Waco and the Wackos

Being curious about how religious extremists come to be, I’ve watched a number of documentaries about the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas over the years. And last night, out of snowbound curiosity, I found myself watching a special on ABC titled Truth and Lies: Waco.

I’m not sure why this national network decided to dedicate two-hours of primetime television space to such a tragedy. Perhaps it’s because we are nearing the 25th anniversary of the event. Or maybe they were simply looking to capitalize on the apparent appeal of sensationalizing such tragedies and feeding fear-mongering conspiracy theorists desperate for such mainstream attention. After all, we’re now living in Trumpland, a sensationalized tragedy produced by fear-mongering conspiracy theorists (and the deep-pocket, deep state of wealthy one-percenters who, in a manipulative master deception that would make Keyser Soze proud, managed to dupe these rubes into thinking they were draining the swamp of corruption when in reality they just handed the keys to the swampmaster himself).

For what it’s worth, I have always harbored a degree of distrust and perhaps even a little disdain for authority. And I am not a particularly big fan of law enforcement, which I feel is an essential and important function in our society but one that attracts and recruits people with a certain viewpoint and fosters a culture that reinforces that viewpoint, all of which encourages the abuse of power and force. I would like to see more humane policing, better pay and training for law enforcement professionals, and frankly a complete overhaul of our judicial system.

That said, I do not fear the authorities, or my government. Nor do I adhere to all these conspiracy theories and “deep state” nonsense, the sort of stuff that is so appealing to those who thought The X-Files was a reality show. Perhaps if our government was a little less inept then I might share some of the rampant fear and trepidation that seems to fuel these people’s lives. But, as it stands, I don’t even own a tin-foil hat.

As for Waco, I still think that the Branch Davidians are responsible for that tragedy. Yes, the authorities made a number of mistakes, as is often the case (which, again, is one of the reasons I don’t share the fear and paranoia harbored by these conspiracy theorists, because I can’t be afraid of a force that is so frequently flawed and often inept, whereas a ruthless and efficient force like the old East German Stasi might actually inspire me to don a tin-foil cap and crawl into a bunker at the first sight of a chemtrail). But when a group of religious extremists starts talking about waging war against the government and then begins stockpiling automatic weapons, hand grenades, and other munitions that even the well-funded spinmeisters at the NRA couldn’t pass off as hunting gear, action needs to be taken.

And keep in mind that Koresh and his followers didn’t just oppose the government. They considered everyone who failed to heed his personal prophecy as their enemy, as tools of Satan. This wasn’t about government oppression or the right to bear arms. This was about a man who considered everyone who refused to recognize him as the one true voice of God to be his enemy. This was about a man who wanted a violent confrontation that would thrust him into the national spotlight. This was about a man who wanted he and his followers – including the children – to go out as martyrs in a blaze of glory.

Sadly, conspiracy theorists have used this tragedy as a springboard for the anti-government movement that helped put Trump, ironically the posterchild for everything that’s wrong with our government, in power. They see Waco, along with the tragic events at Ruby Ridge, as seminal moments in their vision of a “deep state” conspiracy within the government that’s working to turn America into Amerika, an imaginary authoritarian state where citizens are stripped of their rights and subjugated by those in power. And yet, again, the irony that these people still voted for Trump, already the most authoritarian and anti-American president we’ve ever had.

In the end, it was Koresh who ordered the death of his followers. He and his lackeys set three separate fires, killing 76 of the Branch Davidians who remained in the compound, including all of the children. Some died as a result of the fire, but many were shot or stabbed to death by fellow cult members, reminiscent of the murder-suicide finale of the People’s Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana.

Recordings from inside the compound prove that it was Koresh and his fellow Branch Davidians who started the fires. And it appears to have been part of his final solution, his plan to martyr his followers. Weeks before they set their compound ablaze, the handful of children that Koresh did allow to leave had drawn images depicting the compound fully engulfed in flames. When asked by their appointed caretakers why the compound was burning in their drawings, weeks before it actually did, the children simply said, in what proved to be an ominous warning, “you’ll see.” Clearly the kids already knew how it would end – in an inferno.

