Because this social media sound bite approach rejects a science, data based analysis for evaluating social developments, anything that sounds good goes. So, as a result, if the argument that Europeans are stealing African culture because it isn't theirs is the basis of this appropriation argument, than some people are concluding the same logic could be expanded to suggest that Africans born in the Western Hemisphere are guilty of stealing an African culture they know little about as well. The problem with that approach is it isn't grounded in history and it's anything except scientific. Here are some examples. Appropriation as a term is defined as taking cultural aspects and using them to advance an agenda that doesn't respect and cultivate the culture. Instead, it views the culture as a means to an end, usually a financially beneficial end which is the definition of exploitation or appropriation. This definition can be applied to most cases of European usage of African culture when their interaction with the culture, from dress, dance, language, and expression, isn't genuine in the sense of reflecting their real lived experience and expression (speaking of Europeans who grow up in African neighborhoods for example), but is instead a falsified caricature that is used for some reason other than advancing African culture for the main purpose that it serves today; to advance the self-determination of African people against capitalist oppression. The reason the appropriation argument is baseless as it applies to Africans anywhere is our culture under colonialism and neo-colonialism is an expression of our dignity. In other words, there is no benefit in Africans wearing African clothes especially when the dominant messages are that we should assimilate as "Americans" in this so-called "post-racial" society. So, within the environment of capitalist exploitation of African culture (as a part of capitalism's overall exploitation of Africa) wearing African clothes, speaking African languages, traveling to Africa, and uplifting Africa, is seen primarily as a sign of resistance in the U.S. I was reminded of this most recently when I attended a social event dominated by Europeans. As is often the case, the question of my African name (changed legally 31 years ago) came up. When another European asked them (because I wasn't interested) if they held a name that reflected their families being someone else's property - as names like Johnson, Jones, Smith, etc., represent for us - would they want to keep those names? The people answered a resounding no. So this person went on to explain that my changing my name was my desire to be free from that bondage and to create that dignity and freedom for future generations of my family. That was a perfect explanation. I have spent the last three decades beaming with pride at the fact everyone who meets me, works with me, organizes with me, and encounters me at the hospital, supermarket, and in every restaurant where I have to be called to be seated, has to respect Africa. This is prideful because I know that in respecting Africa, they have to respect me, but the people at this social event still didn't understand. Despite the valiant effort of this European, they never got it. When I talked to this exasperated person later on, I told them the reason for the continued confusion had nothing to do with their near flawless explanation. Instead, it had to do specifically with the fact Europeans have been remote-control programmed for centuries to believe that their personal and collective identity, and the capitalist system, are one and the same. Therefore, if they believe that, which the vast majority of them do, then since this capitalist economy is maintained on Africa's exploitation, its no wonder that any effort any African here makes to connect with Africa is going to be met with suspicion, fear, and antagonism because by identifying with Africa we are challenging capitalism.
The last sentence above is really the reason behind this African appropriation foolishness. There are forces everywhere that don't want Mother Africa to be connected to her children because that means destruction for this system and many of us, as Malcolm told us, love the master. The language may be different in 2015, but it's still based in the same "what's wrong boss, we sick? mentality. There's no other rational reason why any conscious thinking African would raise such a backward concept. Clearly, we are as much Africans today as we were 500 years ago. The fact we don't know this doesn't diminish that one inch. Kwame Ture would characterize our identity as "we are Africans in America, fighting against capitalism." I understood that as a 16 year old high school student when my cake cutter comb was banned from school. I understood it when African college students rebelled against police aggression in Virginia Beach during spring break in 1992. I remember the media reports kept talking about how the students had shirts with Africa and Malcolm X on them. I think of this every time an African is shot down by police or even one of our own confused brothers or sisters. We don't fit. We never have. We never will. The media called us refugees in New Orleans in the days after Katrina because we aren't Americans. No matter how much we try to be. No matter how much time passes. No matter how much Oprah is liked, everyone wants to be like Mike, and Beyonce is admired, we are still not Americans and this is made clear by the masses every time we burn another city in response to injustice. Kwame Ture again; "we have burned this country from plantations to cities."
There is one final element to this equation. Identity is primarily political, not biological. When we say we are Africans, we are making a political definition, not a biological one. Our definition is based in the definition of identity provided by Kwame Nkrumah, not capitalism. Our definition is a self conscious African is someone who lives and works for African liberation. A conscious African is one who knows there is a problem and an unconscious African is one who participates in our oppression. Our objective is to bring us all to the level of self conscious Africans, but the definition is political. What do we mean by that? Recently, I walked into a store that was owned and operated by a brother from Ethiopia. When I walked in, I had on an African shirt that I got from Gambia last time I was there. The brother saw me and asked where I was from. I responded that I was born in San Francisco. he replied by saying "oh, you are an African American?" I said "no, you are." He looked at me and said "I'm Ethiopian." I said "you may be, but you are also African American." I pointed at his daughter (presumably) who was running around the store with a shirt with the American flag on it. I said "you came here from Africa to assimilate and be a part of the American capitalist society. That makes you an African American because you came from Africa, but your identity is American, or at least that's your objective. Me? I'm an African fighting against American imperialism, so I'm more African than you are!" He said it was an interesting analysis and then he went back to working on being an American I guess. My point is that's a political definition of African identity. It's much more than just where you are born and what language you speak. Its about what your interests are.
I can continue to develop this a 1000 different ways, but the point is the only difference between any African anywhere is a boat stop. In fact, it's entirely possible that Africans in America have blood connections to Africans in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Britain, etc. And, its certainly correct that we all have historical and cultural connections to Africa. That's why the appropriation argument is so invalid. If we used these people's logic than I guess the fact we have sickle cell anemia, a disease that results from blood cells mutating as the body's form for fighting malara, a disease common in Africa, is a case of us appropriating sickle cell anemia? I guess the fact linguists who are experts in English have confirmed (look it up) that the way we speak Africanized English, or what they call "Ebonics" is the result of the violent transition of African languages like Ebo, Yoruba, Fulani, Twi, Wolof, etc., with English from the colonialism/slavery process? So, does this mean we are appropriating Ebonics? Does the fact we do African things like answer non-verbally like "Um huh, uh uh, um, um, um, and we all understand that when it happens, those methods of responding are central parts of African communication with Ethnic groups like the Hohentots...Does this mean we are appropriating something? Does the fact we love seafood, because that was and remains a primary food throughout West Africa, does that mean we appropriate our love for Red Lobster? This is third grade foolishness by people who are either painfully ignorant about our history or there is a sinister plan to continue to keep us confused about our very real and legitimate connection to Africa?
You can help stop this foolishness by forwarding discussions like this and other revolutionary Pan-Africanist based analysis while at the same time refusing to perpetuate this foolishness which seeks to divide our people. But then there is one aspect of their argument that is ill-refutable. For the most part, many of us don't embrace our African culture (understand the difference between our Pan-Africanist definition of culture and the European anthropological definition) with respect and dignity. Instead, some of us do approach our cherished culture with that same means to an end vision that some Europeans do. The difference is when we do that, we aren't appropriating our culture, we are just making fools of ourselves by playing directly into the hands of our enemies.