The Instigator
AbbytheRitter
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
blackkid
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Cultural Appropriation Should be Based on Intention Rather Than Race

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/19/2015 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,575 times Debate No: 75497
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (0)

 

AbbytheRitter

Pro

I will be arguing that adopting aspects of another culture is not inherently wrong based on the race of the individual in question, but rather of their intention in doing so.
I have seen people argue that, for example, a white person wearing a bindi or performing certain traditional religious customs are forms of cultural appropriation and are therefore inherently wrong.
I disagree. I believe it is not wrong for a white person to wear a bindi if they have studied and truly believe in the religious and spiritual traditions of the culture they are adopting it from, but it is wrong to wear a bindi simply because it is fashionable and for no other reason.

My argument is simply that we should not restrict the sharing of cultural traditions and practices based on race, but instead maintain an attitude of respect in cultural exchange. It is this respect that marks the distinction between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange.

For example,
A white person getting a Maori tattoo because they think it looks cool = cultural appropriation = wrong.
A white person getting a Maori tattoo because they have studied and contributed to Maori culture and society in some way and have been given permission to do so by an authority within said community = cultural exchange = perfectly acceptable.

Definitions:

Cultural appropriation - adopting and using aspects of another culture in an incorrect or out of context manner, especially if said culture considers doing so offensive or otherwise immoral.

Cultural exchange - different cultures sharing their traditions and practices with each other in a respectful and fulfilling manner.
blackkid

Con

First, there is a major contradiction where you specifically separate out the definition of cultural appropriation as follows:

"Cultural appropriation - adopting and using aspects of another culture in an incorrect or out of context manner, especially if said culture considers doing so offensive or otherwise immoral."

The question is whether this should be based on intention (intention to offend?) versus ethnic background (race) which is covered in the definition for cultural exchange. Despite the fact that the entire debate is inherently rigged as you can't argue with the definitions I've chosen to overlook this anyway.

--------

Cultural appropriation should not be based on intention, nor necessarily should cultural exchange, since exposure is required first to bring about an understanding of whether one should or should not begin the process of seeking to change and acclimate to that culture's ways to begin with. The simplest term for this is "Conversion" where in many cases philosophical ideals are expressed and then a party chooses to seek out that philosophical ideal and possibly engage in the cultural aspects surrounding that philosophy. The noteworthy element here however is that it is not intentional but rather somewhat by chance and curiosity which terminates the idea that it should be based on intention.

The second element relative to the discussion is passing judgment against those who are curious or seeking; for instance a "white person" wearing garb that is traditionally of another culture far from their own should indeed be scrutinized; I would say that there is a distinct difference between being aware and even wary of a person's sincerity versus being discriminatory against them on the grounds of the color of their skin or perceived sociological background. To substantiate this I would like to use your own example:

"A white person getting a Maori tattoo because they have studied and contributed to Maori culture and society in some way and have been given permission to do so by an authority within said community = cultural exchange = perfectly acceptable."

The notion that someone has to literally contribute to the culture and society and then be granted permission by an authority is by it's very nature absolutely discriminatory; who sets this bar and how high can it be set? Where is the regulation? If the official or authoritative powers that be simply by whim refuse to acknowledge the works of one person but then completely acknowledge the works of another even if equivalent what is to combat this? Ironically this solution which you call "Cultural Exchange" leaves the curios person at the mercy of literally an any-man team of persons who can project their own distrust as they see fit. A simple "I do not like you." is sufficient and without a truly centralized authority who can and will allow for repeals what can one do?

Instead one should be able to justify, rather than answer to, their choice for said tattoo or other instrument just as they do with anything else. Let merit, not whim, be the guiding force of cultural exchange; learning the language and helping the people should mean more than donating to the power's that be and gaining an honorary title.
Debate Round No. 1
AbbytheRitter

Pro

I fail to see how this debate is rigged or how my definitions are contradictory. I acknowledge the flaw in my example, but would like to point out it was merely an example, and that in the case of that specific example it is more appropriate. A true Maori tattoo given out of cultural exchange (as opposed to simply asking for one at a random tattoo parlour) would be given by someone who is well versed in Maori culture, and who would understand the sacred nature of these tattoos and the necessity not to hand them out to anyone who asks, and would therefore only give one to someone they deemed deserving. This is the basis on which I made my example.
Granted, I did not explain this very well, but I would like to point out to my opponent that I did not say an authority figure has to give permission for every single case.