Yet, despite such evidence, ABC opted to include the likes of Alex Jones in their two-hour special, giving voice to the irrational, to the factless fear mongers, who continue to blame the government for these deaths (and a litany of other nonsense). A shameless self-promoter, Jones used the tragedy to gain a national audience and a platform for spinning all sorts of baseless conspiracy theories to further his anti-government agenda. And now it seems ABC is looking to capture a little of that thunder – and perhaps a little slice of this sadly growing demographic – for themselves.

Could more have been done to safeguard the children in the compound? Yes, of course. And I’m not just talking about what happened during the assault, but the fact that all of the adults in that compound knowingly and willingly let Koresh physically and sexually abuse these children for months – even years. Those people – most of whom still blame the government – refuse to accept their role in these crimes.

And there’s absolutely no excuse for this. There’s no passage in the Bible in which Jesus tells a 12-year-old girl that he wants to fill her with God’s seed before raping her. These “Christians” were complicit in these crimes, in this evil, and now want to deflect that harsh reality by trying to make this about an aggressive government interfering with their rights. That’s a much easier narrative for them to swallow compared to having to admit that they were suckered by a drifter who claimed he was the voice of God and then stole their wives and raped their daughters.

For those of you who still think the government overstepped its bounds in this instance, ask yourself this: if the Branch Davidians considered Koresh a prophet of Allah instead of a prophet of God, would you still feel that way? Be honest, now. Would you want the government to stand down if there was a compound of heavily armed Muslim fanatics in the heart of Texas who considered America evil and were preparing to do battle against us? Let’s be honest, folks. Heavily armed religious fanatics who routinely sexually abuse children and have vowed to wage war against anyone who doesn’t follow their faith? In many ways, Koresh and his Branch Davidians were like a Christian version of ISIS.

Look, you may not agree with all the laws of this land. And I certainly have a few I’d like to see changed. But we still have to abide by them, even while we lobby to change them. Koresh and his cult broke the law, and preached of doing battle with anyone who challenged their freedom to do so. Yes, the authorities could have used different tactics, and more patience, but the people truly responsible for that massacre are Koresh and the adults who blindly followed him. The only conspiracy here is the one that has convinced you otherwise.

By the way, next Thursday, ABC will be airing Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story. Because, hey, why should the supermarket tabloids have all the fun, right? Like those Branch Davidians, I fear our society may be getting exactly what we deserve.

Trump Makes History…

Donny Trump is now officially the most unpopular U.S. President. He finishes his first year with the lowest approval rating in the modern era (i.e., when they were able to actually do reasonably accurate, statistically significant mass polling). Only 35 percent of the Americans polled approve of Trump’s performance while 59 percent of them disapprove. LOSER!!!

Thank You, Alabama

You shouldn’t have to congratulate someone for not electing a fecal blossom like Roy Moore, but considering everything he represents, I can’t help but feeling obliged. This is for you, ’bama.

Gino Sorbillo: Making Immigration Great Again

A margherita pepperoni pizza at Zia Esterina Sorbillo on Mulberry Street.

When I relocated to California for work in the mid-90s, the thing I missed the most – more than my friends and family – was good pizza. One of my new California colleagues remained perplexed about this until I took her to John’s Pizza in New York City. She, as they say, got religion.

New York has the best pizza in the nation. It all started with Lombardi’s, at the turn of the century – last century. Italian immigrants (yes, Trumpy, immigrants making America great again) from Naples brought the dish to America, before it even took off in Italy. Pizza apparently originated in bakeries as a way to cool a spot in the over before baking bread. And over the years, a New York version has slowly emerged.

Staff from the original New York pizzeria, Lombardi’s, went on to start Totonno’s, John’s, and Patsy’s. Of course, Patsy’s has a whole confusing legacy of its own. The original, in East Harlem, has evolved into an almost unique style, and was famously declared by Frank Sinatra to be the finest he’s eaten anywhere on the planet. But staff from there went on to open Grimaldi’s. Both branches licensed out their respective names, resulting in multiple branches of exceedingly substandard quality, and even an additional offshoot, Juliana’s, as a result of a real estate dispute. Sadly, John’s has suffered a similar fate, as the descendants of these great pizza families can’t seem to get along with one another. NY Mag/Grub Street’s Julie Ma breaks it all down better than anyone.

