" Everyone gets offended by everything these days." It's a popular sentiment -- one that I don't entirely disagree with either. But can we have a discussion about expressing this notion in response to something that people should find offense to?
Being offended/claiming offense is often all relative, which leads to a lot of offense being had! We all have our own sensitivities and awarenesses of what may or may not be appropriate, or insensitive, for that matter. This commonly leads to the offender taking on the role of the victim ("it's not fair... it's just a joke! I shouldn't have to take responsibility for my part in it, waaaah.") and the offended being left out hung to dry. I mean, if we're not personally offended by something, no one else is allowed to be either. It's not convenient for us if someone else is offended by what we choose to do or want to do, or make fun of. Duh.
A prime, relevant example takes us to Halloween, and adults dressing up as Native Americans because it's "a cool costume." Native Americans, who are, by the way, being oppressed, numbered, and thrown into prison regarding their protests to an oil pipeline that would run under their main water source, and through some sacred ground.
It's no secret Native Americans have been, and are getting the fucking shaft by the U.S. government since the days of Columbus, but that's not for us to care about, right? It's not our problem. In fact, we don't think about them at all, aren't even aware of what's going on in North Dakota (whether it's because it's getting shoddy media coverage or because we don't care to make time to read an article about it when it does cross our newsfeed), do nothing to support them and their current plight; but we damn well want -- and will fight --for our right to dress up as a "sexy Indian" on Halloween -- and fuck anyone who tells us this might be insensitive, amirite!??!
It may seem insignificant. You may be thinking, but it's a beautiful headdress and I like Native Americans, and it's a cool costume! Well, I guess that's great, for one day of the year to pretend you're a Native American, without actually having to experience their suffering, doing nothing to educate yourself on what it actually means to be, and live like, a Native American in the U.S., and probably doing little, if not nothing, to support their constant battle for their lands being taken and pilfered by the government.
This leads us to a larger conversation regarding cultural appropriation. Never heard of it? As a white gal I've only become familiar with it in recent years myself, so I'm not surprised. I was ignorant to the entire concept... the very existence of what CA means. Now, before we go further... if someone implies that you are ignorant, it's not always an insult as much as a statement. There's a big difference between ignorance and willful ignorance. We are all ignorant in one way, shape or form, to a variety of things --- but what is important is that we constantly work to educate ourselves and expand our understanding. Getting mad, defensive or offended because you don't understand, or haven't tried to, isn't benefitting you, or anyone else for that matter. There's that word again- offended! See how that works? You're offended that someone was offended by something you did which could have been interpreted as offensive. And then you complain about people getting easily offended. Whew, I'm exhausted. Again, we're not talking about a difference on opinion regarding the superiority of pie to cake, just to be clear. Anyway, if you find yourself in this position, be like Chris Hemsworth.
What is cultural appropriation you ask?!
"“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
In the United States, cultural appropriation almost always involves members of the dominant culture (or those who identify with it) “borrowing” from the cultures of minority groups. African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and indigenous peoples generally tend to emerge as the groups targeted for cultural appropriation. Black music and dance, Native American fashions, decorations and cultural symbols and Asian martial arts and dress have all fallen prey to cultural appropriation."
The sentence I've bolded leads us to another fun topic: white privilege! But wait... white privilege doesn't exist. It's not fair to tell me I'm privileged! I had to go to school and get good grades like everyone else. And I have to work to pay my bills! I'm not privileged! (Is this what you're thinking?) Accepting that white privilege is real is not an affront or disservice to you (if you're white, obviously). It's acknowledging the privileges that have been afforded to you as a member of the dominant race in this country. To deny that there isn't a set of privilege that comes with that, whether or not you feel you haven't actively "taken advantage of" this privilege, is ignorant. Again, that's not an insult. It's a statement.
It's one thing to be a five-year-old dressing up as his favorite character... it's another thing entirely to be an adult and play pretend with another's culture you want to adapt and benefit from, for one night, and then return to your normal, privileged life having done nothing to actually help or support that culture -- other than using that culture's wardrobe for your Facebook Profile photo.
*Edited to add: I don't think you're a bad person if you've dressed up as a Native American... and I doubt (for most of you) that you're racist, or that your intentions were cruel. I'm in my 30s and am just learning about half this shit, but, I thought I'd provide you with some food for thought. It's worth at least attempting to understand why there's a reaction, and I don't think, in this case, it can be simplified to "everyone gets too easily offended these days."