"Cultural appropriation" may have finally crashed and burned

You’re surely familiar with the “cultural appropriation” outrage running around liberal social media sites these days, right? It’s when one particular demographic group (and their inevitable supporters who take up every progressive cause on the planet) lays claim to an entire genre of performing arts and then chooses to scold anyone who isn’t “authentic” enough and dares to be creative in that field. And as I’m sure you already know, by “authentic” they refer to the color of your skin.

Another episode of this annoying kvetching broke out this week. It wouldn’t have been worth a mention were it not for the target. Rather than going after yet another white artist, this time the forces of progressive fury fixed their sights on none other than Bruno Mars. Now, to be honest here, I wouldn’t even know the man’s name had he not played at the Super Bowl a while back, but I did hear him perform there and he’s got an impressive set of pipes. But, as it turns out, he’s singing the wrong kind of music.

This all erupted from an episode of a podcast called “The Grapevine,” which features panel discussions of… okay. I’m not entirely sure what. But this time it was about Bruno Mars and whether or not he was “culturally appropriating” by producing music which doesn’t match his skin color or something. (WaPo)

A two-minute clip from the episode featuring writer Seren Sensei quickly went viral, racking up nearly 3 million views and being curated into a Twitter moment by Sunday night.

“Bruno Mars 100 percent is a cultural appropriator,” Sensei said in the video. “He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”

Cultural appropriation refers to someone taking aspects of a minority culture, such as its music, and using it for personal gain. Elvis Presley, who became famous by performing songs written by black artists, is considered by many to be a cultural appropriator.

Here’s the episode of The Grapevine in question.

Normally this would be the end of the story. After being appropriately shamed by his progressive betters, the artist would shuffle up to a microphone to deliver some sort of apology and then slink off stage, promising to try to do better. (Or at least that’s how it works if they are marketing their work to a largely liberal audience.)

But this time it played out differently. In short order, some of the people who you might have expected to be “offended” started defending Mars. This included R&B singer Charlie Wilson.

Even Shaun King got in on the action.


He’s absolutely right. And when we reach the point where you see me agreeing with Shaun King you need to go outside and look for four horsemen riding in the sky.

For his part, Bruno Mars stayed out of it. But the WaPo notes that he previously proclaimed his appreciation for the black roots of much of the music being performed today.

“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland,” meaning Africa, Mars told Latina magazine last February. “So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”

Here comes the long division part of the analysis, so buckle up, campers. Bruno Mars, racially, “was born in Honolulu to a half-Puerto Rican and half-Ashkenazi Jewish and a Filipino mother.” So what do these easily aggrieved geniuses think he should be performing? Only Puerto Rican tunes played on Filipino instruments at luaus and bar mitzvahs? And as for Mars himself, he’s previously staked out rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown as all being “black music.” (At least until the mob came for him, anyway.) So I take it this panel thinks that white people should only perform country music and Asians should be restricted to… what? K-pop?

Here’s a tip for you which I’ll offer at no charge. If you find someone taking songs that you’ve written (or really any other sort of multimedia content) and reusing it as if they created it themselves, you should sue them. They’re thieves. It doesn’t matter the genre or style or anything else. But if somebody is playing their own original music which they wrote (or at least paid the original creator for) and you think it sounds too much like a particular style you’re trying to claim as your own, you can go pound sand. Artists can own original compositions. Not a genre.

Bonus: Legendary Parliament-Funkadelic founder George Clinton has had enough of all this too. (Language warning)

I’d bite off the Beatles, or anybody else. It’s all one world, one planet and one groove. You’re supposed to learn from each other, blend from each other, and it moves around like that. You see that rocket ship leave yesterday? We can maybe leave this planet. We gonna be dealing with aliens. You think black and white gonna be a problem? Wait till you start running into motherfuckers with three or four dicks! Bug-eyed motherfuckers! They could be ready to party, or they could be ready to eat us. We don’t know, but we’ve got to get over this shit of not getting along with each other.

Feel free to complain all you like. But if you want to be taken seriously with these hilarious “cultural appropriation” claims, try taking one of these charges to court and see how you do. Be sure to let us know how it goes. I’ll be right here, ready with the popcorn.

Ed Morrissey Jan 28, 2022 8:31 AM ET