At the turn of this century, a second wave of Italian immigrants – and their American disciples – have spawned a Neapolitan pizza renaissance in the city. From one of the pioneers of this new wave, Roberta’s, to the latest craze, Razza’s, the focus has been on the classic Neapolitan pie. And this time the folks back in Naples, especially piemasters, have taken notice.

Which is why the latest entry in the New York pizza scene is Neapolitan pizza legend Gino Sorbillo. Before he became the pizza king of Naples, Sorbillo used to be a cop. And he endeared himself to the locals in his hometown by battling the mob, as Eater’s Gary He explains in this wonderful feature on the man.

Zia Esterina
This year, Sorbillo brought his authentic Neapolitan pizza, and his acclaimed brand, to New York City. First he opened Zia Esterina Sorbillo, on Mulberry between Hester and Canal. Named for his aunt, the focus at this casual hole-in-the-wall is on pizza fritta, a deep-fried calzone-like creation that is a popular Italian street food.

I stopped by to try both the pie and the pizza fritta at this unassuming outpost. The crust on the pie doesn’t quite match what you will find at Razza’s or Roberta’s, New York’s reigning Neapolitan pizzerias, but there was something about Sorbillo’s ratio of sauce and cheese that makes it a real contender.

The massive pizza fritta at Zia Esterina Sorbillo on Mulberry.

As for the pizza fritta, it’s essentially a pie folded over onto itself and then deep fried. I know that sounds fantastic, but the description hardly does it justice. They use smoked mozzarella in the pizza fritta, and that makes a world of difference. It’s hard to eat, given that the molten innards make it risky to do so by hand, the Italian way, so I swallowed my pride (and it never tasted so good) and opted for a knife and fork for the first half. You definitely need to try this, so bring a friend and you can split one before devouring a regular pie.

The only downside is the neighborhood. Unfortunately, despite his much-touted marketing savvy, Sorbillo opted to open up in Little Italy, which any native New Yorker will tell you is the last place you want to go for authentic Italian anything. It’s a tourist trap, second only to Times Square, where diners are likely to select a restaurant by the volume of “That’s Amoré” being piped into the dinning area and the number of Hollywood “wise guy” photos hanging on the wall. You know, the kind of people who think New Yorkers actually say “fuhgeddaboudit.”

Sorbillo Pizzeria
The good news is that Sorbillo has just opened his namesake pizzeria on the Bowery, between 2nd & 3rd Streets. There were many delays and plenty of fanfare, but I stopped by a week after it opened to see if it is worth all the fuss.

The antica margherita pizza at the new Sorbillo Pizzeria on the Bowery, taken by a man who was clearly trembling with hunger and delight.

First off, the atmosphere. Unlike Zia Esterina, this is a pizza restaurant, a sit-down place. And like many of the city’s top pizzerias, Zia Esterina included, slices are not served. Go big or go home, feeders!

The decor, the ambiance, the vibe can best be described as modern European. And if that sounds like an insult, it’s because it’s meant to be one. The furnishings are like high-end Ikea. It’s very brightly lit. And they have that song playing in the background…you know, that same nondescript song that seems to be playing in the background everywhere you go in Europe…airports, hotel bars, cafes, pizzerias, etc.

The walls are adorned with an abundance of cheap-looking fixtures, signs, and what I presume are meant to be decorations. It was the opposite of cozy. Imagine a European Applebee’s without the big screens everywhere.

OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Sure, there are some nice touches, like the cloth napkins, ceramic pizza plates, and a marble bar. But the decorative mirrors on the wall triggered flashbacks to those sad old Greek dinners that used to clog our city, before people realized that you can take breakfast to the next level.

