February 29th, 2024
L&T Opinions Page

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Last weekend, Liberal celebrated Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that has become more of a party than a historic reference to a battle between the Mexican army and French forces in 1862. No, this is not Mexican Independence Day. That is celebrated Sept. 16 and refers back to the revolt against Spanish control in 1810.

May 5 is more of a day of celebrating Mexican culture with dances, parades and food.

It would not be surprising to see people other than Mexicans wearing sombreros or learning a traditional Mexican dance, or even taking a shot at a pinata in and around Liberal.

We enjoy the celebration as a sign of acceptance and part of the great melting pot of American culture.

On St. Patrick’s Day, we all wear something green even though many of us might not know that the first color associated with Ireland was blue.

When it comes down to it, all of our traditions except the Fourth of July came from somewhere else.

Christmas trees originated in Germany. Decorating eggs dates back to Africa and Iran from several thousand years ago.

America’s culture is a blending of multiple cultures across the globe from all the different people who made their way to the United States.

For the most part, this has been a common thread as we enjoy each other’s food, traditions and clothing styles, and making it an extension of what it means to be American.

In many cases, there has been an additional American twist added.

For example, the fortune cookie may be served with Chinese food, but it was actually invented in California.

Recently in Utah, a girl named Keziah Daum wore a Chinese-style dress to prom, and instead of this being celebrated as another example where cultures have been embraced, some decided to ridicule the move, calling it cultural appropriation.

The young lady was called everything from a racist to ignorant and insensitive of other cultures and basically told by those who believe their opinions to be superior to all others that she had no right to wear the dress she loved and purchased.

The term being used to play the race card with someone who embraces another race is now called cultural appropriation.

There are times when other cultures are being victimized. If someone goes to a third world country, learns authentic recipes from someone else and comes back to a first-world country and sells the recipe as their own, that is theft, pure and simple.

That is not what we are talking about here.

The determining factor that makes cultural appropriation wrong is whether or not it is being done by a dominant culture over a minority culture in an imperialistic way.

The question, then, is whether or not America is an imperialistic nation.

Since we have not acquired territory in a century and have actually reduced our footprint in nations where we have had a military presence, the answer would be no, we are not imperialistic, and especially not imperialistic when it comes to China.

America is, and should be, a combination of cultures, and it should be a two-way street. While we may have strong European traditions, adopting other cultures is not stealing from those cultures, it is embracing them.

But there are some who abuse cultural appropriation as limiting European descendants from sharing any other culture.

If I had worn a sombrero this weekend in Liberal, most people would have been happy to see the acceptance of the Mexican culture. But one or two might have made the claim that I had no right to wear it.

There may be the possibility that someone wears a sacred cultural outfit inappropriately, but that is a learning opportunity, not a time to condemn or claim intellectual superiority.

And through the education, we all become the better for it, and we show the tolerance and understanding of our storied past that has embraced people from all corners of the planet.

According to the old adage, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, and if we are imitating other cultures either in what we eat, how we dress or how we celebrate, anyone should see these as an attempt to accept others. But if you want to be a part of America, you can’t come experience the freedom and believe you can be a separate culture within the culture, and you can’t tell others they have no right to share in the diverse cultural background that makes us one people.

When you seek to be a part of America, you are choosing to embrace the culture and to have it embrace yours.

Somewhere along the line, we have chosen to be offended at all costs, and the mainstream media seeks out those who are easily offended and gives them a destructive, divisive voice.

It’s a no-win situation. You are either a bigot for ignoring others or a bigot for accepting them.

GUEST COLUMN, Kim Baldwin, Kansas Farm Bureau


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