Ethics Take-Down Of The Year: UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh

Wait, wait---I think I have it. A Japanese production of "The Mikado" would be a racist appropriation of  a racist appropriation, right?

Wait, wait—I think I have it. A Japanese production of “The Mikado” would be a racist appropriation of a racist appropriation, right?

Here is a 2014 year-end Ethics Alarms Award I’m giving out now, with no worries that I will regret it later.

Salon, the online progressive magazine, published a classic in the revolting genre of self-righteous anti-white racism, a pathological screed titled “Why I Can’t Stand White Belly-Dancers.” (Full disclosure: I can’t stand any belly-dancers). If that per se title doesn’t set off a liberal editor’s ethics alarms, something is seriously wrong, but then, this Salon, a where the literate deranged of the Left hang out to plot the Socialist Revival. The foolish author devotes her article to the crackpot theory that in a pluralistic, free society, it is unethical “appropriation” for whites to engage in art that arose out of a non-white culture:

“Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.”

Had I encountered this cold, I would have taken it as a conservative parody of minority race-bullying. But I have to restrain my impulse to heap abuse on the author, Randa Jarrar, “a feminist of color,” because Prof. Volokh slices her and her idiocy into tiny, delicious shreds as well or better than I ever could. Here’ s yummy sample (read it all here):

“What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? East Asian cellists? Swedish chess players? The Japanese putting on Shakespeare? Jews playing Christians’ Christian music, such as Mozart’s masses? Arriviste Jewish physicists using work done for centuries by Christians? Russian Jews writing about Anglo-American law? Indians writing computer programs, using languages and concepts pioneered by Americans and Europeans? Japanese companies selling the most delicious custard cream puffs? Shame, shame, shame.”

It’s almost worth reading the disgraceful crap that Salon inflicted on us to see it, the hypocrites who published it, and the warped and arrogant worldview that created it so thoroughly exposed.

Bravo, Professor, and thanks.

16 thoughts on “Ethics Take-Down Of The Year: UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh

  1. When Slate started publishing crap like this (that is, worse than their usual crap) I stopped reading it. I’ve never been a regular at Salon, and now I’m definitely not going there.

  2. Brilliant. Too bad it won’t satisfactorily answer this question the author of the Salon screed asks. “Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?” Damn white women. Even the feminist belly dancers can’t find self expression.

  3. Only white people(tm) can be appropriators (just as only white people(tm) can be racists), so only the Swedish chess player in Professor Volokh’s examples would count as appropriative. Also, Jews are in a murky category all of their own, so it is difficult to say where they fit in all this. Wherever their ethnicity advances Righteous Thinking, I suppose.

    • To throw back to a few posts ago, Comic Books were invented by nerdy white guys and the classic characters are all white (and mostly guys). So the people having kittens over a black Human Torch aren’t racist, they’re just protesting cultural appropriation of nerdy white guy culture by handsome black guys.

  4. The Japanese are in the wrong for purporting to sell “the most delicious custard cream puffs”, when in reality there is no such thing. Custard is inherently disgusting, a loathsome ersatz for cream that is foul in appearance, smell, flavour and texture.

  5. This kind of stuff pisses me off. And what does “white” exactly mean anyway? My daughters look as waspy as you can get, but they actually have “more” Mexican and Native American genes in them than anything else — it’s just that the German genes won that battle. Can they only put their hair in St. Pauli girl braids and serve beer at celebrations? Or are they allowed to celebrate all parts of their heritage? And so what if they want to take up belly dancing? Sheesh.

  6. This view is truly absurd. It reminds me of a small child wanting everyone in the room to listen to them sing a song, but nobody is allowed to join in and share the spotlight- art forms that focus on women, or were developed by exotic or minority cultures, should be celebrated and given center stage as often as possible, because otherwise you’re just supporting the racist patriarchy. Don’t you dare enjoy them too hard or dare to take part, though, because then you’re an appropriator.

    • Reading that comments to the article is, in some ways, even more depressing. They strain to be polite and to give her complaint respect (she is a “feminist of color,” after all)—“I think she means mis-appropriation”—when it really deserves flat out abuse, or perhaps pity. A while back Michael Savage, who generally lives up to most of the vile names people call conservatives, wrote a book called something like “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” It’s an ugly title and an ugly argument, a cheap way to marginalize a whole universe of opinion that evokes the Soviet tactic of treating dissidents as insane. This article, however, tempts me to concede that at least at its outer fringes, insanity is neither an unfair diagnosis, nor inappropriate. This point of view shows an individual who has allowed herself to be so buried in constructs, narratives and cant that the sunlight of fact is invisible, and the warmth of truth is undetectable.

      • Tell me about it. I live in a college town and am an advisor for a college student group, so I get plenty of exposure to this odd concept that you can see the world in terms of lensing and construct and viewpoint and prejudice and privelige and blerrggggg while merrily dismissing any evidence to the contrary as being from the wrong, bigoted, patriarchal viewpoint.

  7. This principle denies that cultures, all cultures, change, grow, develop, devolve, evolve, improve, degrade, experiment, discard, and more. Not only that, but they do so often times in direct response to stimuli from cultures external to their own. This is a FACT of history.

    The principle this Salon writer posits, would compel cultures to FREEZE in their steps, that further cultural developments and creations can ONLY come from those born into it. It creates an ethnocentric worldview, in which we are all imprisoned to the ethnicity in which we were born, and more so, we are compelled to accept the culture that ethnicity primarily practices. Taken out to all the hidden implications of this principle, what does this mean for a white guy marrying a black woman? It means ultimately that they too are racist for doing so.

    This principle would lead to the very processes that reinforce the stereotypes the Left purports to hate at their very core.

    • Funny, isn’t it, how when white western people start doing something that originated outside their culture it’s “appropriation,” but when something from white western culture shows up elsewhere it just goes to show how our colonial-minded cultural imperialism is shoving itself in and destroying all the beautiful cultures of the world.

  8. “Appropriation” is joining “Microagression” and “Privelige” in the list of words that make my hackles rise- It’s an accusation you can throw out, that doesn’t require any action or intent or even awareness on the part of your target.

    You wanted to learn belly dancing? Appropriation! You say you learned it from a Middle Eastern friend who was delighted in your interest? Well she was a party to her own appropriation, and you didn’t think of how you’d make ALL middle eastern women feel!

    You put a picture of Obama kicking a door on your bulletin board? That could be taken to imply that miniorities are violent, and is a microagression! now apologize for your racism like a good boy.

    You make literally ANY argument involving abortion, well, sir, you better check your cismale privelige. No ovaries no opinion.

  9. And how far will this argument be taken? Will it also be used to isolate cultures and subcultures WITHIN a designated racial group? By this standard, while it would clearly be “misappropriate” to make fajitas in your Heartland backyard grill, might it also be so to buy a pizza at the mall? How far will you take this? It has been a custom of the Left to attempt to divide people among themselves by whatever way seems to work for political gain. Salon is part and parcel of this.

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