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Michael B. Jordan Accused of Cultural Appropriation, But He Shouldn't Face Ridicule

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Actor Michael B. Jordan has found himself in some hot water.


However, what Michael B. Jordan is accused of doing is something that everyone does on a regular basis.


People from the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago have accused Michael B. Jordan of cultural appropriation because he named his rum brand, J’ouvert.


Seemingly, the brand name J’ouvert finds its inspiration from an annual event that takes place in Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival.


Apparently, Michael B. Jordan has no roots or connection to Trinidad and Tobago.


However, he still chose to give his rum a name steeped in Trinidad and Tobago culture.


As a result, the Internet let him know he was out of line for appropriating the Caribbean culture to sell his product.


The Root reported, “Per Buzzfeed, pictures of boxes made their way to Instagram in which the name is defined and described in a paragraph. It reads, ‘Derived from the Antellian Creole and French term meaning ‘daybreak,’ J’OUVERT originated in the pre-dawn streets of Trinidad, as celebration of emancipation combined with Carnival season to serve as the festival informal commencements. Crafted on those same islands, J’OUVERT Rum is a tribute to the party start.’


“Specifically calling out the way in which the celebration is used and described on the packaging, a Twitter user wrote, ‘Michael B. Jordan owns rum made in Trinidad? (I’m assuming ‘those same islands’ mean Trinidad and Tobago? idk Chile).’


“…Plenty of people on social media have continued to call out the actor for profiting off of another culture and trademarking the event’s name. One popular tweet compared the situation to when Kim Kardashian infamously trademarked the name Kimono before she dropped her eventual shapewear line, Skims.”


These days, many celebrities are taking unnecessary criticism because other cultures inspire them.


But Michael B. Jordan should not take heat for cultural appropriation because everyone and their Mama borrows from the culture of others at times.


And some even profit from it.


Furthermore, sometimes the term cultural appropriation has been misused by people in the African-American community who seem to think that race and culture are synonymous, which obviously is not always the case.


Just because a person shares a similar skin tone does not mean that they share the same culture or all the same cultural values.


The culture for African-Americans might be drastically different than the culture for Black people in Africa, the Caribbean or Europe.


Additionally, the culture of an African-American from rural Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama might be totally different than the culture for an African-American from Harlem, N.Y., Detroit or Philadelphia.


When an American born Black musician uses a reggae inspired beat, is that Black person appropriating someone else’s culture?


Technically, yes if that artist does not have roots in the Caribbean.


If a rapper from New York uses a beat that comes from the culture of the South, is that rapper culturally appropriating Southern culture?


Yes.


Jay-Z has often used beats produced by Timbaland, who is a Southern producer from Virginia.


Rapper/actor T.I. appeared on a song by Colonel Loud called “California,” although the emcee hails from Atlanta.


Houston rapper Mike Jones once released a song called “My 64,” which derives from the song “Boyz N The Hood” by Compton, Calif. hip-hop executive/rapper, Eazy-E.


Technically, that is also appropriating California culture for profit.


Over the last decade, artists like Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake have all received the label of culture vulture for appropriating African-American culture to make money in the music business.


It never seemed to matter that these artists paid homage to their African-American musical heroes.


To many in the African-American community, if a non-Black person made any music that resembled R&B or hip-hop then they needed to get canceled and should have to send a check to the African-American artists that inspired them.


I actually heard someone say this, and this person graduated from Harvard University so they should not have said something so ridiculous.


Recently, hip-hop group J.J. Fad appeared on Vlad TV.


The host of the show asked them about Fergie sampling their 1988 hit song “Supersonic.”


Since J.J. Fad still owns their publishing from that song, they got paid from Fergie’s version of the song.


Nevertheless, the host of Vlad TV said people called Fergie a culture vulture who had made money off African-American talent.


By that logic, African-American artists like Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Prince, to name a few, are all culture vultures because they covered songs by White artists and profited from those covers.


Lauryn Hill remade “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by Frankie Valli.


Whitney Houston covered “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton.


Michael Jackson remade “Come Together” by The Beatles.


And Prince covered “A Case of U” by Joni Mitchell and “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.


So by the logic of haters with too much time on their hands, those aforementioned African-American musical titans should receive the same hate that Mars and Timberlake have received over the years.


Years ago, former NBA All-Star Kenyon Martin criticized Jeremy Lin for appropriating African-American culture by wearing his hair in cornrows.


Taking the high road, Lin (who is Chinese-American) pointed out that Martin’s body is tattooed with Chinese characters although he does not have any known Asian lineage.


If African-Americans can tattoo Chinese characters on their body, why can’t an Asian-American wear a hairstyle that originated in the African-American community?


The fact of the matter is that culture is supposed to be appreciated and shared.


No one culture is more, or less, guilty of appropriating someone else’s culture.


So people need to chill on all the cultural appropriation talk because it truly is like the pot calling the kettle black.

This article was published on Friday 25 June, 2021.
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