In the case of the Maori tattoo, such an authority figure is inherent, as the artist of said tattoo would be the authority figure, being well-versed in Maori culture and traditions. If they are not, and are simply a normal tattoo artist who happens to offer Maori tattoos with no context or relevance to the original culture, then they have no business giving these sacred tattoos to simply anyone who asks. This would be cultural appropriation both on the part of the tattoo artist and anyone who recieves one from them.

I apologise for not explaining my example more clearly, but I also point out that I never said such an authority figure is inherent to all cases of cultural exchange.

What I am arguing against is the climate of political correctness that says it is inherently wrong for someone to adopt an aspect of a culture they were not born into, regardless of their reasons for doing so. I am arguing that it is okay to adopt such a thing if one does it out of respect for the culture, and does it in an appropriate and dignified way.
Allow me to provide a better example:

If a white person wears a bindi because they have studied and adopted the religious and spiritual traditions in which it is commonly used, this is not cultural appropriation and is therefore acceptable.
If a white person wears a Native American headdress as a party costume, this is cultural appropriation and therefore not acceptable, as said headdresses are sacred to Native American culture and are a mark of status. To adopt it as a party costume is to belittle the traditions behind it in a manner that could easily be compared to racism, as well as to imply that they have a certain high status within Native American society that they likely do not actually have.

When I say that defining cultural appropriation should be based on intention rather than race, what I mean (and what I have stated previously) is that we should not declare someone is appropriating another culture simply because they are a different race to the culture they are adopting, but that the judgement should be based on intention. If someone's intention is to adopt aspects of a culture they admire in a respectful and dignified way, it should not be considered cultural appropriation. If someone's intention is to adopt aspects of a culture they know little about in a mocking, comedic or disrespectful way, then it should be considered cultural appropriation. I apologise if this was not clear enough in my initial post.

With this in mind, I cannot see any points my opponent has made against my initial argument except taking an example I gave further than it was intended, which again I apologise for not being clear enough.

Simply put, my argument is that it is not morally wrong for someone to adopt an aspect of another culture just because they are a different race to the one that culture originated from. The morality of this action is dependent on the intention of the person adopting other cultural traditions, not inherently on their race.
blackkid

Con

"I fail to see how this debate is rigged or how my definitions are contradictory."

The definition you proposed is what you are also what you are trying to prove making it axiomatic, or in simple terms, circular logic. Using a different base for understanding purposes:

Claim: "Balls should be red instead of blue."
Argument: "Spheres that are red are just awesome."
Definition: "Balls are anything that are spherical."

These are all conjoined into themselves since the definition is equivalent to the argument which is making the question/claim out to be purely rhetorical in nature. But enough of the school lesson.

------

"A true Maori tattoo given out of cultural exchange (as opposed to simply asking for one at a random tattoo parlour) would be given by someone who is well versed in Maori culture, and who would understand the sacred nature of these tattoos and the necessity not to hand them out to anyone who asks, and would therefore only give one to someone they deemed deserving.", however you defined cultural appropriation as wrong:

"A white person getting a Maori tattoo because they think it looks cool = cultural appropriation = wrong."

I purposefully overlooked this because I am aware that's not actually what you mean since you continuously use a different term "[ Cultural Exchange ]" in order to justify the point which then undermines your own definition for cultural appropriation and terminates your own question. It is questionable then what you meant since you either allow for it or do not relative to cultural appropriation as you defined it. "Cultural appropriation - adopting and using aspects of another culture in an incorrect or out of context manner, especially if said culture considers doing so offensive or otherwise immoral." If you wish to change your argument to cite [Cultural Exchange] by all means do so. "Cultural Exchange should be based on intention rather than race." using your definitions simply makes more sense.

"Granted, I did not explain this very well, but I would like to point out to my opponent that I did not say an authority figure has to give permission for every single case. ", I am not responsible for assuming anything in your favor including what you "meant" to say.

