The Long Practiced Art of Columbusing

The Long Practiced Art of Columbusing

The other day, I read an article that just completely ruined my day. Another instance of white people taking things that do not belong to them and claiming ownership of it. This time dictating what words were no longer in style and what are the new words to use in 2016. I just do not comprehend how people can think they can make the rules governing things that are not theirs. Wait... never mind, I completely understand. White people love black culture  more than they like pretending racism no longer exists.

While reading the comments, I came across a post. I have read countless comments because, if we are being honest ,they usually have more substance than those mindless lists that are constantly being posted. But this particular post was profound and brought warmth to my heart. The post read: “Put this word on the list “Columbusing.” Definition: when white people appropriate the style and culture of another people pretending as if they are discovering or creating some new shit.” The poster even gave us an example: “Quit Columbusing black people’s style and culture and pretending you created it while failing to acknowledge that black innovation and genius is the source.” I know we have the term cultural appropriation (yes I believe Beyoncé and Coldplay are guilty of it) but “Columbusing” sounds so much better to say. It also brings attention to the atrocities that Christopher Columbus are responsible for and the ones that white people have made in his name since he landed in (not discovered) America.

Columbusing (it is now officially a word at The Treehouse so no need for quotes) is a major problem in this country. Not only does it fail to give proper credit to the originators of something, it often strips the original meaning. From Hayes Grier to Iggy Azaela white celebrities (and regular people) have stolen from black culture and hard work without giving credit.

Let us take a break here so I can share my bias here. In all honesty, I strongly dislike Iggy and everything about her. I just think she is the biggest Columbuser (the noun version) of all. She does not even pretend to care that she is pretending to be a rap artist from Atlanta. I personally believe she is the worst rapper ever and no I will not debate that.

Ok ,back to the topic at hand. If this were academia, people would be shamed and mocked for plagiarizing another's work. They would never be published and be out of a job for Columbusing. If they were college students they would be put on probation, suspended or kick out of school. So why the hell are they allowed to steal from other cultures without acknowledgment?

Why is it ok for people to dictate what is popular for another demographic? What makes it ok for someone to create a list of words that people of color have been using for years and say nope everyone has to stop using them but here are some new words that we took from their culture to use. Why is it ok to credit Miley Cyrus with the invention of twerking? Why is it ok for braids and dreads to be in style once white women wear them? Why is it ok to say big butts and big lips are now in? Black women have had to suffer discrimination because of the way they look and their hairstyles. Now white women can take black hairstyles, give it a new name and call it the "new trend." Columbusing allows people to make those statements without having to account for the fact that people have been twerking, wearing dreads, and having bigger body parts forever.

At its core, there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating another culture. I personally can eat Thai food everyday for the rest of my life and die the happiest man ever. But once that line crosses enjoying and celebrating the culture to taking ownership and trying to dictate how people are supposed to act, how they dress, and the words they use, then you have gone too far.

Let me know some examples of Columbusing you have seen in the comments below.


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