What is cool? Often times, cool is manifested as something material. Something you can adopt or imitate. If you step back and look at it, cool is almost always a product of cultural appropriation. You remember the story of America. How can any culture that’s been dragged off, hated on, and killed over the acquisition of this nation become the desired fall festival look?
America hated Black People. We hated Japanese people. We still harbor comedic acceptance over Apu. With the upcoming InCuya Music Festival being held in the home of the Race Record—a moniker for R&B records from the 1920s to the ‘40s— we pray you don’t let us down Cleveland. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a monument to the unstoppable nature of good music. However, do you remember how slave songs by the ‘20s had evolved into the blues? When I ask you to name a blues guitarist, do you think Clapton or Johnson?
Appropriation is a product of desire for social status. An adoption of other culture’s artifacts, all to enhance the optics of oneself, is a poor overuse of human diversity. In a struggle to be different, cool, and accepted by our peers, sometimes it’s better to be the guy or gal known for the cool thing. The birth of cool starts with observation and ends in theft.
In the replication of any cultural artifact, there are flaws. How does one elevate your cultural status? You look around, see what is staunchly not part of who you are, and figure out how to make it a part of your look, sound, dish, or merchandise.
Looking back, the growth and birth of America has been dictated by people who were stealing from black culture. Not long after we got to this country, giant wired bodices underneath a dress were made to imitate bulbous hindquarters for women in high society. Tanning, which some white women will literally die for, seems like a desperate attempt to imitate the kind of smooth, darkened skin that could only be obtained in the fields. While still acts of appropriation, these parrotings are, in a sense, a form of flattery. We are always adapting to escape the displacement of our worth, as even our literal bodies were dislodged from their roots.
Where does that leave us today? Just a few years ago, girls would wear headdresses and little else to festivals all over the world. Now here in Cuyahoga County, we face our own dangers of appropriation.
InCuya is a perfect opportunity for Northeast Ohio to display it’s wokeness. Otherwise it’ll just be weird beads in the middle of white women’s foreheads, headdresses, and feathers fluttering down as New Order plays. One should be fearful. The cultural atrocities we could face in the perfect storm that is Parma girls and direct festival access could be worse than football players kneeling.
Acts of appropriation and the negative reaction to players kneeling are actually similar, because they’re both kind of racist. The hatred, omission, and erasure of the cultures that white America wants to harbor as their own, will again force the disenfranchised to come up with something else to remember themselves and their history. Still, you wonder why the line dances got harder after “The Cupid Shuffle.”
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James Earl Brassfield or simply JEB is a writer, podcast host, humorist, actor and “Black Hunter Thompson” type madman of no ill repute. Language has yet to evolve fully to describe his unique view of Northeast Ohio and the world. JEB produces work across all media with his original and clearly stated voice. @Jearlbrass