"In the case of the Maori tattoo, such an authority figure is inherent, as the artist of said tattoo would be the authority figure, being well-versed in Maori culture and traditions. If they are not, and are simply a normal tattoo artist who happens to offer Maori tattoos with no context or relevance to the original culture, then they have no business giving these sacred tattoos to simply anyone who asks. This would be cultural appropriation both on the part of the tattoo artist and anyone who recieves one from them.", this however has a major flaw and that is that the tattoo, whether given by a shaman or a scallywag, is exactly the same and has the same inherent value to the tattooed person. What this means is that if one believes themselves deserving of the tattoo [ which is your "intention" criteria ] then they can have it. There's nothing actually stopping them from finding themselves worthy of it. The inverse would also be true; you cannot force someone into a tattoo just because you feel they deserve it as a reward even if the intentions of the recognizing party are good and in favor of the recognized.

"What I am arguing against is the climate of political correctness that says it is inherently wrong for someone to adopt an aspect of a culture they were not born into, regardless of their reasons for doing so. I am arguing that it is okay to adopt such a thing if one does it out of respect for the culture, and does it in an appropriate and dignified way." This is a massive departure from what you originally stated. It's close to "Shifting Goalposts" but dandy to me either way.

"Allow me to provide a better example:

... If a white person wears a Native American headdress as a party costume, this is cultural appropriation and therefore not acceptable, as said headdresses are sacred to Native American culture and are a mark of status. To adopt it as a party costume is to belittle the traditions behind it in a manner that could easily be compared to racism, as well as to imply that they have a certain high status within Native American society that they likely do not actually have." I want to consider your logic for a moment; if a person wears any uniform by which they do not have the "designated right" it could be considered cultural appropriation. Wouldn't a Native American in a tuxedo be the same? Tuxedos (http://www.wsj.com...) for instance are widespread formal wear but have a very real and designated purpose and history; they were not "made for everyone", but culture adapted, evolved, and soon no one thought for a moment on the matter. Wearing a WWJD ("What would Jesus do?" [http://www.todayifoundout.com...] ) bracelet has the same value. There have been many remakes of this bracelet and the phrase has been changed many times to fit cultural backdrops; was it "wrong"? One who cannot accept that culture is a living thing and gets upset that people dress up on Halloween, a social holiday most people recognize as a costumed one, is likely too sensitive to live in a melting pot society. Nothing is sacred; from the jeans and overalls no one minds to the many types of weather defensive wears people often utilize such as hats, caps, and other stylized or practical items including even types of shoes like moccasins versus clogs and boots.

"With this in mind, I cannot see any points my opponent has made against my initial argument except taking an example I gave further than it was intended, which again I apologise for not being clear enough." You changed your initial argument.

"Simply put, my argument is that it is not morally wrong for someone to adopt an aspect of another culture just because they are a different race to the one that culture originated from. The morality of this action is dependent on the intention of the person adopting other cultural traditions, not inherently on their race." This actually changes your original argument again.

It'd be nice if you just stated in one sentence what you mean. I mean honestly you state that it's not morally wrong to adopt an aspect of another culture based on race but then state that it i morally wrong to dress up in a Halloween costume and that it's racist and wrong to elect to, without knowing what a specific style means, utilize it. Henna and Mendhi (http://niralimagazine.com...) have spiritual and cultural meanings as well but is it wrong to simply want a temporary tattoo?

I believe Pro has stared too hard at the issue to see how unrealistic their argument is. For one they've not substantiated who or what gauges "intention" and then they've simply not substantiated their conditions; is it right in one light but wrong in another? Is it always wrong? To what extent is it wrong and where does cultural "claim" end? After all even crowns and rosaries and crosses fall under "specifically cultural artifacts" and these are incredibly common.
Debate Round No. 2
AbbytheRitter

Pro

I have not shifted my argument. My argument has always been that your race isn't what defines cultural appropriation.

I have since the beginning been consistent in my argument, and have stated numerous times that it is intention rather than race that defines cultural appropriation, and have stuck to this.

Con has essentially contributed nothing to the issue in question. Every point con has made has been taking something I said out of context, or exaggerating a point I made to illogical conclusions, and furthermore, con is far more interested doing such things than actually contributing anything to the position of con.

My opponent has still not made a single point to argue against intention being more important than race in defining cultural appropriation, instead preferring simply to take parts of my argument out of context without contributing one of his/her own. Con has tried to dismantle my argument, and yet has not even attempted to explained why intention isn't more important than race.

