I just read Nisi Shawl’s essay on “Appropriate Cultural Appropriation”, which gives a few tips and advice to Western authors on how to behave, and what questions to ask themselves. Because I was reading it on a plane with no internet access, I even read the comments.

Of course there was the sort of comment that is so typical, it’s why I really truly don’t read the comments most of the time: the aggressive, probably male, white and Western, voice, saying something like:

“…call me insensitive, but I’ll borrow whatever cultures I please…” (said in almost those exact words, but expanded upon in several paragraphs of course.)

Due to some stage in my own thinking about cultural appropriation and power dynamics, I suddenly saw this comment in a new light.

It does not occur to the writer that this assertion of “I’ll do whatever I want” might come at any cost other than a few people calling him out by name for it. (He didn’t hide his name.) It doesn’t occur to him that publishers might reject his work, that editors would tell him to cut appropriative material or send him off to do more research, or even (most likely) that anyone he gets to help his research should be entitled to compensation. He is asserting a power of independent expression that writers of color, non-Western voices in the USA, are routinely and incessantly denied.

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