Three Canadian editors were fired due to a social media backlash because they dared to defend white authors who created characters from minority or indigenous backgrounds. The essay went on to say, ”Critics of cultural appropriation insist they are opposed not to engagement but to racism.” They want to make sure that marginalized cultures speak for themselves.
Granted, Western history has taught us that the people in power do not always treat nor write about minorities justly. Over time, civil disobedience and deliberate consciousness raising has lead to more just societies. The great Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties greatly inspired by the leadership and sacrifice of Martin Luther King and many others, black and white, who suffered beatings and jail for equal treatment under the law for all citizens helped to make the United States a country with equal opportunity for all. Singing, “We Shall Overcome” encouraged those who fought. The song did not make the change. People did.
Sometimes literature, music and the visual arts help to solidify and preserve more just societies. These aspects of culture cross ethnic boundaries reaching up and down, side to side. This phenomenon is not unique to any one culture or ethnic group. Historically, every tribe, nation or country recognized and appreciated the contributions of the other. Sometimes they adapt or adopt pieces of music, art or literature. “Silent Night” is sung in every native language in the world. William Shakespeare’s works have been translated into every major language. Super titles make it possible for opera audiences to listen to great music written in the original language, but read and understood by audiences everywhere.
Having lived through and participated in the Civil Rights movement in this country, I remind all educated young African Americans to review “EYES on the PRIZE”. Ask your grand parents to tell you about “the good old days”. They put their lives on the line for desegregation and equality under the law. Do not isolate yourselves. Contribute what your education gave you to make humankind more humane; use your creative talents, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “… to strengthen and support the rest.” We all need each other.