Cultural appropriation (or misappropriation) has become a “big thing” in recent months. Loosely defined, the term refers to one culture of people adopting the culture of another people in terms of fashion, style, language, appearance and/or mannerisms.
Examples of cultural appropriation that have made the news of late, and created meltdowns on social media, are: a professor at a major university who pretended to be African-American for enough years to become a leading authority on Black studies and a leading activist in the minority community; the use of Native American headdresses by people with little to no Native American ancestry; white, female celebrities wearing hairstyles that have traditionally been associated with minority women; and the list goes on.
Parents are cautioned to refrain from dressing their kids up in Halloween costumes that might represent the kid as being from a culture other than their own, because of the threat of offending someone from that culture. I certainly hope I did not offend any ghosts when I was a child.
Evidently, many Scottish people are offended when people without a Scottish heritage choose to wear a Scottish kilt as a costume. Since I’ve never had the urge to wear a skirt, I think I’m pretty safe from ever committing that offense. Even people from the areas of Polynesia now take offense if you wear bright, floral designed shirts. Again, I’m safe.
In retrospect of my life, I guess I did, inadvertently, culturally misappropriate at one point. About 45 years ago, I decided to get a curly perm in my hair. Even though I was trying to look like the singer and performer Mac Davis (he seemed to have no problem in attracting women), too many people were coming up to me and telling me I looked just like Jesse Jackson. My bad and I apologize to anyone I may have offended.
As most of you know, I am a cattleman. What many of you don’t know (especially if you are a non-cattleman) is that we are a culture of our own. I can usually identify a cattleman from the ground up. Although there are always exceptions, almost all of us wear boots – work boots for everything other than funerals, weddings and the annual mountain oyster feed at the cattleman’s association. Wrangler, cowboy-cut jeans are next – but there are exceptions to this rule, based on the wearer’s age and weight. Shirts, with a button-down collar, top off the wardrobe. Plaid patterns are the norm (our apologies to the Scots and Irish), but solid colors are permitted. The headwear must be either a cowboy hat (straw from Memorial Day to Labor Day, felts any other time) or a cap that was given to him by the sale barn, feed store, implement dealer or animal pharmaceutical company. If he bought it, it’s probably a NASCAR cap.
In this era of seemingly everyone being so easily offended, I’m writing this column to serve as fair warning. The next time I see someone wearing my culture’s official uniform, they damned well better have some livestock back on the farm, or I’m going to be immensely offended.
Heck, I may even take to social media to demand an apology to me and all my fellow cattlemen for misappropriating our culture. Now, if I only knew how to use social media.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’