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Razib Khan
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Cultural Appropriation

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Screenshot from 2016-03-15 22-46-48Sometimes you don’t know what is real or not real. What do people really believe? Do they really believe what they say? Even if it’s clearly ridiculous? Probably internalized 1984 too much. Also, many of my white friends have admitted to me that in university contexts when talking about sensitive topics such as race they’ve basically memorized what to say, even if they basically have no agreement with what they assert. They know what the party line to please everyone is.

So this happened at my university. ASUCD draws criticism for sumo wrestling costumes at Block Party:

Among those activities was an attraction in which students could dress in sumo suits and wrestle each other. The activity immediately drew criticism from members of the student body, who accused ASUCD of fat shaming and culturally appropriating Japanese culture.

According to the students who raised this issue to ASUCD, the sumo suits trivialized Japanese culture and the history of Japanese rikishi or sumo wrestlers.

Once the issue was brought to ASUCD’s attention, ASUCD’s Executive Office, consisting of President Mariah Kala Watson, Vice President Gareth Smythe and Controller Francisco Lara, immediately issued an apology for the incident and commended the students that brought the issue to light.

“We’d like to apologize for any harm the ‘Sumo Suit’ may have caused you all. This lapse in judgment is completely ASUCD’s fault and responsibility alone,” said ASUCD’s Executive Office in a Facebook post. “We are thankful to the student who courageously brought this issue to our attention […] This was an egregious oversight and it will hopefully not happen in the future.”

Scott Tsuchitani, a Ph.D. student in cultural studies, believed the incident was evidence of the lack of awareness of the racism against Asian and Asian American students.

“My overall impression is that this conversation is in itself an expression of white supremacist anti-Asian structural racism. If people are genuinely concerned with the needs of Asian Americans, then why are Asian American voices not front and center in this conversation?” Tsuchitani said via email. “Instead, Asian Americans are treated as mute, hapless victims, devoid of agency, a.k.a. the ‘model minority’ stereotype. That is what I see being reinscribed by this conversation.”

Tsuchitani went on to say that he was not pleased by ASUCD’s apology and called for more action from the association.

“It is pitiful that the ASUCD would pathologize the so-called victims as in need of treatment instead of reflecting more deeply on what is needed to address ASUCD’s own failure in this situation,” Tsuchitani said. “From my limited perspective, I would suggest that the foremost need for treatment might well be for cultural competency training for ASUCD itself. That is much more relevant here than any Orientalist history of sumo wrestling.”


51FCNSFNR5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Scott Tsuchitani is a smart guy. He has two master’s degrees in engineering already. He’s not getting his Ph.D. in cultural studies because that’s all he could do with his mind. The fact that intelligent people such as Scott Tsuchitani parrot this sort of weird gibberish as a form of symbolic performance, enacting scripts which navigate the discourse of hierarchical power relations, so as to assert superiority and agency over others, is indicative of an intellectual culture in advanced stages of putrefaction.

Another symptom of a culture near the end of its internally incoherent logic is that you can’t distinguish farce from sincere expressions of outrage. The article above alludes to “fat shaming.” It reports on this objection in a straight manner, assuming the sincerity of the complainant. Actually that student was trolling. It is reached such levels of self-parody that you can’t distinguish between the trolls and the truly offended, it’s all turning into a great game.

For those genuinely interested in Japanese culture, as opposed to being offended on behalf of Japanese culture, I recommend Maurius Jansen’s The Making of Modern Japan. Also, Moshi Moshi is much better than Zen Toro or Mikuni in my opinion.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Cultural Appropriation 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"