One of the newer catchphrases birthed in the fetid swamps of the social justice movement is “cultural appropriation,” wherein (presumably white) people dress, act, dance or otherwise behave in a manner that’s associated with another (presumably non-white) culture. Think Lady Gaga in a burqa or Katy Perry in a kimono, and you get the idea. Cultural appropriation become a true cause celebre last fall, when The Atlantic ran a story that provided a roadmap for those who want to stay abreast of the latest developments and trends in social justice, and the UK’s The Independent discussed (and derided) cultural appropriation when it came to Halloween costumes. Apparently, it’s no longer OK on Halloween for non-native-americans to dress in buckskins and fringe, or for non-indians to dress in saris. I bet it wouldn’t be acceptable for kids to dress as The Lone Ranger any more, and after Johnny Depp recently caught grief for portraying the trusty sidekick, “Tonto” dare not even be mentioned in certain circles any more.

A recent bit of foolishness exemplified, yet again, how social justice warriors never stop, how political correctness is an insatiable beast. Apparently, a university has pre-emotively warned a fraternity that its members will no longer be permitted to use “black and red paint, wigs and/or clothing items that mimic or depict an ethnicity or culture.” I’m surmising, based on the balance of the article, that black and red are the fraternity’s colors. All this because fragile snowflake complained last year.

One commenter on the Facebook posting of the Reason story asked “What next? They can’t eat burritos? Or use curry?” Sounds absurd? It has already started. A student at Oberlin college complained last year that the food service operator had “a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines,”. In other words, the ethnic food wasn’t sufficiently authentic for the complainer’s sensibilities and sensitivities. This is, itself, a joke, given that he’s talking about college cafeteria food.

As The Atlantic article noted, outrage over cultural appropriation first arose in academia, the incubator for all sorts of noxious ideas and totalitarian notions. The application of outrage to food will, at some point, ooze out of academia and infect broader culture. I won’t be surprised, nor should you, when we start to find out that SJWs have been challenging advertisers’ “insensitivity” in marketing ethnic foods. Certainly, it’s already happened that marketers have adjusted their work to pre-empt such accusations. Consider this Ortega commercial from 25+ years ago, or the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Think they’d run today? KFC has already caught flak over the years for commercials that feature black actors. Because, you know, noting that fried chicken is popular among black people is a no-no. I wonder if they apply the same observations to barbecue, which has origins both in slavery and in the natives of various Caribbean islands.

Obviously, there are legitimate examples of bad taste and overt racism, but the fact that they should be decried doesn’t justify the endless onslaught of political correctness. It’s not wrong to dub a burrito “mexican food,” nor is it wrong to craft a burrito with “non-traditional” ingredients. But, mark my words, there will come a day when someone tells you that it is. Somebody, somewhere, embracing the modern liberal equivalent of H.L. Mencken’s observation about Puritanism, i.e. “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” will complain that people are appropriating “burrito.” General Tso’s Chicken, a mainstay of Chinese take-out and delivery, was invented in the US. Will there come a day when some advocacy group, saddled with too much free time and too little in the way of real problems to complain about, starts a campaign to “reclaim” the “authenticity” of Chinese cuisine by dubbing those dishes as culturally insensitive? George Will referred to this sort of activity as “synthetic outrage” or “synthetic indignation,” recognizing that complainers actively work to find things to complain about.

Many of us, especially those who have kernels of libertarianism within their psyches, have a fairly simple desire: to be left alone. We want to live our lives as unmolested by outsiders as can reasonably be expected. Some folks, however, thrive on meddling in the lives of others, and quite often they do so on behalf of third parties who themselves oftentimes neither asked for nor wanted that meddling to occur. The term “white knight” is apt, although I certainly imagine that SJWs will consider it racist.

If they were honest, they’d also dub “white knight” as a cultural appropriation, since it’s something rooted in the long history and mythology of England. I haven’t heard much bashing of Anglophilia as cultural appropriation from the social justice crowd, however. Nor of most European culture, for that matter. My family roots are Greek, going back centuries on both sides, and were I looking to propagate some synthetic outrage, I might find cause to complain about some portrayals of Greeks in pop culture, and might find outrage in the use of non-Greeks to portray Greeks in movies and television. I can’t be bothered, however, because maintaining outrage is hard work. Being angry all the time is exhausting.

Perhaps that’s why social justice has found its home in academia. Living in the real world takes work.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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