It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them.Throughout history, cultural traditions have been used to mobilize groups of Black and Brown people together against a common threat—white supremacy. People of color have survived centuries of endless white violence and, at many turns, have used the power and reverence for our many cultures as a means to fight back. It is crucial that we preserve our cultural roots as much as we can, especially in these times when white supremacy and nationalism are so blatantly on display. White supremacists and nationalists have historically used the concept of “culture wars” to demonize people of color and paint themselves as victims, usually of some form of the white genocide mythos. Racists and xenophobes yelling at people of color for not speaking English, even threatening to call ICE, is one of the many hills they choose to die on. Their fear of other cultures—languages, traditions, religions, ethnicities, ideologies—is apparent in their actions, on both small and large scales. During the build-up to the 2016 presidential election, National Review’s Reihan Salam described culture wars as the “fight over the future of American national identity in the face of rapid and accelerating demographic change.” Culture wars are, more or less, a seemingly endless contention over who can and who cannot be considered a “True American,” with white, cis straight, conservative, Christians being the ones with the most ability to lay claim to this title and, therefore, also the ones with the ability to determine who else has access to rights in America. “In almost every case, these culture wars have been conservative projects, instigated and waged by people anxious about the loss of old orders and the emergence of new ones. Their anxiety finds expression first as a complaint about a particular policy, and second as a broader lament about how far the nation has fallen from its founding glory and how desperately we need to restore whatever is passing away.” —Stephen Prothero, Washington Post It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them. Therefore, we cannot forget how our ancestors have used their various cultures as weapons against white supremacy, as tools to work towards their own liberation, and as mechanisms to cope in their positions as marginalized peoples. We cannot forget how the many children of the African Diaspora have used cultural traditions to combat and subvert white supremacist violences as they waded in the devastation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Bois Caïman is where the seed that would grow into the 18th century Haitian Revolution and slave insurrection was planted. At this site, the organized resistance began to take form when a traditional Vodou ceremony was performed. Vodou is a religion and philosophy with deep cultural roots and significant meaning that was birthed in Haiti (once called Saint-Domingue) when an amalgam of religious beliefs were carried to the island with the ships harboring people stolen from Africa. During this time, Haiti was under French colonial rule. The island was rich in sugar, coffee, and indigo, which the enslaved were forced to harvest and maintain. Their revolution was a fight against the harsh labor, as well as the dehumanization and incremental genocide at the hands of the French colonists.
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People of color have learned to navigate white spaces, and I have decided to expect no effort in return from white people who want to know about and participate in any element of my culture.By Nami Thompson As a Punjabi-American woman in Boulder, any question about appropriation can easily be translated to, “I want this. What can I do to make it sound like you have given me permission to take it?” If you’ve been to Boulder, you may know we are 81% white, and we have a non-native-owned store here called Zuni, which sells Native headdresses and other indigenous art, and we also have a trail called Settler’s Park, as in white settlers. Our biggest industry is “the healing arts,” which are all appropriated. I belong to a parenting group in Boulder, and we had a recent conversation about the use of sage. By the end of it, a white woman left the group — after wishing us peace and love of course — and the women of color who participated in the discussion were exhausted. The next day, a white person saw me buying frozen Indian meals at Trader Joe’s and asked me which of their dishes I like best. They said, “I always look at these, but I never buy them in case it’s offensive. What do you think?” As we were talking, another white person who was eavesdropping grabbed the meals I suggested. It gave me a good laugh, and I just answered and went on with my life. In theory, this might be exhausting too, but I was okay. That’s when I realized it’s not about what is and is not appropriation but about who does and does not appropriate, so I’m choosing not to answer questions about appropriation anymore. People who understand where to draw the line in a particular situation often can name their own racial identity and understand the reach of white supremacy. When our parenting group was talking about sage, we were meant to be discussing anti-Indigineity but ended up debating whether appropriation really exists. The white people in the group fell into two categories. The first believe it exists, but they’re unsure of the boundaries. Like all colonizers, they want to draw definitive borders, but territories are porous and change with time and human need. I’m certain any white ally would cross an established boundary if they sufficiently tempted by something shiny enough on the other side. The second group denies the existence of appropriation, calling it “culture-sharing,” instead. These people are simply in denial about the origins of white racial identity, which was formed as a means for aggregating power and resources across the globe. When white people invoke the concept of culture-sharing as an excuse to overstep cultural boundaries, they mimic colonization. In fact, I contend it’s always appropriation when a person identifies as white — because whiteness is nothing more than the rejection of cultural identity. If white people don’t know where whiteness begins and where it ends, they will never hear me in a conversation about what is culturally mine.
