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Why self-determination is a principle of Kwanzaa.* - Piano wire. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
The richest girl in town.

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Why self-determination is a principle of Kwanzaa.* [Wednesday, Apr. 1st, 2009|09:32 pm]
The richest girl in town.
Also, since I said it a week ago and had to say it again today....

I find it fascinating when white people, most of whose governments have entire courts and administrative bodies dedicated to determining and protecting intellectual property and copyright, tell peoples they have colonized, raped, abducted, enslaved, sterilized, driven from their own lands, forcefully assimilated, and murdered almost to the point of extinction that they also don't get to "own" their culture, read: representation, read: identities.

Especially when so many elements of that culture--language, music, religion, government, family structure, and basic day-to-day way of life--were denigrated, mocked, outlawed outright, or used as justification for all that nasty, bothersome colonization, rape, abduction, enslavement, etc. in the first place.

Especially when the death intentional destruction of their cultures perpetuates the notion that the people themselves ARE in fact extinct and exist only in the imagination alongside unicorns and fairies that allows for actual, real-life, honest-to-god people to CONTINUE to experience all that nasty, bothersome colonization, rape, abduction, enslavement, etc. and/or their present-day equivalents.

I find it fascinating, I tell you. Fascinating.

*Kujichagulia, the second principle, demands a practice of self-determination in both the cultural and economic sense. It stresses the moral obligation of Africans to define themselves, speak for themselves, build for themselves, and make their own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Thus this principle prohibits collaboration in one's own oppression, the allowance of others to define African people or culture and turning to others for Kwanzaa items which the community itself has conceived of and has historically and rightfully made.

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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-02 05:56 am (UTC)
A lot of this started to occur to me because of some of the tripe tossed around in recent incarnations of RF09.
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[User Picture]From: olamina
2009-04-02 05:27 am (UTC)
thank you for this reminder. i needed it.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-02 05:58 am (UTC)
You know, Kwanzaa's got its issues, but then it's got some basic, undeniable truth underlying it.
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[User Picture]From: olamina
2009-04-02 09:15 am (UTC)
one of my favorite lines in any song every, was in a Deep Dickollective track where Juba goes:

"I'm the Ron Karenga to fuck wit'"

ha ha.

I had some good times swapping Black Nationalist childhood stories with Juba. There were definitely some pearls of wisdom floating around in there.
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[User Picture]From: black_pearl_10
2009-04-02 05:49 am (UTC)
...and that's why we need to breed white people out of existence.

Oops, did I say that out loud?

Edited at 2009-04-02 05:49 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-02 05:54 am (UTC)

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[User Picture]From: whittles
2009-04-02 06:48 am (UTC)

I saw that...
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[User Picture]From: katyakoshka
2009-04-02 08:09 am (UTC)
I get this feeling every time I deal with my Canadian relatives, especially the ones who resent First Nations tribes for getting land... even the land of dubious value that is often "granted" to indigenous peoples of various nations (so to speak). Problem is, given how white Vancouver Island is, the concept of "white privilege" would probably end in confusion with few productive outputs (maybe my younger cousins might step up). Other than that, more rounds of beer for the racist, heterosexist white uncles! Yay?

Of course, I also really want to beat up my US-ian stepdad for being a racist... without being arrested. Meh.

*[Edit] Spelling error on privilege -- so ironic, really.

** land --> the land

*** double doh --> misplacement of the from prev. edit

Edited at 2009-04-02 08:13 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-03 04:15 am (UTC)
Well, one of the organizers is partially of Native ancestry, and even he doesn't get it.
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[User Picture]From: seriesfinale
2009-04-02 05:19 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about this post a lot.

A lot to think about (hearing people wish "your kind"--ugh, I feel weird even writing that since while I'm aware that I am of a kind, I don't generally think about it nor about being it, mostly because, yeah, as a white male I generally don't have to--to be bred out of existence is always disconcerting whatever the context or intent!) but I guess the main thing I'm curious about is what it means to you to "own" one's (or any) culture.

