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Looking back at 2017 and perhaps ahead to 2018


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GUNTER: 2017, the year of mock outrage
 Lorne Gunter
Published:December 30, 2017 
I remember it as if it was yesterday.
There was once a time when minority cultures considered it an achievement when the dominant culture adopted one of their traditions, practices or symbols.
I remember it as if it was yesterday because it was.

Just three to five years ago, the definition of acceptance, inclusion and diversity was for the broader culture to recognize minority history and values as part of the nation’s general story.
For example, schools and textbooks should include the Indigenous version of the last 500 years of North American history.

Even annexation of a minority fashion or entertainment form was considered a sign the mainstream culture was becoming more welcoming.
Inclusion didn’t mean extreme, self-imposed, cultural segregation.

But 2017 will go down as the year those notions were flipped on their heads (and then dropped onto concrete from a great height, for emphasis).
Many of the examples of this new extremism are downright ridiculous. There is no other, more polite way, of describing them.

For instance, when a decade-old Beyonce song was mentioned – merely mentioned, not used as an anthem – by NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, some cultural zealots were outraged.
Ashton, who was more socialist than most in the leadership field, announced her ambition for her party’s top job with a tweet saying, “Like Beyonce says, to the left,” a reference to the singer’s 2006 song Irreplaceable.
But the very fact a white politician made a reference to a black singer’s lyrics incensed Black Lives Matter Vancouver, who immediately accused Ashton of “cultural appropriation”.

Is it also cultural theft for white politicians to stream black musicians’ songs on their smartphones? To hum or whistle their songs? To exclaim that they like them?
If that wasn’t absurd enough, Irreplaceable is hardly an identifiably “black” song. It was co-written by Tor Erik Hermansen and four other Norwegians.
No one said identity politics were rational or made any sense.

Like other instant outrages, this one was based on emotions and knee-jerk reactionaryism, not on deep thought about race, culture and equality.
In May, Writers Union of Canada editor Hal Niedzviecki wrote, “I don’t believe in cultural appropriation … In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.”
Niedzviecki even jokingly suggested an annual prize for the writer who most accurately depicts a culture other than his or her own.

But when some authors accused Niedzviecki of racism, the cowardly directors of the Writers’ Union pushed him out of his position.
Walrus magazine editor Jonathan Kay came to Niedzviecki’s defence and resigned in the ensuing controversy caused by his remarks.

New York’s Whitney Museum was threatened with vandalism and arson if it didn’t remove a painting of civil rights hero Emmett Till painted by a white, female artist. How dare Dana Schutz “steal” an African-American hero.
But Till’s brutal murder by beating in 1955 awakened white society to the horrors of racism and segregation. His disfigured body lying in a casket was part of the larger culture.

Perhaps the most ludicrous assertion was that when white women wear large hoop earrings, they are stealing a fashion symbol from Hispanic and black women.
Want to know how insane that one is? Imagine the reaction if a white person suggested hoop earrings really were symbols of ghetto or barrio culture. Such a comment would be rightly labeled racist. So should the reverse be?

Even the recent flap at Wilfrid Laurier University, involving graduate student Lindsay Shepherd, is an example of this new political-correctness-on-steroids, hypersensitive, Age-of-Outrage, you-can’t-say-anything-without-offending-someone mentality.
Shepherd, of course, committed the crime of replaying a TV debate involving a professor deemed insufficiently sensitive to transgender persons.
Gender-identity politics will be the next minefield.

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