Do people confuse Indians with Arabs?


CONTRA: Solidarity instead of saris

You can also have fun without hurting others. Our white author Eva Hoffmann believes that cultural appropriation is 17th century.

You might stumble upon the word "white" up there. With you I mean a person who, like me, is not used to naming their skin color. A white person. Which is never asked about its origin. And who can feel addressed hereby.

It's the year 2016 and you want to celebrate how you want. I understand. You like to cook with spices beyond the salt-pepper axis. Also understandable. You want to stand out in terms of style. Go ahead. But do you really need feather headdresses for that? Do you have to advertise your food as "oriental" and crochet your hair into felt noodles? The desperate pursuit of individuality by means of an ethnic label has a name: cultural appropriation.

Individuality doesn't need an ethnic label

First of all, that means something like: I take something from someone else without asking, and use it for my own profit in a completely different way. It is therefore a hierarchical practice and, in the case of cultural appropriation, also a racist one: the ethno-romantic view removes few elements of a culture from their “typical” characteristics. Without those to whom these symbols mean something, having a say. In this way, entire groups are reduced to a few characteristics at the same time. The sari, for example, becomes a stereotypical placeholder for the Hinduism or all of India.

Speaking of India: at the Holi Festival, thousands of teenagers throw colored powder at each other to the sound of techno. An Instagram spectacle. In India, the festival marks a holy time in which social barriers such as gender and social status are lifted and in which people throw previously consecrated colors at each other. In this country, religious piety is rather meager: Although several Indian communities spoke out against holding the festival as a "happening", there is now the Ethno Love Parade in every town. Essential for the success of cultural appropriation: It is essential to ignore criticism from those affected.

The ignorance of the original potato

Will we still be able to celebrate? You are certainly white when you say something like that. Statements such as "The color of the skin does not matter to me" also come mostly from whites. Only they can afford it. Whiteness always went hand in hand with a self-image of progress, modernity and superiority. And from this position is defined until today. We whites borrow from all “others” what we ascribe to them as particularly original: the masks, the feathers, the spices. A bit of exoticism for our bland existence.

With your culture costume you are continuing this colonial tradition of attribution. Colonizers called the hair of the slaves "Dreadful", which was matted from work and imprisonment, but which also represented a deliberate demarcation from the ideal of beauty of the British upper class. With the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the Rastafarian movement, dreads became the emancipatory symbol of black people. As a white person, you could just stop claiming this symbolism.

In Wikipedia, “Indian” is classified as a colonial foreign name that is rejected by the members of the societies it refers to. Then why is there still “Indian food” at festivals? Although the Native Americans were almost exterminated, although survivors were not allowed to vote in the United States until the 1960s and were not allowed to wear their feather headdresses in public for centuries. And you dance through the festival with cheap plastic mock-ups of these insignia. It is a question of solidarity to pick the feathers out of your felt hair at this point.

Style is always political

Small privilege check: Have you never been a victim of racism yourself? Can you choose when to end the exotic? Anyone who does not pass as original potatoes in the so-called majority society cannot do that. By the way: Even Otfried Preußler's little witch has long since said goodbye to her racist language. When are you moving? The year is 2016. And cultural appropriation is still colonial time.

Eva Hoffmann writes for the magazine “Jetzt“ and lives in Vienna. Her studies in Freiburg were characterized by a lot of sausage hair and the highest density of ethnic shops in Germany.