Friday, 7 March 2014

Cultural appropriation and colonialism:

TW: discussion of colonialism.

One of the curious things about when we talk about appropriation and colonialism by white people is we don't talk about the history that could explain much.

Long before the British Empire arose, many of my ancestors were being raided, enslaved, conquered, our rightful leaders murdered, our culture deemed barbaric and suppressed. Who did we worship before the people like the Roman's conquered us? No-one is entirely sure, only fragments of our original cultural gleaned by archaeologists remain.

In short, the history of the British Isles includes the people being colonized, enslaved and having our culture destroyed. In a very real sense we became orphans without a storied culture to call our own, merely a shattered hodgepodge of a few fragments of our own plus large amounts of culture left by various invaders who ruled over us. Same for our language, it's a hodgepodge primarily because of all the groups who conquered us. It consists not just of things we stole but also of things that were brought to our shores by invaders and conquerors.

This I suspect is one of the driving reasons behind why white people tend to appropriate culture. It's hard to have a grasp of the cultural meaning things can have when yours was ripped away so thoroughly, that it's gone beyond recalling. We're used to patching together a culture out of others to replace the one or ones we lost. There are no people in other countries who follow our heritage because it was stamped out in our home country as well.

Religion wise? We have ended up worshiping a middle eastern religion imported to our shores. That was after we had the Roman pantheon forced on us first, what came before is vague and we still know little about our historical religion, and like the parent to asserts that spanking never did them any harm, we think nothing about imposing it on others in the same way.

This I suspect is also why we also became colonial and conquered most of the known world, a case of "we need to get them before they get us" after being invaded so many times. It may also explain why we fear that PoC will repeat the same behaviour, we as a culture went through it and our response was to repeat it, it's not outside of understandable that we fear others might also do so.

Not that any of this excuses appropriation or colonisation, but I can't help but wonder what my country would be like if it hadn't been invaded, conquered and colonised repeatedly. My ancestors were both slaves and conquerors, the brutalized and the brutalizers.

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