Emmy Griffin / January 18, 2023

Stop Saying That!

Cultural appropriation vs. the development of human language.

The language police are at it again, trying to control what people say and how they say it according to their own mental gymnastics, which inherently are nonsensical. USA Today wants you all to know that saying hello in other languages is cultural appropriation. If you are not a member of these cultures or native language speakers, saying hello to people in their own language is at best problematic and at worst linguistic colonization and racist mockery.

The author of the USA Today piece, David Oliver, goes on to say that you can say hello in other languages as long as you don’t try to say it with an accent or in any way be mocking while using the word. Also, saying hello in a different language might be interpreted as a microaggression. For example, “Saying ‘ni hao’ to someone Asian American who isn’t Chinese; this could be both othering and a microaggression.”

University of Rochester’s Jeffrey McCune, associate professor of African American Literature and Culture, adds his credentials to this sentiment, saying: “What we need is a critical consciousness in our public around language. Language is too critical to our culture, that we can’t just casually use language in ways that might offend and/or even harm, do harm to certain groups of people.”

As always, these language authoritarians have a sliver of a good point. Using any greeting in a mocking manner sets the tone of the conversation in a negative light — this seems like common sense. For goodness’ sake, anyone could say the common greeting of “Hello” in a way that is mocking and produce the same effect. It’s a politeness issue, not a linguistic one.

And, as always, the language authoritarians are off their rockers. Oliver implies throughout the piece that if you aren’t educated, you cannot use the language of other cultures. “Aloha,” “Hola,” and “Shalom” are all off limits to the masses — and these are simply the examples in the article.

Oliver is not the only reporter this year to accuse the American people at large of “cultural appropriation,” though at least his proselytizing has a kernel of sense. Reporter-turned-author Heather Radke recently published a book called Butts: A Backstory. According to Radke, having or appreciating a larger derrière is racist and fatphobic — unless you’re black.

Daily Wire podcaster Brett Cooper sums up the ridiculousness of this perfectly, saying: “I just don’t understand. Like, do you want us to be skinny and not look like you? Or should we try to grow a**es just to be antiracist? But then how do we do that without appropriating you? So we need to be thin, but we need to be thin while acknowledging that we’re not trying to be thin. We need to be naturally thin and be happy with being thin, try to get skinnier, and not try to grow an a**. We literally, basically don’t need to exist considering that ‘white supremacy’ is the ‘basis’ of all these systems of oppression. They’d probably be happy with that.”

The hypocrisy and confusion continues because Heather Radke is a white woman with a larger caboose. So is she culturally appropriating? What’s the deal? It is probably a vicious mix of white guilt combined with ingrained liberal self-loathing.

This accusation of cultural appropriation prompts one to ask the question: What do these people really mean by “cultural appropriation”? From the way both Oliver and Radke use it, it simply means theft.

Cultural appropriation (i.e. theft) of language is an astonishing accusation considering that is literally how language develops. In our multicultural and pluralistic society, knowing, using, borrowing, and speaking the language of our community is natural and correct. It also signals where a person is from. If a person throws out a “y'all,” it’s reasonable to assume he or she is a resident of a southern state (or at least lived many years in a southern state.) Nine times out of 10 when people greet others in their own language, it is a signal to that person that they are making an effort to honor that culture and person they are greeting. Dictating who can and can’t use certain words is itself a type of cultural imposition.

In the case of big bums being a black thing, that sentiment is in cognitive dissonance with the other part of the leftist intersectional coalition — the body positivity folks. It also is ridiculous on its face. Bums are a genetic property, not a racial one. This hullabaloo about big bottoms being racist is all sound and fury signifying nothing, to paraphrase Macbeth.

Cultural appropriation as an accusation is ridiculous and a tool that seeks to further divide an already polarized country. It encourages people to take offense at any little thing and further attempts to demonize white Americans who are “uneducated.” Such sallies should be met with the derision they deserve, and their inherent lunacy should be pointed out for the good of the nation and the amusement of the satirist.

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