I mean, it's obvious (or should be) that a "Go Native" party could well be offensive to, you know, actual Native peoples, and I also know that a people's culture is ultimately their culture, and as such, they can draw up the "rules," as it were, but I'm wondering where you personally consider the dividing line is when enjoying or even utilizing another culture's elements becomes a theft, an appropriation, a disrespect. I think most times it's black and white (no pun or anything intended), but I do think it can get awfully gray.

Not asking this with any agenda or even any real, formed personal opinions of my own, I'm just interested.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-03 04:11 am (UTC)
When I think about it, personally, and my thoughts are both gut reactions and also informed by having studied this in various contexts, intent is pretty besides the point--and, as in most conversations about oppression, that's where people get stuck.

They didn't "mean" to gentrify that neighborhood.

They didn't "mean" to stereotype me.

They didn't "mean"....

The thing is there are power differentials over which most of us have little control. That means a great deal of thoughtfulness is necessary when it comes to engaging with pieces of someone else's culture and a huge awareness of what the repercussions are.

I think it's hard for people in the West especially, who are so used to being able to buy whatever they want, who are used to being able to profit from whatever they want, to think about the consequences of capitalism as it relates to cultures that are not native to them personally.

For instance, as much as most people may not carry malicious intent as they don keffiyehs bought at Urban Outfitters, they manage to make mainstream a struggle that they're not invested in or even aware of. Something with significant cultural meaning to an oppressed people becomes just another accessory for college kids. That hurts the people for whom it means more. It's a mockery, even if those doing the mocking don't realize they're doing it.

I've been thinking about these things a lot because of the kinds of performance I do. One of the reasons I'm not interested in going to Dickens Fair, for instance, is that I don't feel I have a real place there. Victorian England and black people don't mix in any good ways. I can't pretend that I have any cultural link to it that's not based in oppression.

On the other hand, in a couple of weeks, I'll be performing with elusis at Hubba Hubba Revue: VIVA LA REVOLUCION!, the theme of which is Latin American revolutions. Trust me when I say that the core Hubba folks have been having lots of hard conversations about what the show is about, who's in it, what our angle is, and how to avoid it making a mockery of both Latinos and revolutionaries. I feel pretty confident that our parodic lens is where it should be.

I actually think these things aren't so black and white. Culture isn't static, and it's simply a reality that the diversity of the United States is largely based on slavery and colonialism. But there's being blind or willfully ignorant of the consequences of our actions or trying to be more thoughtful about them. No one's right all the time, but people needn't be so wrong as often as they are, either.
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[User Picture]From: seriesfinale
2009-04-03 04:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I guess I meant that stuff like the kaffiyeh strikes me as black and white--you're taking something that has deep meaning to the people of the culture that it's from, and turning it into a (usually) trite accessory (fashion and/or otherwise)...but like, for instance, this morning on the N, I was listening to Kirsty Maccoll's Electric Landlady album. Now, she was this white woman from a middle-class neighborhood in London, and a lot of the songs on this particular album are very salsa-influenced, the rhythms, and they've got these big bright Willie Colon-type horns (coincidentally or not, around the same time she was singing on the Talking Heads' Naked album, which uses a lot of Brazilian sounds).

I mean, I don't think she was trying to be anything she's not; it's not like she's wearing a Carmen Miranda outfit or anything. The brass players were this Puerto Rican group, playing their bread-and-butter sound, as far as I understand; it wasn't like it was the London Philharmonic playing about. And the marriage of her tiny voice with that music really sounds great, to me at least. But I still think about how stuff like that comes off, and I do think about that kind of thing all the time...

I guess it's like you said, culture isn't static.

Anyway, thanks for your response.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-04-03 04:15 am (UTC)

Re: this is why i will die of an anyeurism at 45

Saw that. People are just....

Whatever. I made the mistake of mentioning this to the couple of guys still in my office before I left last night, and all I can say is....

Toto, I don't think we're in a non-profit staffed mostly by radical people of color Kansas anymore.
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