A new form of racism is forming. It artificially creates boundaries between groups of people in an us-vs-them kind of way and is slowly pervading our society. It is based on principles that have been percolating for decades and philosophically is extremely conservative, although it is often championed by political liberals. It's the doctrine of cultural purity and the fight against cultural appropriation.
In the old Star Trek show and throughout its various incarnations, a pervasive theme is their "Prime Directive" which insists that primitive cultures must remain primitive -- and advanced civilizations are not allowed to influence or even make contact with less developed populations. Why? Well, in history it seems that more advanced civilizations always tend to dominate and oppress indigenous peoples as they expand. So it must be a bad thing. Indigenous cultures should be protected and walled off, so to speak, for their own protection.
In his "Speaker for the Dead" series, O Scott Card tries to look at this attitude from the primitive alien's point of view. They don't feel protected. They feel left out. Humans are allowed to roam the galaxy and explore new worlds while the alien species is relegated to languish in their little niche, kept from the tools that would allow them to compete.
Now it's getting much further out of hand. Disney recently recalled their Moana costumes because of complaints of cultural appropriation. What kind of a message does that send to children? You can't pretend to be these characters because they are Polynesian. A Polynesian kid going to the Disney store has to choose a European costume, or American, because Islander costumes are not allowed. Does that sound like racism? Sure does to me. If a supermarket said that they won't sell tortillas because that would be appropriating Hispanic cultural foods, that doesn't make things better -- it doesn't support multiculturalism. It's not inclusive, but exclusive.
I live in Hawaii, and I know people who are obsessed with their Hawaiian cultural purity. They put up barriers between "Hawaiians" and "Haoles," insisting that there be no cultural appropriation. In so doing, their culture is dying, missing out on the tools it would need to grow and flourish in the world.
By allowing and embracing cultural appropriation, a culture can grow and develop. For over a thousand years, the Chinese would appropriate indiscriminately from its neighbors, and became one of the most advanced cultures in the world. But they eventually shut that door, and decided that other cultures were not worthy of appropriation, while the European cultures which were happy to appropriate tea, noodles, gunpowder, and other things from China grew to dominate the world.
Being anti-cultural-appropriation could be considered the newest form of racism and bigotry. It's language that is primarily used by the politically liberal, and so we typically haven't heard born again bakers claim that since they are not gay, they don't want to culturally appropriate from the gay community and bake a cake for a gay wedding, but it comes to the same thing, doesn't it?
Hugo nominations closing tonight + Updates
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