Segregation and Appropriation

People self-segregate because it’s a natural reaction to one’s material and non-material culture.  World views, mindsets, race, class, sexual orientation, and more have always been the basis for human self-segregation.  When a group of people share common interests and values, the tendency is to self-segregate.  Another way to describe this behavior is to say that people form cliques.

Don’t just take my word on this.  Sociology researchers Siwei Cheng and Yu Xie at the University of Michigan conducted a study that proved that when choosing friends, humans usually establish close friendships with those of a similar racial background.  It’s just how we are regardless of our ethnicity.

What does this mean when it comes to cultural appropriation?

It means that we, as humans, have created a situation where none of us can win.  If we keep to ourselves and reject all cultural appropriation, we are segregationists.  If we blend other cultures into our own, we are integrationists and guilty of cultural appropriation.

That’s quite the kettle of fish, wouldn’t you say?

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Kettle of fish is an idiom that originated in Britain and dates back to 1735.

If we are not completely segregationist (which is offensive to society), we are guilty of cultural appropriation (which is offensive to society).  In many respects, the situation is not unlike the oft-quoted double-edged question for which there is no answer, “Do you still beat your wife and children?”

Perhaps the answer is in adhering to a set of guidelines that clearly define what is acceptable cultural appropriation versus unacceptable cultural appropriation, as determined by the majority from which the culture is being appropriated.

Of course, this would require a further splintering and segregating of people for the purpose of ensuring that each group’s voice would be heard and respected.   The problem with this lies with those who are of mixed cultural backgrounds which constitutes the vast majority of people, especially in America.

What about Americans who are naturalized citizens?  Do they get a say in what is and isn’t cultural appropriation when it comes to the culture into which they were born but not about American culture?  Or do they get not say in either the culture into which they were born and the culture they chose?

What about first or second or even tenth generation Americans?  Do they get a say in what is and isn’t cultural appropriation, not only from an American perspective but also from the perspective of the multiple ancestries that may be part of their heritage?

What about those who are hyphenated Americans?  Would they get to speak for two cultures and two cultures only?

And what happens if a common ground for each culture isn’t arrived at in a timely fashion?  Who then decides what is and isn’t cultural appropriation?

With such a complex situation to resolve, an answer will only be found by way of respectful dialogue.  What are your thoughts on this matter?  How would you address the issue of segregation and appropriation?

Elyse Bruce

Cultural Appropriation Cuts Both Ways

Last week, the focus was on cultural appropriation and society from the perspective of the majority raiding the non-material culture of minorities.  This week, the shoe is on the other foot as cultural appropriation isn’t a one way street.

The video from “The Midnight Special” from 1974 shows Redbone performing their hit song “Come And Get Your Love.”  It was a song that climbed the charts all the way to #5, and stayed on the charts long enough to be certified Gold (it sold over half a million copies) because it was catchy and fun.  The band members were Native American Indians, and the New York Smithsonian Institution accredited the group as being the first Native American Indian rock group to have an international hit.

The song made its way back up the Billboard charts in 2014 when it was featured in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.

The year after that, Netflix used the song as the intro theme for the cartoon series, “F is for Family.”

The song has legs obviously, with as much audience appeal forty years after its release as the day it first hit the airwaves.  But forty years later, there seems to be some cultural appropriation issues with the song.

Redbone’s song lyrics referenced Cajun and New Orleans culture but the founding brothers, Patrick and Lolly Vasquez-Vegas were a mix of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican heritage.  The band was known for playing rock music, R&B, blue-eyed soul, funk, and country as well as tribal music.  There’s no denying that R&B and blue-eyed soul are definitely not from any Native American Indian culture.  And funk, rock, and country music is associated with cultures other than Indigenous cultures.

But wait a minute!  Guitars – acoustic or electric — aren’t traditional Native American Indian instruments!

The first acoustic guitar as we know it was built in 1850 by Spanish guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado (13 June 1817 – 19 November 1892), based on a design by note Spanish guitar maker Joséf Pagés (1740 – 1822) and Spanish luthier Josef Sebastián Benedid Díaz (10 February 1760 – 20 October 1836).  The guitar had a body that was now able to hold its own with an orchestra without being lost in the other instruments.  Europeans went wild for guitars!

Electric guitars had their humble beginnings at the heart of electromagnetic induction which was discovered by English scientist Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) on August 29, 1831.

By 1919, magazine ads began to appear, offering devices that would amplify instruments, and then came American jazz, country, and blues guitarist and songwriter Lester William Polsfuss, better known as Les Paul (9 June 1915 – 12 August 2009) and American inventor Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender (10 August 1909 – 21 March 1991) who created the electric guitar as we know it today.

