AdviceHey, Bonita!

Calling Out Cultural Appropriation

Hey Bonita,

There’s a newish music festival in town. I don’t know if an advice column is the right place to complain about its (lack of) diversity, but I don’t know where else to turn. I’m sure the intent of the planners is good, but it’s so incredibly disheartening to see their almost exclusively white lineup go up yet another year and know that almost only white folks will attend—I went one year and it was actually shocking—and that this festival literally offers visitors a tipi as lodging.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain what is wrong with this to you. What I’m wondering is, what do I do when I see something like this in my community? How do I call it out effectively? How do I change it without ostracizing myself?

Cultural appropriation in music and entertainment is a huge problem, and I don’t have to be familiar with this festival to see how these things could bother you. I came up in the punk scene and can relate to you my experience. I was always seeing oogles and crusties with fake Maori facial tattoos, and I don’t even wanna count the number of people for whom I was their first partner or hookup of color—which isn’t a problem in the least, but did they really have to tell me? Did they have to go on and on about how insane it was that this was happening? That they’d ever do such a thing with me? (See how that sounds, white people? Not as sweet or funny as you think.)

The first step is letting people know when they’re messing up. Reach out to the organizers and let them know the issues you have with the festival. You should also find other people who take issue and get their support; otherwise, you’ll probably be written off as a lone “whiny minority” and your issues will go unconsidered. If people wanna ostracize you for your position, then they’re jerks, and you’ll just have to deal with it. Sorry, but that comes with the territory of standing up for what you believe in.

My boyfriend of more than two years is a good man. We’ve had our ups and downs, as couples do, but last night was one for the books. His family lives three hours away, and we went to his uncle’s place for his grandmother’s birthday. I went to bed around midnight, and my boyfriend stayed up to drink and cut up with his relatives and their friends like usual.

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and realized he was not in the bed with me. I went downstairs and outside to the pool house, and once I reached the doorway, I saw two silhouettes standing entangled in the dark. One was him. I was so dumbfounded that I just stood and watched my boyfriend deeply kiss and grope his aunt’s (by marriage) sister. They finally noticed me, and I just turned back to the house to pack my bags and leave. He immediately followed, crying and blubbering and obviously drunk.

I’ll skip the rest of the details to get to the point. Should I subject myself to excruciating lengths of time to build back the trust? Is this salvageable? If he was so drunk that he “didn’t know what he was doing,” how did he so quickly jump to apology mode, complete with sobs and begs? I’m confident had I not walked in, things would have gone further, and I quite likely would never have known. I’m certain he’s remorseful and would not have made this decision in sound mind—if not for me, then for his family.

I’m devastated about the last 16 hours and am trying to make good, logical decisions about the future. Please help.

Yeah, no one makes out with a relative (legal or blood) while thinking straight, which you are not when you’re drunk. I think the circumstances of this situation grant him a bit of a pass—he was wasted, and it was his aunt’s sister. I mean, I can’t imagine that this was part of an elaborate affair or anything. It really seems mostly like a drunken mistake, and I think you should hear him out. Take your space and let him know how you feel, absolutely, but he’s got even more mess to clean up amongst his family, too, and I’ll bet he could use your support.

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