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.
Chinese medicine is such an important part of my life and my identity, so when I see it become a white people trend, I immediately have a lot of questions.By Sally Yue Lin “Have you tried acupuncture yet?” I overheard one white girl asking another. Frowning skeptically, I thought to myself: first they come for our food and now our medicines too? For someone like me, a Han Chinese woman who grew up with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the increasing trendiness of some TCM practices—such as acupuncture—makes me uncomfortable and concerned. When I was a little girl, my mother would feed me candies between sips of Kam Wo tea to coax me into drinking the bitter medicine. My pópó would rub my forehead tenderly with Tiger Balm when I had a headache. Of course, we did use Western medicine—such as birth control and immunizations—but only when absolutely necessary. In the past few years, TCM has become more popular with non-Asians across North America, which makes me worried that it is becoming commodified in a similar way as yoga. If so, who is telling the stories behind this ancient tradition and who gets to make money off it? For example, the increasing popularity of the cupping technique among swim bros and white celebrities is intriguing for many white people who view it as an odd curiosity to gawk at. These articles may be well-intentioned and the readers genuinely curious, but they still Other those of us who have been using cupping for generations. It shows how many non-Asian clients see TCM as an exoticized alternative to their sterile and familiar Western medicine. But for us Asians, these practices that we grew up with are often what we are most comfortable with. Herbal teas and Tiger Balm are what we turn to when we are feeling unwell; their taste and scents carry deep emotional meanings, family stories, and connections to our cultures’ philosophical and religious beliefs. Chinese medicine is such an important part of my life and my identity, so when I see it become a White people trend, I immediately have a lot of questions. Let’s first look at who gets to tell these stories. The schools that offer “Oriental Medicine” degrees often employ white teachers and practitioners. Are these really the right people to be sharing the historical, religious, philosophical basis of TCM with their predominantly white students? Asians have to work harder in white spaces to prove our abilities, so why shouldn’t white people have to work harder in Asian spaces to prove their credibility? We must challenge these white TCM teachers practitioners and test their worth in order to keep them accountable. We need to be protective of our medicinal heritage and be cautious of white people who want to “discover” these practices and claim it as their own, just because they find it “interesting”.
"Good" white people uphold and support white supremacy because they are unwilling to see their own roles within systemic racism.Back on the tail end of 2016 I wrote a status update on Facebook which read something to the effect of, “When POC speak on genocide they are talking about subjugation and murder. When white people talk about genocide they are talking about mixed babies.” This is, of course, a reference to the idea of “white genocide” as discussed in white nationalist circles. My white friends — who are not white nationalists — were pissed. The thread turned into 200+ comments deep of mostly white people defending that they don’t mean that when they talk about white genocide, that the status was offensive — but what about my individual marginalization? Even though I stressed that I was speaking about white nationalists, all of these people could not get over how offended they were and spent all night literally #notallwhitepeople-ing on my page. And this is the story about why I never wrote about “white genocide” or how the offense of “good white people” helps to silence the voices of marginalized POC. That violent pushback against the concept, that was aired in my own space with people who I knew, had garnered such hate and vitriol that the idea of writing a full piece to educate people — knowing that backlash from people who did not know me would be much worse — was too much. The idea of the comments that would be to sent me and knowing that I would be facing it alone wasn’t something that I was willing to put my mental health through. So I didn’t write it. I stayed silent. In 2018 the concept of white genocide as a racist dog whistle is much more well-known. It has seen some coverage in big-name outlets and none of the people who were upset with me for my comment then would be so now because they are more familiar with it. But consider how much time that the concept had to grow and fester because there was no coverage a year or two ago. I’m not a huge voice but I am a voice and white offense silenced me.
American Horror Story: Cult doesn’t give justice to the American horror story that is being a QTPOC.By Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins American Horror Story is in its seventh season and like many television shows, the writers have opted to use elements of art to make a social statement about the political mess that we are currently experiencing in the U.S.. This season, the show decided to focus on a middle American family with two white queer women named Ally (Sara Paulson) and Ivy (Alison Pill), a married couple with a young son name Oz (Cooper Dodson). Ally suffers from several phobias and her world begins to crumble after learning that Trump was elected as President. This begins to cause strain on her relationship with her partner as several of Ally’s phobias begin to take over day-to-day life, specifically her fear of clowns as Ally begins to believe that clowns are not only stalking her and her family, but killing several of her friends and neighbors on their street. Just four episodes in, the show has addressed several issues connected to the culture that Trump’s presidency has exacerbated or inspired: including racism, homophobia and advocacy. The show has addressed several topics related to the fear that many marginalized people face. By validating Ally’s fears, this season's theme opens up a great conversation about how her phobias were heightened after the the announcement of Trump’s presidency. Meanwhile, queer/trans people of color have faced these fears for decades. Since the late 1960s, QTPOC have lived in fear. From the attacks on Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera during Stonewall riots, to the attacks on Bayard Rustin during the civil rights movement, QTPOC have lived in a world knowing that almost everyone hates or fears them. The statistics only prove this to be true, specifically with trans women of color. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the majority of hate violence happened to transgender women. 2016 marked the deadliest year for trans women of color, with 27 deaths being reported and that did not include deaths that were not reported or cases where the person was misgendered. 2017 is proving to be no different, as there have been 22 reported death of trans individuals, with one already being reported in the last month.