Like most of newschoolers' members, I am a white male. Recently, I have started to become acutely aware of my privilege as a white male. Because of this, I have been trying to understand the extent of my privilege, and what my role is within this privilege. I am a junior at a high school that is known for being very liberal and socially progressive. It is located in the middle of one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in minneapolis, but draws students from all around the city, including a large population of minority students (40 percent). Our school tends to be very clicky, and race relations take no exception to this. Most of the white students stick to other white students, and most of the minority students stick to other minority students*. Recently though, this has started to change, but through what some might argue to be a peculiar form of racism.
In the past two years, the issues of social justice, human rights, and equality, have started to become big parts of the school conversation, but these issues have been introduced almost in the same way a fad is. Being socially progressive and participating in activism has become "the cool thing to do." The same people** who take great care to dress in only the trendiest clothing, use the latest slang, and surround themselves with the most popular people, now use human rights as a tool to aid in them in their social climbing within the high school community. This phenomenon can be traced back to the feminism club, which as early as last year had around 30 members (whom I consider to be real feminists), but now boasts figures in the hundreds (many of these new members are people I consider to be fake femnists). Early on, within this phenomenon, there were many fights on twitter over these issues, mostly in between the "fake feminists" and the "frat bro's." This is not unique to my high school, twitter has become a common tool for activism all over the world. At some point though, the real people get tired of the same group of not so real people spamming their twitter timelines with fake bullshit that they wouldn't care less about if it didn't help them climb the social ladder.
If activism and human rights issues are being treated as high school fads, are the impacts that the fake activists are making still positive? When our egos interfere with moral actions, are they still ethical?
After the twitter activism died down, it seemed as though this fad would fade into the abyss that is high school fads, and we would all go back to being the ignorant fucks that high schoolers tend to be. Consequently, for a while this is exactly what seemed to be happening, but after a month it became evident that some of these people, through the fad, had become real activists and genuinely cared about these issues. These same people organized the sit in and march at my school where more than half of the students sat silently in the main hallway (where the front door and administration offices are) for five hours in solidarity for the family of Mike Brown and the people of Ferguson, and then marched out of the school to the closest busy street for a protest. Weeks later, spurred on by their newly found activism, many of these people were at the protest that shut down The Mall Of America on the busiest shopping day of the year. The protesters did this to raise awareness for the way many of the corporations represented at the mall treat their workers of color and culturally appropriate (stores like urban outfitters and american apparel that have been riddled with criticism for appropriating cultures with some of their clothes).
Now lets switch gears a bit and consider my next question.
Does cultural appropriation exist in skiing?
Cultural appropriation can be defined as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission" -Susan Scafidi. In a community that places a high emphasis on fashion you are bound to encounter cultural appropriation. In skiing there are two obvious examples. One is extremely priveleged white people making a mockery of black culture, including hip hop culture, and perpetuating the worst stereotypes about blackness. The other is companies like Tomahawk International, who refer to themselves as "the tribe," and whose logos include many racist caricatures of indigenous peoples and their cultures. In most situations, appropriators don't even realize that they are doing anything wrong, which only aids to the continuation of these practices and the disenfranchisement of the appropriated peoples. I am not an expert, and don't have any solutions to these problems, but my goal in writing this is to create conversation within our community about these problems.
If you read through all my misplaced commas, or lack thereof, and generally poor writing you're a champ. Thanks for Reading!
Also, Some of the ideas in this article were taken from a somewhat better written essay I wrote for my Theory of Knowledge class. It deals with what is heresy and what is orthodoxy along with some ethical questions pertaining to race. You can see that here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K8fYEdegScbDpd8fWQqiKbF2lnEJxXaSVDDLENsRiSo/edit?usp=sharing
*Sports take an exception to this rule, teams like basketball, soccer, and football create a mixer of white students and students of color who all tend to hang out outside of sports as well.
**I am certainly a product of the "these people," and still largely associate and identify with "these people" though I try to stay away, or at least tell myself that I stay away from there more grotesque qualities.