I live in Boulder too, and no, cafés aren’t going to sell very good chai. You know who might? A Desi friend, if she had one.By Nami Thompson On Bollywood sets, by train and bus stations, and beside nearly every masjid and temple in India, a chai-wallah, or chai-walli if they’re female-identifying, has a cart that goes unnoticed until needed. They sell cups of hot chai for 5-10 INR, or less than $0.15 When I read about Brook Eddy, described in a recent recent interview with Inc as, “America's own 21st-century master chai-wallah,” I wondered what century she thinks all the Indian chai-walleh live in. I’m American, I’m Desi, and I make chai (which means tea, so y’all don’t have to say chai tea) as did my American citizen mom and grandmother, long before Eddy stepped foot in India, but we and our countless cups made for friends aren’t noteworthy. It’s because this brand and interview are a celebration of successful modern colonization. Eddy’s company, Bhakti Chai, was founded after she listened to an NPR story on Swadhyay and moved to India. “Swadhyay seemed like this really cool movement that 20 million people were practicing but no one had heard of." As a no one whose humanity is obliterated by the above comment, I’d like to share a bit about Swadhyay, which is a Hindu socio-political movement founded by Pandurang Shastri Athavale at around the time of Independence. He was anti-Brahmin, pro-Dalit, and disagreed publicly with Gandhi. He was also pro-Hinduttva and anti-RSS, thus making him one of the most complex political figures in our recent history. What Brook Eddy heard on NPR as “a really cool movement,” is painful for Desis to articulate, and she likely heard of it as they reported Athavale’s death. It’s possible to learn about and listen to Desi scholars while they’re alive. White westerners approached Athavale in his time and asked him to bring his social models to the US. He always declined. Whatever Desis make of his political beliefs, Swadhyay is not for sale in the US. The Inc article goes on, “Back home in Boulder, Colorado, [Eddy] formulated an original chai brew when she was unable to find an authentic version at her local cafés. In 2007, she began selling mason jars of her one-of-a-kind infusion out of the back of her car and soon gained a following.” I live in Boulder too, and no, cafés aren’t going to sell very good chai. You know who might? A Desi friend, if she had one. Let’s get real about privilege. If Mr. Khanna the chai-wallah walked up to a white lady in Boulder and said “I have a speciality drink from India in this jar. Only $10,” he would be ticketed and in handcuffs. Food trucks only became legal here in 2011, but unlicensed tea in a jar just isn’t and never will be.
The “Black Panther” narrative allows Black women to be both angry and tender, both strong and vulnerable, both independent and interdependent on each other and those around them.[This essay contains spoilers for Marvel's “Black Panther”] “Black Panther” is not your typical superhero blockbuster. It's a political epic, it's Black as fuck, it's critical of white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism, and it delivers a monumental story about the tension between Black Americans and continental Africans. Setting up a battle between young King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan), nicknamed Killmonger for the many lives he seemed to enjoy taking during his time as a CIA operative, it tells this story in a way that subverts expectations about both Blackness and Africa on film. What it also does is magnify the Black women within the story, and that is something that should not be considered secondary to its other achievements, because the Black women of “Black Panther” are central to its narrative and ultimately determine the direction that it takes. Not only are Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia each integral to the plot, driving the story with their actions, voices, and decisions, but their characters also provide positive, determined, and humanized images of Black women and girls. These are characters who are multifaceted, imperfect, capable, intelligent, and authentic. I see myself and the Black women and girls that I have the privilege of knowing reflected in the characters of “Black Panther,” and that, unfortunately, is something that I cannot say often enough about Black women in media. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) in Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther".[/caption] After last year's “Wonder Woman”, I contemplated the trend of “feminist triumph” in mainstream U.S. action films as an achievement largely for and about white women. Essays, think pieces, and manifestos flooded the internet to celebrate its apparent feminism after its release — with one even marveling at the fact that Diana's thigh apparently jiggled — in the same way that countless articles were written to praise the feminism of Imperator Furiosa and the women of “Fury Road" and Rey of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and several other actions films of years past. In these roles, white actresses portray characters who are larger-than-life, innovative, and unapologetically badass. Now, “Black Panther” finally makes a way for this triumph to be realized for Black women, and it does so in ways that extend beyond the strength granted to the individual women, because the ways in which the women of “Black Panther” are celebrated highlights the differences in social understandings of white womanhood and Black womanhood. Historically, being “strong” has never been a point of “feminist triumph” for Black women. We have and continue to face stereotypes of hyper-masculinity and animality, while white femininity has largely been viewed as delicate and docile. For white women, strength is something that expectations of white femininity have never afforded them, and the strength given to heroines like Wonder Woman can be used as a means to subvert the infantilizing expectations of white womanhood. Conversely, the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype goes hand in hand with the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype, and has been used as a convenient excuse to impose superhuman expectations on us, abuse us, gaslight us, and police our emotionality. The “Black Panther” narrative instead allows Black women to be both angry and tender, both strong and vulnerable, both independent and interdependent on each other and those around them. Among this long and distinct history of harmful stereotypes about Black womanhood is the phenomena of colorism and anti-Blackness, both in the media and in our lives, that is especially apparent in the way that dark-skinned women are treated in Hollywood. Light-skinned Black women are granted more visibility and often better roles that do not utilize the kind of misogynoiristic stereotypes that dark-skinned Black women are frequently limited to. This is especially limiting for older and/or fat Black women, who are at once recruited to play “Mammy” characters and also routinely mocked by Black men in drag and fat suits for “comedy.” One of the most significant aspects of this film is the celebration and normalization of seeing dark-skinned Black women front and center, as the heroes, the masterminds, and the love interests. Wakanda has been able to thrive untouched by white colonialism and its imperialist violences, its anti-Blackness, its body terrorism, and its gender violence through sexual and reproductive violations. White aesthetics and beauty standards are not dominant within its society, and therefore, it is Black aesthetic and beauty and African tradition which are respected. This is apparent in the presence of dark skin as well as in the abundance of natural Black hair and traditional African hairstyles. I cannot express how important it is for Black women and girls to see these things celebrated.
Dear non-Black Asian-Americans (and other non-Black folks), we have a real issue with appropriating AAVE, and it needs to stop. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English, and it refers to a distinct language—consisting of words, phrases, intonations, gestures, but also,