For example, your argument that tuxedos are cultural appropriation does not follow the same logic as my argument. Tuxedos are standard formal wear in many countries worldwide, they do NOT have sacred religious/spiritual traditions surrounding their usage.
Your argument that a Maori tattoo can be given to anyone because it looks the same and has the same significance to the person recieving it completely ignores the very reason the Maori people are so protective of these tattoos. These symbols were not just pretty pictures they painted on their faces, they were status symbols, marks of considerable prowess and honour bestowed as badges of honour and skill.
Getting a Maori tattoo just because it looks pretty without earning it is like sewing sergeant stripes onto your clothes or going out wearing fake military medals without ever having served in the armed forces, just because you think they look nice. It is taking something that is sacred, that has a proud historical tradition, and that is supposed to be preserved and only given to those considered truly deserving of it, and turning it into a fashion statement.

This is the context my opponent has taken my arguments out of. My opponent ignores cultural and religious significance of such items, and the context of their usage within those cultures. The tuxedo is not a mark of anything except wealth. It does not denote authority, rank or spirituality in the same way a Native American headdress does, and is not unique or sacred to any particular culture.

As for my "rigged" definition of cultural appropriation, I would like to point out that my definitions do not in fact state what I am trying to prove.
My definition of cultural appropriation was "adopting and using aspects of another culture in an incorrect or out of context manner, especially if said culture considers doing so offensive or otherwise immoral."
This does not outright state that cultural appropriation is defined by the intentions of the individual, as many could (and indeed do) consider it incorrect and offensive to adopt aspects of another culture at all, regardless of intention.

As the debate is about to conclude, I would like to finish by asking my opponent this simple question - what actually is your argument? Did you accept the position of con because you believe race is more important than intention in defining cultural appropriation? If so, why have you not argued that point at all? If not, why did you accept this debate at all?
blackkid

Con

"I have not shifted my argument. My argument has always been that your race isn't what defines cultural appropriation." However if you created the definition for cultural appropriation for the debate then that's a given. You cannot discuss a definition that is axiomatic.

"Con has essentially contributed nothing to the issue in question. Every point con has made has been taking something I said out of context, or exaggerating a point I made to illogical conclusions, and furthermore, con is far more interested doing such things than actually contributing anything to the position of con." I take no responsibility for poorly phrased idealization. Pro even admits themselves that their example was poorly phrased and does not show the lingual skill required to fully express the ideas they seek to. Even with an axiomatic debate rigged in their favor they cannot back up their own assertions or reasoning adequately.

"My opponent has still not made a single point to argue against intention being more important than race in defining cultural appropriation, instead preferring simply to take parts of my argument out of context without contributing one of his/her own. Con has tried to dismantle my argument, and yet has not even attempted to explained why intention isn't more important than race." Due to a lack of division between A) malicious intent, and B) defined confines, there's really no argument to counter. Asking questions for clarity was most of the debate and what little that could be said was based on the assumptions required to complete Pro's statements such as Pro's latter clarification against the status of always requiring recognition from a high ranking member of any given society for validity.

"For example, your argument that tuxedos are cultural appropriation does not follow the same logic as my argument. Tuxedos are standard formal wear in many countries worldwide, they do NOT have sacred religious/spiritual traditions surrounding their usage." This is a prime example of what I mean by a lack of clarification; if the focus is entirely on spiritual and ignores traditional elements or cultural value then that is again a major shift in the argumentation. It was never stated and as Con it is not my place to ever assume therefore the safest assumption is that it would be any exclusive proposition. No one culture for instance has ownership of any given fashion item therefore this brings to question whether those who have these traditions that are not spiritual etc. are being inappropriate under this definition by not yielding, even with knowledge of the value to another group, the tradition.

Regardless the value of the Tuxedo argument is actually indispensable; like many exclusive items it was taken and popularized regardless of the intentions of those who created it and in turn in the globalization of the world at large there is nothing that is beyond such. From finding Japanese shrines in Great Britain to seeing McDonald's China there is no reason why any "sacred" symbol would evade the global market. Ancient symbols on the American dollar or holy symbols used in stylized fashion and Grecian gods in popular movies are all "sacrilegious" yet no one argues for or against them.