Now Les Paul’s ancestry is German thanks to both parents, and Leo Fender’s family is American going back to his great-great-great-great-grandparents.  That being said, the generation before that was from Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany) and Cumberland (England) and Bethnal Green, Stepney, County Middlesex (England).

The argument can be made that Redbone’s success was due in part to the cultural appropriation of guitars which are obviously part of the English, Spanish, and German cultures.

Some will argue that fiddles were instruments of the Inuit and the Apache however fiddles only appeared after Indigenous peoples had contact with Europeans so it would seem that this may be a case of cultural appropriation.  But even if it’s argued that fiddles are Indigenous instruments, they aren’t guitars, and they aren’t played the way guitars are played.  This means that guitars are definitely not Native American Indian instruments.

Since we know from last weeks’ essay that cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken, is it not fair to say that Native American Indians have also engaged in cultural appropriation?

And then there’s the Aboriginal rappers to consider.  Have they engaged in cultural appropriation?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

The Conflict of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the use of elements from one culture by members of a different culture.  According to law professors and psychologists, social scientists and politicians, cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken.  It’s especially hurtful when the culture being appropriated is one that’s been exploited or oppressed by the culture doing the appropriating.

In other words, cultural appropriation promotes the power imbalance of the ruling class over those who have been historically marginalized.

There are two kinds of culture:  Material culture and non-material culture.  Non-material culture is what’s meant when speaking about cultural appropriation since non-material culture deals specifically with intangibles.  Beliefs.  Traditions.  Values.

Of course, within material and non-material cultures are other constructs such as subculture (beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to the majority of the culture’s community) and counterculture (active rejection of aspects that are dominant in the culture’s community).  For the purposes of this essay, the focus is on mainstream non-material culture.

Now psychologists will tell you that culture and the people of a culture have a symbiotic relationship.  Each culture has its unique societal norms by which to live, and members of each culture live by shared expectations and rules that guide and determine their place in that culture.  To this end, people define and refine what their culture is, and culture defines and refines its people.

These days, there’s a lot being said about cultural appropriation.  Some of it is warranted such as the outcry against sports teams using names that are offensive to Indigenous peoples in the Americas.  But is it possible to create art without any cultural appropriation?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Bangles sang about walking like an Egyptian?

Was it cultural appropriation when Carl Douglas let us know that everyone was kung fu fighting?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Vapors thought they were turning Japanese?

Was it cultural appropriation when Steven Tyler and Aerosmith announced that dude looked like a lady?

How about when Toto decided to take on the entire continent of Africa?

This is where the waters are muddy.  If those songs and other art, literature, music, and more is cultural appropriation, where do we draw the line when it comes to enjoying past creative endeavors?  If we’re told to turn our backs on pop culture that draws on other cultures to exist, is it also time to boycott the classics whether it’s literature, art, or music?

Do we turn our backs on Béla Bartók’s Romanian Dances seeing he was from Hungary and not Romania?  Is it time to refuse to attend concerts where Brahm’s “Ballade Edward” is performed because it was based on a Scottish ballad and Johannes wasn’t Scottish?  How about Beethoven’s music based on Welsh, Irish, and Scottish folk songs?  After all Ludwig was German, was he not?

How about all those musicians who aren’t English but who have recorded “Scarborough Fair” or “Greensleeves?”   Should they be forced to make reparations for daring to sing something they obviously appropriated from another culture?

Should “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” be sung only by those of African-American heritage?  And next New Year’s Eve, should the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” only be sung only by those who can prove their Scottish ancestry?

Do we stop children and their grandparents from enjoying a rousing rendition of “Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?” if they haven’t an ounce of English blood anywhere in their background — or going back at least eight generations?

Where no offense is meant, is any harm done?  Some say yes while others say no.  But if we are to say harm is done, where does this leave the English language which is an amalgam of several languages?  Is it time to dismantle the language to create a language that English-language speakers can safely call their own that doesn’t steal from other languages and cultures?

There’s no easy solution, and this is why we need to speak openly about what is, and is not, harmful cultural appropriation.  Certainly there are ways to draw upon cultures that are not our own without causing insult and injury.  It begins with mutual respect, and this means both sides must be willing to hear each other out before jumping to conclusions.  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

PewDiePie’s Marketing Brilliance Is Showing

Rather than jump the gun on Tuesday with this entry for Business Tuesday, I decided to watch what was going on with Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie.  He announced on YouTube via a ten-minute rant recently that once his popular YouTube channel reaches 50 million subscribers, he will delete the channel.  Why?  Because YouTube is supposedly being “mean” to him. The Internet went wild over the announcement!  As of earlier this morning, PewDiePie was within scant subscribers of being at the 50 million subscriber goal.


