An arm of the United Nations is looking to vote on international law that would prohibit “cultural appropriation.”
In recent years “cultural appropriation” has been used by leftist to attack people, especially white people, who do anything to “take” from another culture. A relatively recent example of this is a white student in San Francisco being attacked by an African American for having dreadlocks. Silence is Consent reported on this when it happened, and you can view that article here.
It’s a nebulous concept, and purposefully so. Now there are those who want the UN to weigh in with the force of “international law.”
From the CBC/Yahoo News:
Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures — and to do it quickly.
Delegates from 189 countries, including Canada, are in Geneva this week as part of a specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency.
Since it began in 2001, the committee has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.
Ummm…ok. So here’s an example of what’s causing so much fuss.
The meeting takes place as concern grows worldwide about the rights of cultures to control their own materials. In the U.S. this week, designer Tory Burch agreed to change the description of one of her coats for women after Romanians protested that it had been described as African-inspired when it actually appropriated a traditional Romanian garment.
This is the type of nonsense we spend money on the UN for. Tory Burch could be guilty of ignorance, but what’s it to Romania? If the Tory Burch designers don’t care you can be sure their customers wont. If you use a name and a “culture” doesn’t give you permission that is supposed to now be illegal?
Speaking to the committee Monday, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said the UN’s negotiated document should “obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.”
Anaya said the document should also look at products that are falsely advertised as Indigenous-made or endorsed by Indigenous groups.
Here’s an example of what they mean.
That would mean products like those in U.S.-based retailer Urban Outfitters “Navajo” line, Anaya said, including “Navajo hipster panties,” a “peace treaty feather necklace” and a “Navajo print flask.”
The Navajo Nation launched a legal battle against the company for trademark infringement in 2012.
So, which is it? Trademark infringement or cultural appropriation?
If the name Navajo, or specific designs are registered trademarks then the would most certainly have a case, but this is being held up as an example of cultural appropriation, the definition of which is much more ambiguous. Additionally if actually intellectual property isn’t being infringed upon it seems that such a move to ban “cultural appropriation” would run afoul the United State’s first amendment to the Constitution.
That said, I don’t think the average Urban Outfitters customer actually believes that their panties and flasks are being made by the Navajo. So more than anything the UN is looking to ban cultural butt hurt more than anything else. Which seems to me to be a real slippery slope in our increasingly intolerant PC culture.