So before I start I should say I'm white. I am really, really white; blind people with my legs, white. And I also live in a country where I am technically one of the invading hoard who has tried very hard to stomp out the local culture.
But I've been thinking of cultural appropriation lately as I'm writing a book set in Canada with Japanese characters and I'm petrified I will offend someone with a cultural faux par. There are valid concerns when it comes to cultural appropriation that every author and reader should be concerned about. Because the easiest way to destroy a culture to is appropriate it, change and warp it until it no longer exists for that culture. I'll give you an example since it is almost the time to send the kids out to chase down chocolate eggs, put there by a bunny rabbit and eat hot cross buns. Easter: Easter used to be a celebration of female power. The ability to pop out babies and bring life to this barren earth. Without women the human race would cease to exist. Unfortunately, Christianity didn't have space for any of that and as they rampaged through the world, they thought the easiest way to get the locals to drop this idea of a female god was to adopt the holiday as their own. Now the eggs and rabbits represent eternal life instead of how cool women are. Before I have a lot of hateful comments, I am Christian myself but I'm very aware of our flaws.
I picked Easter also because it happened so long ago that the anger over it has dissipated. Unfortunately, there have been examples a lot closer to home. So we should be worried about cultural appropriation. But does that mean as writers we can never write about other's cultures? For me that is a big fat no.
Okay, jumping examples to the #metoo movement. Part of that is about getting men to be aware of what is happening and for them to step up when they see it happening around them. I really like the story about the mansplainer in the airport who after he finished talking was put down by the man with the woman. Who chastised him for wasting the opportunity to listen to someone who is an actual expert instead of mansplaining. I feel like I, as a privileged white person, need to write about other cultures. To accurately reflect the world around which is multicultural.
I read an awesome article about black romance writers and the RITA Awards. Did you know no black woman has won that award? That is terrible and we should be ashamed because it isn't because there weren't worthy African American writers who have won the accolades of critics and hit best selling lists but are beaten out by a white woman.
I think we need to write about other cultures, not to steal them, but normalise them. I live in New Zealand and Maori language has been treated terribly here. There are many reasons and blame to share with a lot of people. But I watched as brave TV presenters would end shows with Maori - to a lot of backlash. Now it is normal to end a show with a Maori farewell or to start one with a Maori greeting. It is now normal. If that white man hadn't done it first others wouldn't be able to follow.
So I will write other cultures. At the same remembering that isn't mine and I can't change it; I can only reflect it. If I want to be a good author, I will try to reflect that culture as accurately as possible; to avoid cliches and stereotypes. I won't do the token black guy who inevitably gets killed in like every horror movie. I have to admit I've had to reform myself as I am ashamed to say my first book had a brainy Asian character with blue hair. My only redemption in that case is to say I made her the main character so at least she can shine through the stereotypical and cliche sheen I've given her.
What are your thoughts? Is Cultural Appropriation really an issue or is it the boogey man? Should we stick to our own cultures and never stray?