Last Tuesday, February 23, UNCG’s Lunch and Learn held a forum on cultural appropriation in the Virginia Dare Alumni House at 12:30 p.m.
The forum discussed the cultural appropriation and impersonation of black women by white, gay men.
“I think specifically when people I know would… create names for each other. Female black sounding names, stereotypically in that sense. And I was always concerned on why that was happening,” said Codie Frank, M.Ed. Candidate, Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education (SPAHE) Program.
Frank has researched in identity development of gay men in fraternities which has led to his interest in studying this subject.
Frank, who identifies as genderfluid androgynous, talked about how he saw the feminization that was occurring in the gay community.
The forum brought up an article written by a student from University of Mississippi, Sierra Mannie, entitled “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture.”
H. Alan Scott, a freelance journalist/writer and comedian, responded to this during a CNN interview along with Mannie.
The two ends of the spectrum described the reasons why it is and isn’t cultural appropriation. Mannie spoke for the belief that that gay white men were performative copycats and Scott stated that it was appreciation.
This led the forum into the discussion of why adopting, acting or portraying what may be viewed as black female culture occurs, and how it came to be.
Frank described research of how males have more negative, anti-gay attitudes than females.
Prejudices also increase in males from ninth to 11th grade.
This offers the assumption that gay men identify with female identity because both groups have been ‘othered’ by straight men, with black women thus experiencing female appropriation.
Frank discussed the matter of making the appropriation known and understood as one of the ways to move past it.
“The struggle is being able to educate people on the history of it and I think people in general if they don’t take the time to research and learn more about it, they’re not going to know because it’s not taught,” said Frank.
Audience members described that although gay white men may be oppressed, it is not equivalent to that of a black women because the men still benefit from white privilege and masculine privilege.
Some likened acting or adopting the persona of black women to a person speaking in a fake Hispanic accent.
Others believed that people imitate black culture because it is now considered popular, but that they do not have to deal with the negative implications associated with it.
There is an inherent benefit from being able to act in a way that is related to a culture, yet not be a part of that culture–at the end of the day, an impersonator can take the mask off, unlike those who are actually living that life.
Others described black appropriation in general stating that white culture believes it has “discovered” something that the black community has been doing for years.
Cultural appropriation was described as flipping coins, and that a melting pot country does not mean picking and choosing.
Frank believes that it is important to see how the gay rights movement has evolved and the loss of gay culture seemed to be an underlying issue.
“I don’t think there’s a culture per say… there isn’t a one communal culture,” said Frank.
Frank described how older gay men had fought for rights of gay people and that there was a sense of pride of who they were because they had gone through struggles and had lost things for the fight.
“They’ve sacrificed for other people to have. I think there is this perception not that history is lost but that history is not focused on younger gay men,” said Frank.
Frank believes that there is a public perception that gay culture is an appropriation of other cultures into one because they are trying to find something that can identify as and unify them together and create a community.
He stated the importance of multiple identities working together to create an individual experience and not generalizing one person’s experience as everyone else’s
“One of my objects with the forum was to open people’s eyes to what is the bigger picture with the situation and how people view gay individuals. Opening up people’s perceptions to inter-sectionality,” said Frank.