"Your argument that a Maori tattoo can be given to anyone because it looks the same and has the same significance to the person recieving it completely ignores the very reason the Maori people are so protective of these tattoos. These symbols were not just pretty pictures they painted on their faces, they were status symbols, marks of considerable prowess and honour bestowed as badges of honour and skill." The argument is that simply put the value of an item, sacred or otherwise, tattoo or not, exclusive or popular all lie within the owner and no one else. There were many status symbols of the past that are common now, many ideas and philosophies, even worse than just mere designs, have been taken and twisted into horrendous monstrosities of their former selves. Yet culture evolves and therefore there is no reason to presume that this will not continue.

"Getting a Maori tattoo just because it looks pretty without earning it is like sewing sergeant stripes onto your clothes or going out wearing fake military medals without ever having served in the armed forces, just because you think they look nice." Which people do all the time; so long as it doesn't infringe on the law via impersonation it's not at all illegal or even surprising or unheard of. This is a giant argument of emotion but has no classical validity to back it.

"This is the context my opponent has taken my arguments out of." You never even put them in.

Regardless this an argument from emotion through and through. There's naught else to say. May the cards fall however.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by blackkid 1 year ago
blackkid
Woo, tie!
Posted by AbbytheRitter 2 years ago
AbbytheRitter
Thank you, cathaystewie for your comments. I must say that you've made me realise the biggest flaw in this debate, which is that the debate entirely hinges on subjective interpretations of morality. I suppose I should have realised that just because I think it's wrong to take sacred, highly regarded aspects from other cultures and commercialise and mock them does not necessarily mean everyone thinks so.
Posted by cathaystewie 2 years ago
cathaystewie
It must be noted that culture isn't all about its value and artistic merit, it's also about functionality in the real world.

Which brings me neatly onto my final point. I don't believe either party has analysed the nature of culture. The idea has been tossed back and forth that it is morally wrong to endorse a culture at its shallowest form without understanding it fully (e.g. the Maori tattoos), and that notion seems to have been accepted down the bench unchallenged. One must remember that culture in itself cannot be offended or disrespected as it has no intrinsic consciousness, and hence neither intention nor race will work. Therefore, another yardstick must be chosen to draw the line between cultural respect and cultural appropriation. I feel that that yardstick should be the general consensus of those who are considered to be members of said culture. The benefit of this yardstick is that it accounts for the variation of attitudes different cultures have towards foreign acceptance.

For example, a non-Chinese person celebrating Chinese New Year can be seen as cultural appropriation if those who observe Chinese culture see it as offensive. It can also be seen as cultural appreciation if those who observe Chinese culture view it in a positive light.

In broad terms, the Chinese are a lot more willing to share their cultural treasures with the outside world due to the Chinese diaspora as well as China's current state of rapidly establishing diplomatic ties for economic development. This can be contrasted with European cultures who tend to take on a more conservative approach in terms of expanding their cultural influence, as they perceive it to be an entity of national and personal identity.

I offer my apologies if the points I have stated in my two comments have been addressed in the debate as I did not have much time to read it. Once again, I'd like to commend both debaters for such an intense and fruitful debate.

Thanks! :)
Posted by cathaystewie 2 years ago
cathaystewie
Hi all,

I'd just like to say that this is one of the most thorough and professional debates I've seen in a long time, whether it be on this site or debate in general.

I have some comments for the PRO case. You mentioned the example of the use of Native American headdresses as a party costume and classified that as cultural appropriation. You then immediately moved onto stating that the reason for such a classification is because the culture and its values are being 'disrespected' and 'mocked'. However, a correlation has never been made connecting these two claims.

To phrase my point in a different way: why is it disrespectful of me as someone who has little insight into Native American culture to wear a Native American hat to a party? Most people will consider aesthetics as their primary concern when it comes to choosing what to wear, instead of the cultural implications behind what they're wearing. If one's attire is heavily based on cultural appreciation, then a person with no knowledge of a certain culture wearing said culture's attire is something that can be deemed 'disrespectful', but we see that this is not the case for the majority of people.

Another point is that PRO fails to realise that we live in a rapidly globalising world, and it is inevitable that we come into contact with cultures that we do not know much about. No one has the ability and/or time to familiarise themselves with multiple cultures, and I do not see why they should be burdened with the obligation to do. If I eat a Chinese meal without understanding every aspect of Chinese culture, does that make me an uncultured swine? If I listen to classical music for its auditory beauty without knowing the cultures of Germany and Austria, am I then being culturally insensitive? PRO has to acknowledge that their stringent rules to what is offensive and what is not is simply impractical in today's society. (continue in next comment)
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