"Hapa," the term many mixed race Asian Americans embrace as their own is under attack. Myriad social media accounts are casting its use as "cultural appropriation." In more hostile examples, some assert it is a subtle form of colonization, evoking the cultural genocide inflicted upon Native Hawaiians for generations, by Whites and Asians alike. It is a term that evokes colonial "divide and conquer;" it is theft. So they say.
I don’t use the term myself; I don’t particularly relate to it. But I’m paying close attention to this “debate.” And the reason I have debate in parens is that social media has yet to hear the other side.
Who is going to stand up for “Hapa?” Is there enough behind “Hapa” as an I.D. that those who used to use it, that those who sometimes use it will publicly defend it?
In Wei Ming-Dariotis’ 2007 article The Word of Power, she says: “Native Hawaiians have never colonized anyone.” This is a widely cited article in the “debate.” It is a good read, though that particular statement is terribly shaky. Any visit to a Hawaiian museum, or a Maori cultural center will clearly show how proud any and all of the Polynesian peoples are of their nautical heritage. The Hokule’a and other outrigger boats were hugely advanced for their time; coupled with advanced skills in wayfinding, navigation and seamanship the Polynesians had no trouble populating the Western and South Pacific- a long time ago. There is a distinct “warrior” heritage, differing slightly from Island group to Island group, but exemplified in the Maori “Haka.” The historical narrative in the United States of the Hawaiian peoples is that they were powerless. But ask a Melanesian. Ask an islander from an island group who was displaced by Polynesian naval power. They might suggest, in fact, the Hawaiian peoples represent Polynesian conquest. Most of them do not exist anymore- and the story is more complicated than we might think.
Is any non-Hawaiian use of “Hapa”“cultural appropriation?” That seems to go too far. Does intent matter? That people might use it as a term of endearment- does that change things? History is complicated, language is complicated. If you think it is worth fighting for- if “hapa” means something to you, why would you fold on the basis of a single interpretation? Is there a real debate to be had?
I understand where you’re coming from, but I will ask that you refrain from cursing in your messages to me. This page is not the forum for this, and if you’re going to bring this topic to the table, which is perfectly fine, I ask that you met me at my level please.
If you want to talk further, you can come off of anon and message me using your tumblr, otherwise, I’m going to have to refrain from messaging me further.
May I ask if you, yourself, are Asian? If so, then I’d love to continue the conversation so I can better understand your perspective.
Saying you don’t get to decide your nickname, is the most idiotic thing I’ve heard. Its not disrespectful unless your spitting on the culture. That’s like telling an author if they aren’t the culture there writing about, then they can’t write the book. People who aren’t black, can’t listen to rap. People who aren’t Mexican, can’t cook Mexican food (its disrespectful). I’m sure the Anon enjoys things that aren’t in there culture either, so its not up to them either to tell you what you can and can not do.
my name is Hebrew. Am I Jewish? Nope.
My sister’s name is Greek. She’s not Greek.
I have my name in kanji that was chosen by my Japanese friends, and yet I am not Japanese. They wanted to and were excite to help me write my name in Japanese. (It uses the kanji for “shiny” and “America” if anyone is curious.)
Yes, cultural appropriation is wrong. However, names come from all sorts of cultures.If we were limited to choosing only names related to our heritage, I’d be one of like 400 Biancas in our family.
Some comments on “Cultural Appropriation:”
Here is a quotation from the Tumblr “My Culture Is Not A Trend:”
(The Post was “On Reverse Cultural Appropriation”)
I just wanted to say that things are not black and white, and things such as cultural appropriation cannot happen horizontally when power is not distributed horizontally. When we see, for example, “black people wearing business suits” vs let’s say, hipsters wearing headresses, there is a different context and a different meaning that is being produced. We need to look back at history, to context, to culture, to ideology, and to power to really understand what these things are communicating.
My take: “Cultural Appropriation" is a non-starter because everything is/was appropriated. That Tumblr is one massive appropriation, giving a wink here to the source material, or a hat tip there to the author or photographer- shouldn’t be lost on the OP. We cut and paste; we live a "hip-hop," remix lifestyle. And there are examples of this fundamental human behavior throughout history. It has always been the case- some civilizations just masked it better than others. Furthermore, because we cannot always identify the source of the "appropriation," what right do we have to judge, after the fact? After all, the act of appropriation could just as easily have benefitted the appropriated. Likewise, the appropriation might have also weakened the appropriator. Did Japan “appropriate” Kanji (漢字) characters from China? Well, yes and no. The Chinese probably wanted to use culture as a means to regulate and shape its sphere of influence, and probably were more than flattered that Japanese adopted Kanji, because China cemented a standard. It was VHS suppressing Betamax in the effort to be the default standard. Did Japan benefit: absolutely, yes. Primarily, it gave its poets and authors a much wider readership (the same reason a German scholar wants to publish her dissertation in English today). Nonetheless, were there other side effects? Did China play Japan? Did Japan, by borrowing from China enable it to leapfrog a couple centuries? Did Japan play China? That is for you to speculate.
Celebrities, for example, seem to hate the paparazzi for taking their photos, but they also love them for taking their photos. It depends on the context. Sure, leaving the clinic after surgery they don’t want the photo taken. Topless on a yacht in Antibes they don’t want that photo taken… But wait, maybe they do? Maybe the yacht is strategically anchored in range of an 800mm telephoto lens. Maybe the paparazzi thinks he is getting this amazing shot- but really he is getting played by a celeb looking for an “authentic” means to broadcast a brand new set of iron buns and abs. Who is appropriating whom? More importantly: who cares?
But there is Cultural MIS-appropriation, and that has two forms:
My definition of douchebag: a jerk who thinks he is endearing.
My definition of asshole: a jerk that knows he is a jerk and doesn’t care.
Douchebag Cultural MIS-Appropriation is benign. It is the hipster “appropriating” an Indian Headdress. He or she is a conscientious person; but somehow what is cute or ironic to them just strikes the wrong notes with others. Be nice to them. They are douchey, but talk to them nicely. Give them a chance to tell them about your views on Cultural MIS-Appropriation. Best of all, give them a face-saving means to back down.
Asshole Cultural MIS-Appropriation is malignant. It is Daniel Snyder, the NFL owner, not giving a f*** about what others think. In fact, it is more hostile than that- someone trying to dream up data, and opinion polls to shape a narrative. “Redskins” may not have been offensive enough in “99 when the last Patent issue arose- but today it is. This is Asshole Cultural MIS-Appropriation. It is baldfaced. But the bigger crime is that it is unsophisticated. There is no talking nice to the assholes. Keep the high road, but pressure them. Relentlessly vote with your wallet against them. It is useless to appeal to their good graces- appeal to their self-interest- that it is going to cost them in $$$, in licensing, attendance, merchandise, TV revenue, player signings, etc.
Know which of the two types of misappropriation you are dealing with- and tailor your response.
Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you - don’t bother meYohji Yamamoto (via never2lat3)
I don’t need to be inspired because I am Asian. Half Chinese. Hence my middle name being Kwong…
These photographs (photographer unknown) are from an exhibit at the 2009 Tong Tong Festival in Den Haag, Holland. The idea was to peek into the living spaces of contemporary Indos, that is line of people descended from Indo-Dutch heritage who once resided in The Dutch East Indies, pretty much all of whom now live in Holland, gleaning what we can.
For more, see here