It's certainly important to ensure that artistic interpretations are identified and given credit where credit is due in the historical context of their creation points. I do think that with our fast-paced Internet world, it's probably more important than ever to identify the creators and/or supporters of art forms, so we can accurately understand and convey throughout history how they arrived and what impact they had. It's also important to credit the authors and originators of ideas, so we can learn from their experiences and how those ideas were shaped and molded to then be consumed by the mainstream.
We have Archive.org and the Internet Wayback Machine to turn to to understand, historically, where many of the ideas originated from that support today's web and mobile applications. We have history departments and library sciences at major universities and colleges, whose mission it is to ensure that we accurately document and reflect upon the events themselves or information created by those events.
It goes without saying that many art forms created by African Americans were co-opted by others, but that was in a time where it was far more difficult to spread those ideas around the world. Today, this meme went global over 6-months or so and has no become a phenomenon beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
It is important for Melissa Perry to cite "cultural appropriation" in this case? Maybe, maybe not. The "hey, that's our thing and not your thing" has problems itself. To demand that media outlets stop using the term "Harlem Shake," I think, quite possibly goes too far. Standing up and saying, we created this art form and you got it wrong, so you can't have that word...well, that's a little much.
My point is there has to be a time in our society where one group is confident enough to say, "well, that thing took off on its own and its really not what its about, but WE know what it's about and we're just going to keep on keeping on with that thing that WE created."
I know it's important to identify the source. I'm white, but I grew up on Double Trouble, Boogie Down Productions and LL Cool J. I full well know where that music came from, but you can't say hip-hop is "my music," because now it's everyone's music. You can recognize Kook Herc and Afrika Bambatta, as well as KRS-One and Sugar Hill Gang as the originators, but when Beastie Boys came along, did people not know where hip-hop came from and what BB were doing with it, by twisting it up and making it their own?
We just have to be careful to not be outraged ever time some thing happens and a community feels alienated, when the intent was never to alienate. When Harlem club owners let only whites in, they knew what they were doing. When a 16-year old Asian girl who live in China sends her interpretation of the Harlem Shake, she is not making the same conscious decision as the Harlem club owner, who puts up the "Whites Only" sign.
There is cultural appropriation when the record industry hires session musicians to replay Jazz greats and then sells those albums to the masses, but is it cultural appropriation when I do the Harlem Shake in my living room and post it on the web? That's a bit of a stretch. Not everything is so egregious that you have to get on national television and say something like, what you're doing is stupid and not real, so here's the real. People don't care, because they just want to have fun and don't want to know where the music and dance were derived from. They just know it's fun and funny and just wanna do that thing, without realizing that they may be offensive when doing it.
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