This article by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post about "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" is a nice embodiment of everything that irritates me about the way certain cultural critics bandy about the idea of "appropriation." In this case, frankly, I think it's racist:
And so "It's hard out here for a pimp" enters white culture, as so many black memes do, with a wink and a nod. Of course your great aunt sitting down the table complaining in an impeccably white way that it's not easy for a pimp isn't thinking about real pimps. She may not even know what real pimps do. But that doesn't matter. Black memes in "white culture" are vaguely scandalous, used with a wink and nod that say, "I know this is transgressive, but I'm not going to learn anything more about it."Earlier in the article, Kennicott puts scare quotes around the words "white" and "black", but it doesn't make it any better. It's still clear that he thinks that pimps, real pimps, are part of "black culture," but not "white culture." Meanwhile, your great aunt -- white, of course, because the readers of Washington Post must be white and therefore their great aunts are too -- couldn't possibly know anything about prostitution. No, white people, especially old white people, are too sheltered and rich.
Later in the article:
An Associated Press report began, "The Oscar people showed they were ready to embrace a song called 'It's Hard Out There for a Pimp.' " But the line was, "It's hard out here for a pimp."There are just so many assumptions in this article: The Academy -- white; the viewers at home -- white; the Associated Press reporter -- white; the person who will read this article -- white. And of all these whiteys, only Kennicott truly knows how hard it is out here for a pimp.
Here, there. Inside, outside. The slip of the pen captures exactly how these things play out when appropriated across class and race lines.
Given that this is how race is normally discussed in America, no wonder Crash was hailed as a such a revelation and won the Oscar for Best Picture.