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Clothing is not racist

6 Feb

I love ethnic wear. I love kimono as kimono, complete with obiage, inro and netsuke. I love the ritual of the tea ceremony.  I have to agree that its saddening to see the idea of cultural practices or clothing undergoing forced segregation, rather than celebrated. Its the raiment equivalent to being kept to the back of the bus, to keep only Asians wearing Asian garb.
And while I thought I was comfortable with my kimono until today, now I have questions. Is Gor slave wear to be foregone because it is suggestive of harems and female oppression, are Burton’s translated and sensuous Arabian Nights no longer to be part of our nights? Are Loli outfits now inappropriate because they originated in Japan, along with tiny top hats? If I had no ancestors who wore upper crust Victorian attire, is a silver-tipped walking stick disallowed?

Yes, blackface is as inappropriate as the movie White Chicks or any other entertainment that makes fun of a race or culture. It is never funny nor comedic to make fun of any race or group.  But sharing culture is not ‘making fun of’.  Forsaking harem pants because they are not western? I think that passes the limits of reasonability, and at that rate, everything in the world is racist if you use it and it doesn’t originate with your race assigned at birth. I cast off the idea of assigned races and cultures and vote in favor of celebrating cultures and sharing them.   Race is a cultural construct, and by god culture is a cultural construct and I will participate in Cinquo de Mayo if it speaks to me, and in support of new Americans who celebrate it. America is a stew of such amazing varieties of peoples that should rejoice in having so much to share with each other.  Different peoples are not to be divided into a bento box separating each dish so that your foods dont touch.  If Holi Day appeals to me rather than Hanukah, I will celebrate it. Do not force segregation on cultures by some misguided and strange view that only X culture can wear X culture clothes, and only Y culture can practice Y cultural traditions, and that X may not wear Y clothes without providing a vetted birth certificate to prove they have a birthright to do so.

Birthright?  My birthright is that I am human and we are all human.  Does anyone other than Piltdown man have a pure birthright to a culture?  How far back do we go before someone can claim a culture?  And how many generations of love and acceptance that produces mixed race children should we have before someone of that line can no longer claim a culture?  The culture-segragationists have not thought it through far enough, even in spite of their new and disparaging voices.  The culture-segragationists sneer at the thought we are equal and all human and wish to underline differences.

Shall you never eat sushi, oh white person?  Sushi is as fixed in Japanese culture as kimono.  Shall you never taste melt in your mouth Puerto Rican Pernil, oh Swedish-Wisconsonites?  Shall the Florida Seminoles never know the heavy comfort of an Irish fisherman’s sweater during a cold rain?   That is what the culture-segregationists would wish; that cultures can not be shared.   Shall you never wear a serape, sandals, a choli?  The culture-segragationists want to draw lines that keep cultures ‘pure’.   True, they do so out of a misguided wish to ‘protect’ cultures from each other.  But the world is a flattened place.  We speak one-on-one to others all over the world and become a world community.  Sharing is exactly where we should be.

I do not intend to wear only dashiki. I will wear the white people genes, and speak the English language, borrow from their music and their food and make my own way. And they can do the same because of the suddenly forgotten concept of ‘equality’.

Finally, with the barrage of questions that this new ‘to each culture must stay only their own culture’ concept raises, the final one becomes ‘Who can make these decisions for me?’  I have to trust that I’m the only one who is able to do so, because there are as many opinions as their are assholes in the world.  If I am not mocking, if you are not mocking, then eat your humus with relish, celebrate your sandals.  Point out that jeans are a Mediterranean invention and go back to dancing in your parka.

In short, of course there is a line of propriety that must be drawn when it becomes mockery, and then we can condemn the mocker for being rude and impolite. But any line must be reasonable and inclusive, not exclusive.  Lines segregate. Lines underline differences.  Take down the lines, take down the walls of the bento box and let your favors mix, and dance with each other on every holiday, in every manner of attire, with every person of every race, color, creed, religion, and do it as a celebration of the humanity of us all.

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