Another culture thief has been punished for daring to appropriate some foreign component: Brown University alum Carrie Grossman was interrupted by liberal student protesters while performing Hindu chanting Thursday night.
Grossman, a white a woman, was accused of using "disturbing and appropriative language," according to The Brown Daily Herald. A group of about 15 students—self-appointed enforcers of rigid cultural boundaries—interrupted her performance and peppered her with accusatory questions. They're refrain was a tired one: leave the Hindu chanting to the real Hindus.
Other students, who had come to actually hear the performance, asked the protesters to leave. According to The Herald, the protesters decided to hold their own chanting session nearby. (I can't help but wonder whether all of these protesters were ethnically Indian—the photo accompanying the story suggests otherwise.)
Later, Grossman apologized for not understanding the consequences of her action or the offense that they would cause. Saraf responded, "You saying that it wasn't intended to be harmful doesn't make it an apology." Both Saraf and Chokshi led the discussion with Grossman and highlighted the different ways that Grossman has the ability to give performances at the expense of minorities.
Toward the end of the question-and-answer session, the conversation turned toward the actions that Grossman could take in the future to create systemic change. "Use your privilege to make structural change," Saraf said. "You as a white person are protected." Saraf closed the discussion by saying that she wanted Grossman to leave with that message because "that's what radical love looks like."
It's one thing for a non-member of a certain ethnic group to appropriate culture in a way that's offensive or derogatory. It's quite another to pay respectful homage to a foreign custom one finds inspiring. As one person noted in a comment on the article:
"When a Chinese student (by which I mean a student at Brown from the People's Republic of China) presents a violin performance of classical (white) European music, is that also an example of "cultural appropriation," and should that student's presentation be subject to protest as well? I think the answer is obvious."
Obvious to most of us, at least.
Hat tip: The College Fix