And the service was abysmal. Now, in fairness, this was only their second week, and some of the wait staff clearly were finding their way. I was seated promptly at the bar, unlike some other sap who came in later. And my food came out soon enough, though they forgot to make the last cut, leaving me with two proper-sized slices and two double-sized slices.

It also took forever to get the check, and then have them take my card for processing, and then process and return it. Though maybe they are just trying to give you an authentic Italian experience.

But the pie, you ask? It was really good. Similar to what I had at Zia Esterina, but better. Sort of a cross between Roberta’s and Patsy’s (the East Harlem original, of course).

The cornicione, which is pizza-nerd-speak for the raised edge of the crust encircling the pie, reminded me of classic Neapolitan pizzas like Roberta’s but the crust in the center of the pie, on which the sauce and cheese rest, was super thin and melted in your mouth, like Patsy’s. The cheese was also classic Neapolitan (being an American, I prefer cheese that’s as thick and evenly spread as Kim Kardashian’s mascara, but I do appreciate this style as well, especially when it’s done right…as they do here at Sorbillo). What really set it apart, though, was the sauce. Like Zia Esterina, they seem to have found a good balance, though there was a little more sauce on this one, and it was tangier than most – as opposed to sweet, which is just wrong.

If you love pizza, then Sorbillo’s is definitely worth a visit. The basic pie costs $17, and it’s six slices (unless they fail to cut yours properly as well). That may seem like a lot for an individual, but probably not for someone who read this far in a story about pizza. Besides, the center melts in your mouth and the ends, the cornicione, don’t suddenly turn into a brick inside your belly. In fact, they’re great to soak up the rest of that sauce.

Thought of the Day: The Sharing Economy

What is this “sharing economy” they keep talking about? Airbnb? Uber? Are these people sharing their homes? Are they sharing their cars? No, they are renting them. And that’s an important distinction.

Look, I’m all for making money any way you can, as long as it’s legal. And I often stay in Airbnbs when I travel. But words matter, so let’s be honest with how we describe things.

There is nothing unique about what these people are doing. It’s simply an extension of the traditional economy, the sales and rental economy, in which individuals are trying to monetize everything they can. The only thing really unusual about what they are doing is that they’ve figured out a way to avoid regulations that ensure customer safety and fair business practices.

So, please, stop pretending that these businesses are special or revolutionary. What they are doing is as old as the oldest profession. Yes, I’m talking about prostitution. While I’m sure the disciples of this so-called “sharing economy” would reject the comparison, prostitution is basically Airbnbing your body, if you are working in a brothel, or Ubering your body, if you are working the streets. And that’s not exactly sharing, is it?

Thought of the Day: America First

I get the whole America First thing. Especially for politicians, because we elect them (or, in some cases, the Electoral College elects them, despite the actual vote of the people) to represent us, and our needs.

But my loyalty, first and foremost, is to the human race. I may have been born in America, but I was also born on Earth, which makes me just as much a citizen of the world. And while I appreciate the need to take care of and support my fellow countrymen here in the United States, my ultimate loyalty is to my greater community, that of humanity.

To better understand the America First mindset, let’s take a moment to follow the logic of placing the interests of your country above the interests of mankind. Why do people believe in putting the interests of America before those of the rest of the world? Because they feel like they have more in common with their fellow countrymen than they do with people from afar, which is only natural.

However, by that logic, shouldn’t they then be putting the interests of their state or province above the interests of the nation as a whole, because they have even more in common with them than they do with people in other states? In fact, we have already seen this to some degree, with the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (though they are quickly learning the folly of their own thinking).

Of course, the logical progression would then dictate that they should put the interests of their local city or town above the interests of their state. After all, these are their neighbors, their local community, people with whom they are likely to have the most in common, people they may know and care about.

Fundamentally, what this line of thinking comes down to is putting their own personal interests above everyone else’s. For America Firsters, their home – like their nation – must come first, so they put their interests above even their neighbors’ interests. Ultimately, America First is nothing more than “Me First.” Which is why it’s no surprise that Trump is the posterchild for this sort of selfish thinking, bolstered by a base of people who use false patriotism to mask their self-serving worldview.

