In Which I am Confused for a “Passing White” Person of Color

I have a strange story for you today. Remember I look like this:

It’s important.

A woman who is very popular with the teaching community online shared a graphic today that said “What do these words have in common? Tacos. “Namaste.” “Spirit Animal.” “Tribe.”

She was warning teachers to not display cultural themes in their classrooms. She said it was appropriation and had no room in the classroom. There were various arguments about how there is a difference between appropriation and appreciation or if you were of a certain race yourself (a young woman was Spanish and felt she could decorate her classroom with as many Spanish cultural items as she wished, thank you) what was “allowed.”

I understand where they were coming from but it was to the point where people said reading tents (teepee or non) in the classroom were tacky because the “indigenous students might get upset over the appropriation.” That they had to be careful with song choices for the other children (I assume children from other countries or possibly of other races…?) We have to decorate to make everyone comfortable and be careful to not represent the wrong things….

At this point I thought maybe people needed to realize that some of the things they were saying weren’t very PC even though it seems we like that was there overall goal. Some people were trying so hard to make sure that “we didn’t assume Spanish children wanted to listen to Spanish music or that black children only enjoyed rap.” (How about exposing them to all sorts of music? Ever think of that!?)

I mean I am one for celebrating all races and cultures, but saying we couldn’t celebrate any…? Because the comments got to that point…I should have just kept scrolling but then I couldn’t resist commenting.

I have some indigenous people’s in my background (Osage). I’ve hung art in my room before that I’ve enjoyed from who I consider, though a few generations ago, my people. I have in the past received grief over this. Being a white lady. If I even suggest my heritage without showing pictures of my grandfather, father or my sister I often get very angry remarks from students. I am white. I get that. But there were indigenous people in my family not to long ago. We still tell stories. If you told my dad he wasn’t Native American he would (and has) flipped his shit. He thinks the DNA testing is bullshit now because mine came back very low…on the indigenous peoples. (It’s because woman are XX and men are XY so some of his DNA did not translate to me cause I have lady parts. No really it’s true. I’ve got all the Italian from his mom but not so much native from his dad. But I digress)

(My sister is Beautiful and obviously got all of the indigenous genes.)

So I decide, based on this, to ask these ladies and gents what happens if you come across a white teacher with all of these things, and you find it’s a nod to his or her heritage? Like my indigenous art, let’s say a teacher’s classroom is filled with Spanish artifacts decor and what have you, because she is a third Iberian? What then? Do we just go forth guns blazing and talk about their cultural appropriation and all that? Would you believe them if they told you they were anything other than white? Would it even matter? What would you do then? How do you advise such a person decorate?

The reply, the only reply, was:

I really didn’t understand the comment. What is BIPOC? White passing…. wait what? What sort of mess is this noncommittal acknowledgment?

So I googled and I think she decided that I was the “I” in BIPOC, and therefore a person of color passing as white…. and I stopped because I don’t think I have the right to that label. Why did I need a racial label in order to answer my comment? This is an erroneous conclusion to be sure but I have to wonder if this polite shutdown is common. She obviously did not want to take the energy to comment.

As white people do we (and yes, I am aware that I am white) just champion causes one dimensionally? Cultural Appropriation IS bad. So that means we can’t have culture around our classrooms? I am like 1% North African. So not African really. So I can’t teach about Africa? You certainly wouldn’t say I could because my 1% makes me African! I cannot have a Djembe for my students to look at and play? So they can feel something and see something and connect to something from Africa. Do I need to have a higher percentage to be able to talk to my students about multi cultural music? I mean really?

I get not decorating your classroom in hokey shit. Let’s not go overboard. But why not fly all the flags, have world maps up, artifacts from all over the world and teach the children about other cultures? Why not?

If you paid the artisan from that specific country, did your research and actually taught why would that be bad? Why not use a sombrero from Mexico? Why not a drum from Africa? Because we’ve seen them too much they have less cultural significance?

I do know one thing. I am a pale pasty woman of multiple origins. I don’t even think I can say I am Native American any more, no matter who grew up on a reservation (grandfather supposedly). Labels are weird nowadays. Passing as white indeed.

I think we are both a little too pale, lol. (And we were such babies in this picture!)

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2 Comments

  1. jennygracespoetryandcreativewritingtechniques

    Thank you so much. All this “cultural appropriation” nonsense has gone way too far. I get not dressing up in a Kimono while visiting Tokyo or not wearing a sari when visiting Mumbai since I am neither of these groups, but I see nothing wrong with cultural sharing and enjoyment of each other’s cultures. Since time began, cultures have intermingled and shared. I have Mexican wall tapestries in my house because they are absolutely beautiful. I like to eat at Thai restaurants because I like Tum Yum soup (I am not sure if I spelled it right). Thing is I love different cultures and do not consider my enjoyment of it as “appropriation.” I fear that as people we are starting to retreat into into little groups separate and apart-this is not good. I wonder who is behind this agenda to build division rather than cooperation between us. Literally, we are one people-human-and if we cannot share and learn from each other then I fear what the future holds. It is as if there is a secret agenda to build division among us-and this is very concerning. Again, thank you. Please share your concerns. They are very relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. afternoonofsundries

      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate hearing what you had to say. I do feel that some group(s)is trying to promote division and that does not make us united in anyway. People should be heard and there is totally people misusing and exploiting other cultures. Knowing the difference between appreciation and exploitation is important.

      Like

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