In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review December 5, 2013 / 2 Teves, 5774

Katy Perry's dance should remind us to let artistic expression bloom

By Cathy Young

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Singer Katy Perry's Japanese-style performance at the American Music Awards has sparked a storm of outrage, with accusations of racism and "cultural appropriation." While concern with racial and cultural sensitivity is admirable, this controversy cheapens real racism. Moreover, Perry's critics miss the fact that "appropriation" is the lifeblood of culture. To attack it is to attack free expression and, perversely, to promote cultural segregation in progressive guise.

Perry's act in a kimono costume against an Asian-themed backdrop has been likened to blackface minstrelsy or caricatures of buck-toothed Asians. But it was nothing of the sort. Granted, it was not a recreation of authentic Japanese song, dance, or costume but an adaptation of Japanese visual style (with a dash of Chinese); yet, far from being mocked, the cultural sources were treated as elegant.

Some charge that Perry's use of the geisha image to go with her single "Unconditionally," in which a woman assures her lover of her unconditional love, exploits stereotypes of the submissive Asian female. But Perry's exuberant singing and bold dance movements hardly seemed submissive, and even her lyrics are not about docility: the woman tells the man to freely show his insecurities because she'll accept him as he is.

Of course, to Perry's detractors, any white American using material from a non-Western culture is guilty of theft and exploitation; on the Everyday Feminism blog, writer Jarune Uwujaren slings such pejoratives as "interloper" and "mooch" (except only when a person pays tribute to a culture by invitation from that culture's members).

But all culture is the product of cross-pollination and interbreeding. American culture is the ultimate mongrel. European culture is a stew of ethnic traditions mixed with borrowings from ancient Rome, Greece, Israel, and Egypt as well as later non-Western cultures.

To cast Japanese culture as a victim of Perry's rapaciousness is ironic. Medieval Japanese culture borrowed from China. Modern Japan has adapted Western cultural material, in everything from anime films based on such sources as "The Little Mermaid" to celebrations of a secularized Christmas.

That's different, critics say, because the West is an oppressive juggernaut. As psychiatrist Ravi Chandra puts it on his blog at the Psychology Today website, "This kind of 'costume' is acting out a power relationship," since "whites have historically held power."

This argument disregards the fact that many non-Western countries have their own history of imperialism and racism, and insultingly casts other cultures as victims of the evil West. Thus, non-Western consumption of Western and especially American popular culture is treated as an imposition.

Politically correct zealotry is leading some well-meaning Americans to worry about even respectful engagement with other cultures. Salt Lake City Tribune writer Erin Alberty wonders if it was racist to dress as China's Empress Dowager Cixi for Halloween. Some college students fret about committing "appropriation" by studying a non-Western culture or language. If white supremacists had concocted a plot to protect European culture from "impure" influences by appealing to progressive sensibilities, they could not have done better.

Thankfully, racial or ethnic caricatures are now seen as unacceptable. But denouncing something as innocuous as Perry's performance, which no Asian-American group has criticized, can only promote backlash and polarization. True diversity, to borrow a Chinese phrase, is about letting a hundred flowers bloom-including Perry's artistic expression.


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JWR contributor Cathy Young is a regular contributor to Reason magazine, Newsday and Real Clear Politics, where this first appeared. Comment by clicking here.

© 2013, Cathy Young. This originally appeared in Newsday.