Before the day is out, Felix Kjellberg will undoubtedly have his 50 million subscribers.  However, this doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on the Internet, and it certainly doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on YouTube.  In fact, for those who listened to his video rant where he announced he would be killing his channel, he gave himself a backdoor back in to the platform and laid the groundwork for even greater virtual reality success via his videos.

The Groundwork

Everyone who follows Felix on YouTube knows that his PewDiePie channel isn’t the only channel he has on YouTube.  In fact, he’s had the second YouTube channel with far fewer subscribers for a while now.  Threatening to delete his popular PewDiePie channel isn’t as dramatic as his ten-minute rant made it sound.  Deleting one channel in order to grow his other channel is marketing brilliance.


Building A Brand Based On Loyalty

When his PewDiePie channel is deleted (should he decide to go through with what he said he would do), Felix will either fire up another PewDiePie channel on YouTube to which his subscribers will swarm or he anticipates a large migration of loyal followers to subscribe to his lesser known YouTube account he’s had since December 4, 2010.  Regardless of how this plays out, Felix won’t be without his fan base as he will build the new YouTube platform to the multitudes he has previously enjoyed with a difference.  These subscribers will be diehard PewDiePie fans with the less-enthusiastic followers from his early years weeded out.

Cashing In Big Time

Something most people may not realize is that in begging for subscribers to take his channel to 50 million so he can delete his channel means money in his pocket.  YouTube revenues for people like PewDiePie are based on views and subscriptions which means he’s making a pile of money as people (both those familiar with his brand and those who don’t know who he is) tune into YouTube to see what’s going on with this Internet celebrity, and he’s making a pile of money from people (haters and new-found fans) who subscribe to the PewDiePie channel.

If he closes down the PewDiePie channel (because he may opt to hide the channel rather than actually delete it), he’ll make even more money as millions flock to his alternate channel or to his new channel on YouTube.

Sarcasm Or Inflammatory Comments

If you want mainstream media to cover a fringe celebrity’s news, do something that’s going to grab their attention.  In this case, PewDiePie stated the following in his video rant:

  1. YouTube wants to destroy his channel;
  2. PewDiePie’s channel has too much click bait;
  3. PewDiePie’s channel doesn’t have enough family friendly content;
  4. PewiDiePie complains too much to YouTube;
  5. YouTube wants Lilly Singh’s channel to be more popular than PewDiePie’s channel; and
  6. PewDiePie is white and Lilly Singh isn’t.

Now all of those claims are humorous as long as they aren’t taken seriously.  Whether it’s sarcasm or inflammatory comments made to stir the pot, it worked insofar as mainstream media is covering his story.  There’s something for nearly everyone (including conspiracy theorists) to grab hold of and run with on social media.  Nothing gets more attention from the media and on social media than outrageous claims and commentary.

Final Note

From a marketing standpoint, Felix Kjellberg has shown repeatedly that he understands what his audience expects from him, and he never fails to deliver.  This is how he’s climbed to the top of the YouTuber ladder.  His latest grandstanding stunt with his outlandish ire at YouTube is more of that marketing brilliance that he’s demonstrated over the years.    If you’re interested in growing an enormous presence on YouTube, study PewDiePie’s approach to courting and romancing potential viewers and keeping viewers he’s already won over.  His approach may not work for your business, but there’s something to learn from his approach even if you disagree with his way of doing business.

Elyse Bruce

UPDATE (SATURDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2016):  When Felix Kjellberg’s PewDiePie YouTube channel reached 50 million subscribers, he tweeted to his followers that he would delete his channel on December 9, 2016 at 5:00 GST.    The funny thing is that on Saturday, December 10, 2016 his channel was still live on YouTube.

This seems to support my suspicion that Felix’s announcement was meant to push his channel to the 50 million plus subscriber mark.  Brilliant marketing, Felix, and well played!






The Great Smoky Mountains

As many of you have undoubtedly heard, last week the Great Smoky Mountains and the towns nearby were struck by tragedy.  The Chimney Tops fire only eight miles away from Gatlinburg were spurred on by winds that reached up to 90 miles per hour, and consumed the town in the space of fifteen minutes.  The tragedy didn’t stop there.  The fire continued to rage and crested the ridge as it approached Pigeon Forge. These photos were posted to Facebook.


The fire approached and endangered Dollywood and Dollywood DreamMore Hotel Resort.  While Dollywood and the hotel were spared, a number of their cabins were burned to the ground.

dollywood-dreammore-hotel-1 dollywood-parking-lot
Lives have been lost.  People are still missing.  Active fires continue to burn.  Winds are expected to pick up again over the next day.

