Appropriation and Aggression
Cultural appropriation and micro (or macro) aggression are two sides of the same crazy coin that is an ultimate form of gaslighting. [Note: gaslighting is a very common behavior when working on racism. It is the manipulation of someone or a group of people by psychological means into questioning their own sanity and the reality of their experience.]
Cultural appropriation subsumes one marginalized group’s cultural practices into the dominant group. This can occur while at the same time, micro (or macro) aggression are taking place. This combination not only denigrating, demoralizes and erasing the oppressed group’s cultural identity or at the very least, cause extreme confusion, (see the post about the Red Men’s society for a good example of how these can intertwine) but this behavior can threaten a culture’s very existence. This means it can easily turn into a key building block of genocide.
The definition of genocide is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” When every individual from a distinct culture is at some point, and often repeatedly, gaslighted into thinking they are less then others through micro-agressions the demoralization erodes racial identity in small and big ways. When this is coupled with the oppressor group assuming their identity and taking ownership of their cultural heritage, the end result is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.”
If cultural appropriation and micro (or macro) aggression are tools that could lead to genocide, we can use other tools like this website to dismantle and rebuild a different world.
Pirkei Avot 5:10 (Talmud; Ethics of the Fathers)
There are four character types among people:
- One who says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours.” This is an average character type, but some say this is characteristic of Sodom. (i.e., someone who lacks generosity)
- One who says, “Mine is yours, and yours is mine.” This is an ignorant person.
- One who says, “Mine is yours, and yours is yours.” This is a pious person.
- One who says, “Mine is mine, and yours is mine.” This is a wicked person. (Mishnah – Avot 5:10)
Scroll down for the section on Micro-Aggressions
The blurb on the right demonstrates how appropriation works within the white supremacy mind-set. Since colonization this mind-set has been passed on from generation to generation without thought or question.
But the truth is that cultural appropriation is indefensible. Those who defend it either don’t understand what it is, misrepresent it to muddy the conversation, or ignore its complexity — discarding any nuances and making it easy to dismiss both appropriation and those who object to it.
Cultural Appropriation is just that, when one culture appropriates elements of another culture. Mythology and folklore certainly count. … One of the threats of cultural appropriation comes with modifying the original source, often a simplification of the ideas present in the original culture.
If you’re white, learn more about anti-racist work and white privilege and do your best to be an ally to marginalized peoples. Do some research into what indigenous tribes are (or were) in your area, and figure out how to connect with living representatives of them, and how to appropriately honor both the lives and the spirits of Native elders in your area. Do some research into your own ancestry and figure out how to begin connecting with those traditions.
Cultural appropriation is more than the continuation of the colonializing process and racist behavior. By appropriating customs and practices from a marginalized racial group, it is a tool of white supremacy and genocide. There is a fine and confusing line in this behavior and can reinvent itself in many ways.
Cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group. That’s why it is not the same as cultural exchange, when people share mutually with each other.
The Improved Order of Red Men is an organization of white people whose rituals and regalia are modeled after those assumed by white men to be Native American. Despite the name, the order was formed solely by, and for, white people. Membership was about half a million in 1935, but has declined to a little more than 15,000 today.
What exactly are Micro-Aggressions?
Microaggressions happen at some point to most everyone for various reasons but this website is focused on racism and for people of color microaggressions are different. They are so embedded in our culture that they can happen literally all the time. (Note: “microaggressions” without a hyphen is the current common usage but for the page title it was felt the hyphen was helpful.) Below are various examples for racial microaggressions. As you read through some of them think:
Think about the ones you might have experienced.
Think about those you have heard someone else say to a friend or colleague.
Think about some you, yourself might have said.
Before you leave this page, ask yourself what would be different if you pause before engaging in this manner.
Microaggressions are subtle verbal and non-verbal slights based on group membership, and they are ubiquitous in the lives of racial minorities, women, and LGBTQ individuals. This post introduces role-playing based exercise on effective responses to teach students how to respond to prejudiced comments.
Examples of Microaggressions in the Classroom: Continuing to mispronounce the names of students after they have corrected you time and time again. Setting low expectations for students from particular groups or [geographic area]. Expressing racially charged political opinions in class assuming that the targets of those opinions do not exist in class.
Atmospheric scientist Marshall Shepherd reflects on microaggressions that he has experienced as an African American scientist and professor.“ I was standing in a hotel lobby with other colleagues wearing suits. I was President of the American Meteorological Society at the time. A woman walked up to me and asked if I was the airport shuttle driver.”
Examples of Racial Microaggressions
Alien in own land
When [Indigenous people], Asian Americans and Latino Americans and are assumed to be foreign-born
- “Where are you from?”
- “Where were you born?”
- “You speak good English.”
- A person asking an Asian American to teach them words in their native language.
You are not American. You are a foreigner. [You don’t belong here.]
Ascription of intelligence
Assigning intelligence to a person of color on the basis of their race
- “You are a credit to your race.”
- “You are so articulate.”
- Asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem.
- People of color are generally not as intelligent as Whites.
- It is unusual for someone of your race to be intelligent.
- All Asians are intelligent and good in math / sciences.
Statements that indicate that a White person does not want to acknowledge race [or its implications.]
