Cultural Appropriation and Mailbox Money
Print Friendly and PDF

From The Tablet:

How victimhood became a moral currency dependent on defining and policing the boundaries of human identity

By Claire Lehmann
June 11, 2018 • 12:00 AM

Lehmann, editor of Quillette, finds the to-do over cultural appropriation to be fairly baffling.

But I think it’s more understandable as resentment that you don’t get a check in the mail for use of your group’s intellectual property rights.

Congress treats the heirs of individual creators very nicely: while F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby is in the public domain in some Anglosphere countries, but won’t be in the U.S. until the end of 2020, after 95 years. (Here’s an article about Fitzgerald’s granddaughter, who seems to have been able to afford a rather complicated life from royalties from schoolteachers assigning Gatsby to their classes.)

But a lot of other things, such as musical styles, cuisines, modes of dressing, tend to be more the joint product of cultures more than identifiable individuals.

So if you assume that your great-great-great-grandfather in Louisiana maybe had something to do with the invention of jazz 120 years ago and maybe your great-great-grandmother in Mississippi was a pioneering blues singer (not that you can prove that they were), well, maybe you deserve to get a check in the mail every so often just for being black.

An economic system in which everybody had to financially compensate everybody else all the time for cultural appropriation would probably turn out to be a good deal mostly for accountants and IP lawyers. But it’s not surprising lots of people these days kind of dream about it and feel entitled to resent others for not offering them mailbox money.

[Comment at]

Print Friendly and PDF