But even though the people of the Great Smoky Mountains have been living this disaster for days now, and even though about 14,000 people are displaced and living in shelters and motels, everyone is pitching in to do what they can to help their neighbors.  What’s more, people from other towns and cities in Tennessee and from other states are doing whatever they can to help.  This is what community and fellowship is all about:  Helping those in need.  To those who are giving of themselves, please know that everything — no matter how big or how small — is appreciated.

Midweek, Dolly Parton announced that the “My People Fund” through her Dollywood Foundation will be providing $1,000 USD per month for six months to families that lost everything, or whose homes were left uninhabitable, due to this fire.

dollywood-foundationAs devastating as this has been, the area is open for tourism and business.  The spirit of the people is mountain strong.  In spite of the tragedy, people and businesses are welcoming visitors and family with open arms.  Tourism will help rebuild this area, and the heartwarming, generous nature of Tennesseans will make your visit a wonderfully memorable (in a very positive way) visit.

A little over two years ago, I posted a video to YouTube.  The photographs were taken on the Chimney Tops trail.  Take a moment to watch it, and take heart knowing that even with the destruction we’ve experienced, the Great Smoky Mountains are still beautiful, still strong, and still breathtaking.

Amazingly Talented

People often talk about how remarkable or talented someone is when that person has mastered a skill or art, and without a doubt, such people are absolutely remarkable or talented.  And every once in a while, you hear or read about someone who take remarkable and talented to the next level.  Today’s entry is one that is sparse on words because the video speaks for itself.  Feel free to share this video with others on  your social media accounts because it truly is worth sharing.

Turn Off, Tune Out, And Drop Back In

The more society is tied to technology, the more society seems either unwilling or unable to communicate.  If you step away from technology for a moment and observe those around you, it’s amazing how few social interactions seem to be happening despite the fact that most of society believes meaningful communication is going on.

How Connected Are We?

Government statistics for the U.S. indicate that 90% of all Americans (children and adults) have a cellphone.  If Americans aged 45 and older are removed, that number jumps to 97% of Americans 44 years of age and under who have a cellphone.

How Connected Are Minors?

Those between the ages of eight and eighteen spend a large segment of the day connected to technology fromTumblr and  Snapchat to the latest social media platform preferred by the age group.  In fact, according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, they spend nearly eight hours a day tied to technology.

That’s more time than they spend at school, and more time than they spend engaged in extracurricular activities.  It’s more time than they invest in their immediate and extended family relationships.

Are We Addicted To Technology

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists Internet Gaming Disorder as a mental illness.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine recognizes Internet Addiction Disorder (also known as Problematic Internet Use, Internet Dependence, or Pathological Internet Use) as a real health condition.

Medically speaking, when doctors and medical researchers use the term disorder, they mean a physical or mental condition that isn’t normal or healthy.  Not being a licensed or accredited medical practitioner, I’m in no position to say more on the subject than what I’ve stated.  These conditions, according to doctors and medical researchers, exist and are very real problems for a segment of society.

What Does This Have To Do With Business

Many people in their personal and professional lives are struggling with information overload as a result of their intense interactivity with technology.  Connected to social media platforms and online sources with up-to-the-minute information (some of it accurate, some of it less so) via multiple devices from cellphones to tablets and more, the importance of meaningful communication is suffering.  When a person suffers from information overload, the tendency is to manage the overload either by shutting down completely (which isn’t the best option in business) or to avoid that which makes the person uncomfortable (which also isn’t the best option in business).

Manage Technology Effectively

Technology isn’t the enemy.  How technology is managed is makes the difference between efficiency and overload.  Pare down your social media presence to a level that’s easily managed.

Have set hours when you use mobile devices.  Turn them off and walk away from them for a few hours a day.  Trust me when I say that the world won’t come to an end for the short while you’re disconnected from virtual reality.

Set limits on how much time you’re willing to invest in virtual reality, and increase the amount of time you spend interacting on a face-to-face basis.

Does Face-To-Face Interaction Really Matter?

As a matter of fact, it is.  Believe it or not, studies have proven that face-to-face interactions lead to decreased violence, and builds trust between individuals.   It creates stronger team dynamics and creates positive learning engagement.  All of these are sharply decreased when personal interactions are ignored in favor of technological connections via virtual reality.

Final Note

The art of conversation is a lost art among many these days.  Conversation is more than just the exchange of words.  Conversation is the exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, ideas, and more, and the spoken word is how those sentiments, observations, opinions, ideas, and more are shared, not merely transmitted.  Conversations are colored with tone and intonation, pitches and passion, motion and emotion.  All of these can be easily misunderstood or misread or quite simply missed when reading texts and memes on the Internet.

Back in the 1960s, Timothy Leary encouraged people to turn on, tune in, and drop out.  In the 2010s, it’s time to turn off, tune out, and drop back in.  You’ll be amazed at how much balance your life will have once you do this.

Elyse Bruce











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