue with me on points I haven’t made.

If you see something in those links that you want to fight about, fight about it with the person who wrote the article. The person who made that point. Not with me. I’m not the avatar of all people who have written about cultural appropriation ever. Don’t expect me to answer for them.

If you can follow these guidelines, you can submit a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

P.S. Sorry for the disjointed nature of the comment responses below. My theme doesn’t support threading as of yet, but I’m trying to fix that now.

Top Image: “Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation” by Shannon Wright. Find more of her work on her website, twitter, and instagram.


Drowning in Apathy

Drowning in Apathy

I’ve been trying all weekend to write a post that will express several emotions and truths about this latest explosion of debate, discussion, and fail around cultural appropriation and other related issues. You’re all sick of hearing about it, yadda, yadda. I never could write that post. Because it would be pointless. Because most people just aren’t fucking listening. And those that are don’t need the post.

I love how it’s always those people over there causing the problem. I love how everyone gets to say “Oh, it’s those people who love conflict doing a circle jerk!” I love how people are complaining about the lack of listening to individuals and not reacting in a knee-jerk way while being completely unspecific, waving hands in general directions, and not listing or linking to anything specific or engaging with the ideas of the people you reluctantly admit aren’t necessarily a part of it.

It’s so easy to point to a group of brown people and hurl the label “mob”, isn’t it?

I love how when it’s you or someone you love who is hurt, other people’s hurts don’t matter. Not just the specific hurts involved in arguing in this climate, but the hurts involved in just being a person of color and having your very self dismissed on the basis of bullshit and, yes, racist thinking.

I used to think that it was possible to make a difference in this community when it came to this kind of thinking. Hell, I’ve had people tell me that my writing or my taking part in discussions has helped open their eyes, change their minds, make them see other points of view. But I’m not sure if it’s worth watching yet another of these discussions devolve again.

Once again certain people have made me question my participation in the SF community. Once again, the majority of those people are white folks engaging in racist thinking and activities, unconsciously or not.

A friend of mine recently complained of a lingering feeling of apathy over this whole issue. Recently as in 3 days ago. At the time I cautioned her against giving in to that feeling — it might not pass quickly, but it will pass, I said. Well, after this weekend, I am mired deep in that apathy myself. Though still pretty damn angry, as the several times I have had to stop and take a breath while writing this attests.

I’m not about to do a flounce-off. Mainly because if I do, nothing will ever get resolved. Or, more accurately, I will not be part of the solution, and I do strive to be.   But I am thinking about what I want to do going forward. I need to take some time on this, because my current instinct is to separate everyone into categories of “Worth my time” and “Worthless” and just go from there. In the long run, that’s probably a mistake. So I’ll hold off.

In case you were wondering, here are the posts I have either partially written or thought about writing:

  • I was going to write about how there’s a difference between someone saying you’ve engaged in a racist act or in racist thinking and calling someone a racist.
  • I was going to write about how the side of this argument that is mainly made up of white people using words against the side of the argument made up of POC and allies like “mob” and “horde” “oversensitive” and “attention whores” is extremely problematic, not just from a reasonable debate standpoint, but also from a racial one.
  • I was going to write about how divorcing yourself from the label of ally because of all the horrible people picking on you is not a form of bravery or self-righteousness, but a form of saying “I refuse to be an ally to you on your terms, seeing that you’re the one suffering from the hurt and oppression I’m allying with you against. It’s really more about what I’m comfortable with.”
  • I was going to write about how if you don’t want people react to your involvement in a conversation as if you’re just like the 10,000 people who have come before, then maybe you should shut up and not make the same statements or ask the same pointless questions that aren’t really questions as those other 10,000 people.
  • I was going to write about how this is the same thing I have seen happen in every debate about race and gender in SF and how we never get anywhere.

Online Cultural Appropriation Panel

We talked about this a bit at WisCon last year, and since I recently did great mental harm to you all by pointing out that “discussion” over on Jay Lake’s LJ, I thought I would do something constructive.  I’m willing to host an in-depth discussion about cultural appropriation on the ABW so that we can attempt to cover all of the different angles and branches of the conversation as we usually cannot in a 90 minute panel discussion.

But before that happens I’d like to solicit input from veterans of these discussions for help determining the best way to begin, some links with background and context from other discussions (including the debate of DOOM from a few years ago), and suchlike.  I guess it could also help if we had panelists, sort of, but I don’t know how that would work in an online context.

Suggestions, links, and direction appreciated.

Sound Off: Culture Clash

Sound Off: Culture Clash

Today’s Blog for a Beer:

This week Silvia Moreno-Garcia gave us an excellent primer on the many ways in which fantasy filmmakers completely mess up Pre-Columbian cultures by lumping them all into one group, assigning practices and beliefs they don’t have, and generally turning them into random brown savages. Because who cares, right? They’re all dead anyway. Oh wait…

Hollywood is not the only offender when it comes to misrepresenting non-American, non-Western or non-white cultures. Literature, comics, television, and even games get in on this party. In your experience, what are some of the worst offenders?