These people claim to care about America, but they really only care about themselves…their own little version of what they think America should be. You see it time and time again. They refuse to make a small sacrifice even if it will benefit the greater good, whether helping fellow Americans or everyone around the world.

Climate change is a great example. America is a leader in energy consumption, waste production, and pollution emissions. Yet we also have the means to significantly reduce all of those things but cannot achieve a consensus to do so. Why? Because our nation is filled with people (enough to put Trump in the White House) who are too lazy or too selfish to use less energy, eat less red meat, recycle, etc. despite the fact that such small steps, when done collectively, can have a massive impact – creating a safer, healthier, and wealthier world for everyone’s children, including their own.

And what really galls me is that so many of these America First types call themselves Christians. Would Jesus build walls to protect his disciples while the rest of humanity struggles and suffers outside? No, he was more of an Earth First sort of guy, quite famously putting the interests of all mankind ahead of his own personal interests. Perhaps we should all try to be a little more like him.

Personally, even though I am an atheist, I am an Earth First sort of guy, just like Jesus. And, again, I have never understood why more people, especially those who call themselves Christians, don’t follow his Earth First example. According to your holy scriptures, he died for our sins (not just the sins of Nazarenes, Galileans, or Judeans – but everyone’s sins). And yet, again, you won’t even separate your recyclables? You won’t reduce your carbon footprint, conserve energy, minimize pollution, make the world a better place for your children…and the rest of mankind? For those of us blessed with the opportunity to live in America, these are fairly small sacrifices to make compared to what Jesus would do for you.

And, yes, I understand the whole concept of the nation state, and it certainly made more sense when the world seemed a little smaller. But as I have noted in an earlier post, so many of today’s problems are problems that we all face together, as a species, regardless of our artificial borders and barriers.

For example, there’s the aforementioned challenge of climate change. Oh, wait, you America Firsters are pretending that global warming doesn’t exist because the politicians you support have their pockets stuffed with petroleum-soaked cash from Big Oil lobbyists. OK, fair enough. But the money you think you are saving by not addressing this challenge is a mere drop in the gradually warming ocean compared to what you are going to end up (and already are) spending to combat the growing impacts of climate change, such as the melting of the polar ice, rising sea levels, intensifying storms, failing crops, etc. (not to mention the money you are leaving on the table by not investing in becoming the global leader in green technology, which would surely have enriched the American economy for decades to come).

There’s also the energy crisis, with the eventual exhaustion of fossil fuels, all of which contribute to global warming – and many of which are produced by nations that use the profits to support terrorism. Oh, I forgot, those special interest groups own your politicians, so you have to conveniently look the other way…again. Keep driving that smoke-belching, gas-guzzling Mercedes G-class while your neighbor’s kids are shipped off to defend someone else’s oil fields.

What about social and economic inequities, as the population of have-nots exponentially outgrows the haves, who happen to be getting exponentially richer? You may be able to ignore that for now, but the walls you build today won’t be able to protect your children.

What about overpopulation, which is set to make food security and access to clean water two of the greatest challenges of this century? Again, you can’t build walls high enough to escape those consequences.

And what about health concerns, whether we are talking about plagues that don’t respect borders or simply the need for new antibiotics? Yeah, now you are getting a little worried, aren’t you?

Finally, your favorite…terrorism. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that this is a global threat that isolationist policies cannot prevent, right?

These, of course, are precisely the kinds of challenges the United Nations is working to address. And whether or not you choose to acknowledge all or any of them because they don’t jive with your political or religious beliefs doesn’t make them any less of a threat.

Like it or not, the one thing we all have in common – everyone on the planet – is that we are all citizens of the world. So, rather than just focusing on what’s best for America (and be honest, we’re really talking about what’s best for ourselves), we should also be focusing on what’s best for mankind. Because, with challenges like these, we’re all in this together. If we don’t tackle these global problems together, there won’t be any borders to defend – or anyone left to defend them.

