Appropriation of the Black culture has been an issue for a long time. The Kardashians have culture vultured their way to success. However, in today’s guilty until proven innocent, fickle, social justice warrior society, some people think that everyone is appropriating Black culture. News flash: everyone does not see the world like a 1960s television. Neither does Dana Schutz.
Her abstract artistic depiction of Emmett Till, titled “Open Casket”, is drawing ire and protest claiming Black appropriation.
“I don’t know what it is like to be black in America but I do know what it is like to be a mother,” Shutz wrote in a statement. “Emmett was Mamie Till’s only son. The thought of anything happening to your child is beyond comprehension. Their pain is your pain. My engagement with this image was through empathy with his."
“Everybody wants to be black, until it’s time to be black” is one of today’s most telling truisms. People love to stick their feet in the pool called Black Culture. Some may even go knee deep. But when it’s time to go to the deep end, most start reaching for the towel. Fashion, art and music has been “inspired” by Black culture from the top down. On the flipside, we should not stop enjoying these entities in the name of Black appropriation.
Was Dana Schutz dipping her feet in Black culture? Sure, a little, depending on how you look at things. That should not take away from the magnificent painting and the raw emotions that the story of Emmett Till still elicits. The death of a child resonates across racial boundaries. Schutz is simply expressing how this event made her feel.
There is also a level of hypocrisy present. Black activists constantly complain that their culture is never acknowledged as part of the historic American fabric, but when someone pays tribute to the culture, people become angered because the person is not the right color. If this same painting was done by a black artist, she would be given a Black Nobel Prize.
There are many examples of Black appropriation, you just have to look elsewhere.