In light of the baby name discussion–what are your thoughts on baby names with no link to the parent(s)’s cultural/linguistic background? Like, is a white, non-Hindu couple naming their white, non-Hindu baby Krishna (because they like the name, the meaning, etc.) crossing a cultural appropriation line?
I know all you social justice warriors have been trained to salivate at the slightest whiff of cultural appropriation, but please, have some chill.
Not all cultural appropriation is bad. Some of it’s just worthy of a shoulder shrug, and some of it is actually good. There’s a trick here that I want you all to learn, and it involves a deep understanding of context. It requires that you analyze cultural appropriation from a situation based rather than a rules based perspective.
There are instances where a white, non-Hindu couple naming their white, non-Hindu baby Krishna isn’t as culturally appropriative as you might think. They could be Buddhist or Bahai, or if they’re Californians with super hippy parents, Krishna could very easily be a family name. Again, context is key.
Of course, they could also be thoughtless white trash fruitcakes with no personal connection to the name Krishna who simply couldn’t decide between Kesha and Kristy, so they decided to split the difference.
Odds are, a couple like the one you’re describing fall somewhere in the middle of this culturally appropriative spectrum. Maybe they’re assholes. Maybe they’re not. You have to look at each situation and make that call rather than apply a hard and fast set of rules.
Sometimes it’s easy. All those ignorant dirt squirrels who still wear native headdresses to Coachella are privileged little shits showing blatant disrespect for a culture that suffered a forgotten genocide. They’re fair game. The various on-stage appropriations of African-American and Asian culture by Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry are also fair game. That shit is exploitation, pure and simple.
Then again, sometimes it’s hard. I recently had a woman write to me privately about a dress she wanted to buy that was made in Nigeria and featured a fabric with a bold African print. She literally wanted me to give her permission to buy the dress for fear she was being culturally appropriate. I told her to chill, that yes, it was a skirt from Africa, but that it wasn’t traditional African dress. (I also fell in love with this piece from the same designer.) I mean, come on you guys. Blending of cultures is often a good thing, and that’s clearly one of those times.
When it comes to cultural appropriation, analyze the situation. Look for willful ignorance, thoughtless disrespect, or exploitation for profit. Those are the litmus tests for the ugly stuff that deserves to be called out. On the other hand, if what you’re seeing is a blending of cultures based on understanding, respect, and mutual benefit, then get your ‘one love’ on and let that shit go.