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November 26, 2017


The photo you're using, within the context of tribalism, is cultural appropriation and borders on racism. Please change it.

Anne, I used the photo in my March blog post, and I have no problem using it again. I really have no idea what you mean by "cultural appropriation." I searched Google images for a pleasing "tribal" photo. This one caught my eye.

What I was looking for was a photo of happy tribal people mingling. Most tribe photos show one particular tribe, not several together. The one I used came closest to what I wanted,

If you'd like to suggest another photo, you could point it out to me and I'll consider it. You can email either the photo or a URL to me at [email protected] It just needs to be immediately identifiable as "tribal" with an added dose of "mingling."

I hate the idea of a "roast" which brings to mind a room full of privileged half-drunken old white guys in suits cracking corny jokes in the 1960s, with Don Rickles as the host. Yuck! Maybe the model here could be the indigenous American pow wow (or, as it's known in California, a "Big Time," which I like even better) which brings tribes together for fraternization and cultural celebration. Maybe our Grand Ronde brothers and sisters could host a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-age, multi-Party pow wow and show us all how it's done. I'd love to see you dancing in a circle with Gator Gaynor, the Evans brothers and Sam Brentano.

But why do you feel the need to appropriate a "tribal" group in order to make your point? This is exactly what cultural appropriation is. YOU have no problem with using it because YOU (presumably) do not often have your own culture appropriated by the dominant society so they can make some weird point about a societal roast.

The photo you are using is from a dance troupe called Africa Umoja (http://africaumoja.com/about-us/). The photo depicts a dance that they preform as a way of interpreting their own culture. What right (copyright or otherwise) have you to use it to make a point about life in Salem? By using this photo to make a point about "tribalism" you are appropriating their culture and whitewashing their heritage.

And by the way, the image is copyrighted Africa Umoja. Check your privilege and use another image/analogy.

Anne, I couldn't see any indication that the image was copyrighted. And if I picked a photo of another tribe, what difference would that make? I readily admit that I don't agree with the notion of "cultural appropriation." Are you really suggesting that it is improper for a member of one culture to share photos that show people in another culture? That just sounds really strange to me, political correctness gone awry.

It is wrong for a member of one culture, especially the dominant culture, to use another culture to make a point about something that has nothing to do with the culture. This is called whitewashing, which is a blatant form of cultural appropriation. Using a photo of a traditional African dance troupe to make your point about "tribalism" IS cultural appropriation and IS racist. The fact that you do not see it demonstrates that you have some work to do when it comes to understanding your inherent privilege as a white male. This is not "political correctness" it is basic respect for people who are members of other cultures.

Let me try to explain. By using a photo of modern black people in traditional dress to make a point about "tribalism" in white society, you are reinforcing cultural bias surrounding African culture. The image you use has nothing to do with tribalism; it is a photo of traditional dance. By appropriating the photo to change the meaning from "traditional African dance," you are whitewashing the image, which is a form of appropriation and also racist.

In addition, in an earlier post you told me, a woman of color, to do YOUR work for you and find a photo that meets your standards and perpetuates your need for cultural appropriation/whitewashing. I cannot begin to explain to you how inappropriate this is.

And you don't see any indication that the image is copyrighted? Look at the original image and note the copyright mark on the image: http://africaumoja.com/galleries/

Listen, I know how hard this is. It's hard to acknowledge that you come from a place of privilege and that privilege makes you feel entitled to using the culture of others for your own purposes. But you run a public page on Facebook, contribute to Salem Weekly, and a maintain public blog. As such, you need to be aware of how your actions impact others. Appropriating an image for purposes of whitewashing is not an acceptable practice and smacks of the subtle racism that so many of us are trying to combat on a national level.

Take the image down.

Anne, obviously you feel deeply about this. Proving (maybe) that there is some synchronicity in the world, I'd gotten up from my usual practice of listening to my Calm meditation app's "Daily Calm," which today was about self-compassion, and decided to change the photo. As I was looking for another image, your new comment popped up on my laptop's screen. I found an image of hands which I hope you'll find more acceptable.

Look, I still don't agree with your take on privilege, cultural appropriation, and such. It just doesn't ring true for me. We're all different. We all are creatures molded by our environment, our upbringing, our genetics, our experiences, our culture. The best we can do is try to understand each other from our own particular perspective, since there really is no "view from nowhere." We all are looking out on reality from our own subjective prisms.

That said, I don't like to be bothersome when other people are bothered by something I've done, and changing this thing doesn't infringe on my values. Or at least not much. So I'm pleased to change the image in the name of understanding. Thanks for sharing your views. I better understand your way of looking at the original image thanks to your comments. I might even one day come to hold the same views you do.

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