- “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
- “America is a melting pot.”
- “There is only one race, the human race.”
- [“All lives matter.”]
- Denying a person of color’s racial / ethnic experiences.
- Assimilate / acculturate to the dominant culture [reject own cultural heritage.]
- Denying the individual as a racial / cultural being [invalidates their unique perspectives]
Criminality – assumption of criminal status
A person of color is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant on the basis of their race
- A White man or woman clutching their purse or checking their wallet as a Black or Latino approaches or passes.
- A store owner following a customer of color around the store.
- A White person waits to ride the next elevator when a person of color is on it.
- You are a criminal.
- You are going to steal / You are poor / You do not belong / You are dangerous.
Denial of individual racism
A statement made when Whites deny their racial biases
- “I’m not a racist. I have several Black friends.”
- “As a woman, I know what you go through as a racial minority.”
- I am immune to rac[ism] because I have friends of color.
- Your racial oppression is no different than my gender oppression.
- I can’t be a racist. I’m like you.
Myth of meritocracy
Statements which assert that race does not play a role in life successes
- “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
- “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
- People of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.
- People of color are lazy and / or incompetent and need to work harder.
Pathologizing cultural values / communication styles
The notion that the values and communication styles of the dominant / White culture are ideal
- Asking a Black person: “Why do you have to be so loud / animated? Just calm down.”
- To an Asian or Latino person: “Why are you so quiet? We want to know what you think. Be more verbal.” “Speak up more.”
- Dismissing an individual who brings up race / culture in work / school setting.
- Assimilate to dominant culture. Leave your cultural baggage outside.
- [How white culture perceives you is reality and the only important metric.]
Occurs when a White person is given preferential treatment as a consumer over a person of color
- Person of color mistaken for a service worker.
- Having a taxi cab pass a person of color and pick up a White passenger.
- Being ignored at a store counter as attention is given to the White customer behind you.
- [Statements that start] “You people …”
- People of color are servants to Whites. They couldn’t possibly occupy high-status positions.
- You are likely to cause trouble and / or travel to a dangerous neighborhood.
- Whites are more valued customers than people of color.
- You don’t belong. You are a lesser being.
Macro-level microaggressions, which are more apparent on systemic and environmental levels
- A college or university with buildings that are all named after White heterosexual upper class males.
- Television shows and movies that feature predominantly White people, without representation of people of color
- Overcrowding of public schools in communities of color.
- Overabundance of liquor stores in communities of color.
- You don’t belong
- You won’t succeed here. There is only so far you can go.
- You are an outsider / You don’t exist.
- People of color don’t / shouldn’t value education.
- People of color are deviant.
- [People of color are there for White people to exploit.]
D.W. Sue, et al, “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice” American Psychologist, 62, 4, 271-286, Table 1, Copyright 2007 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission. Additions to the table are shown in brackets.
One tool that is used to justify and strengthen the destructive power of cultural appropriation and microaggressions is gaslighting.
Gaslighting: The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gas Light… The term “gaslighting” has been used colloquially since the 1960s to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality. The term has been used to describe such behavior in psychoanalytic literature since the 1970s. In a 1980 book on child sexual abuse, Florence Rush summarized George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) based on the play and wrote, “even today the word [gaslighting] is used to describe an attempt to destroy another’s perception of reality.”
by Angelique M. Davis & Rose Ernst | Nov. 23 2017
How does white supremacy – the systemic covert and overt version – remain inextricably woven into the ideological fabric of the United States? We argue that racial gaslighting – the political, social, economic and cultural process that perpetuates and normalizes a white supremacist reality through pathologizing those who resist – offers a framework to understand its maintenance in the United States. Racial gaslighting is a process that relies on racial spectacles [Davis, Angelique M., and Rose Ernst. 2011. “Racial Spectacles: Promoting a Colorblind Agenda Through Direct Democracy.” Studies in Law, Politics and Society 55: 133–171]: narratives that obfuscate the existence of a white supremacist state power structure. We trace the production of racial spectacles in Korematsu v. United States (1944) and Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Braden (1955) to highlight how micro-level individual acts are part of a macro-level process of racial gaslighting and the often-catastrophic consequences for individuals who resist white supremacy. A comparison of these cases also reveals different “functions” of gaslighting People of Color versus white people in terms of portrayal, exposure, pathologization, audience, and outcome. Although they occurred in the twentieth century, we argue that racial gaslighting is an enduring process that responds to individual and collective resistance. We contend that naming and clarifying racial gaslighting processes assist in building collective language and strategies to challenge this systemic violence and its manifestations.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to gain power. And it works too well.
Posted Jan 22, 2017
Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting*
*Gaslighting, if you don’t know the word, is defined as: manipulation into doubting your own sanity. As in, Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.
(this is a 50-minute webinar presented by Audrey Robinson-Nkongola, a black female library science professional)
Diversity, inclusion, and equity are keywords that are considered important aspects to the library profession. Although attempts seem to be made towards that end, the question remains, what is really causing some librarians of color to leave or think of leaving the profession? Perhaps the work environment may be the problem. The presenter shares how Librarians of color encounter racial microaggressions on a daily basis. In this presentation, the presenter will define microaggressions and what other librarians of color and the dominant culture should know about them.