 

Thought of the Day: Cultural Appropriation

Basketball bores the shit out of me. But I have to tip my hat, assuming that is something distinct to my own culture and not some vile act of appropriation which will garner me condemnation from some other culture who has laid claim to hat tipping, to Jeremy Lin. Lin is a basketball player from California whose parents immigrated from Taiwan. And this season he took to the courts sporting some fairly ridiculous-looking dreadlocks.

Kenyon Martin, a retired basketball player who was born in Michigan and raised in Dallas, made headlines when he called out Lin for his new hairstyle, accusing him of “cultural appropriation.” Apparently, adopting styles that one group of people has claimed as its own is a bad thing. Which seems odd to me, because I’d think a group of people who have endured a history of abuse and oppression would actually take some comfort and perhaps even a little pride in what Martin claims is Lin’s desire to be a part of that group. I would think that Martin would celebrate the fact that Lin and others are openly embracing what they feel are traits distinct to his culture.

Lin certainly touched on this point in his initial response, noting that both players are members of racial minorities and suggesting that “…the more we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.” He also astutely called out Martin’s hypocrisy, pointing out that Martin has Chinese tattoo’s. Clearly Martin had no problem appropriating Lin’s culture, yet was quite upset when Lin apparently appropriated his.

As the debate played out publicly, few have acknowledged the racist undertones in Martin’s remarks. For example, he referred to Lin as “this boy” and “these people.” Imagine the outcry if Lin had referred to Martin in such terms? It makes me wonder if David Duke should be angry with Martin for his cultural appropriation of terms deeply rooted in white Southern racist culture?

It’s also important to note that Lin is not a racist, and therefore his adoption of a hairstyle that’s widely considered to be a “black hairstyle” is not meant to mock or offend. This is not a case of a Klansman who is spending $50 a month in tanning salon so his skin can look less white. Lin plays in the National Basketball Association, where 74 percent of his colleagues are black. He has been surrounded by blacks and black culture for most of his life. And getting dreadlocks is evidence of how much he has positively embraced that culture.

For his part, Lin penned an insightful piece about his journey to dreads. Clearly his intent was to sport a hairstyle that was popular among his teammates and friends. Which reinforces my belief that anyone who supports black culture should celebrate Lin’s decision to get dreads as a positive affirmation of that culture (if indeed that’s what dreads represent, but more on that in a moment).

First, let’s acknowledge that hair is more than just hair in black culture. The afro has been seen as a black-positive hairstyle, much like dreadlocks, because it’s seen as more “natural.” Conversely, straight and smooth hair, often artificially created through a nasty-ass process known as “relaxing” it, has been seen as Uncle Tomish, trying to emulate white culture. And if you are unfamiliar with all of this, I highly recommend watching Chris Rock’s documentary on the subject.

But back to dreadlocks, their origins, and what they may or may not represent. This hairstyle was made popular by Jamaicans, specifically the Rastafarians, which leaves me wondering if Martin’s family comes from Jamaica. If not, then shouldn’t he be apologizing to Jamaicans – or at least the Rastafarians – for cultural appropriation? And to that end, why hasn’t Martin called-out other basketball players who are guilty of cultural appropriation, being non-Jamaicans who have appropriated the dreadlock hairstyle from Jamaican culture, such as Chris Bosh, Marquis Daniels, Kenneth Faried, Brain Grant, Latrell Sprewell, and Etan Thomas? Has he held his tongue because they are black? And, if so, does that make Martin a racist?

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not any of those aforementioned basketball players are third- or fourth-generation descendants from Jamaica, or perhaps Rastafarians, in which case the hairstyle would indeed be a part of their cultural heritage. Which raises the question of how much of a connection does one need to a particular culture to justify their alleged appropriation? And since science tells us we are all descendants from Africa, doesn’t that make this whole discussion kind of silly?

I don’t understand cultural appropriation. For starters, what specifically defines a culture? And what about distinctions within what’s presumed to be a distinct culture? Are there not cultural distinctions between black Americans, black Africans, and black Caribbeans? And, if so, are they allowed to borrow freely from one another simply because of the level a melanin in their skin?

Is there a white culture? And if so, are there things that non-whites are not allowed to appropriate from it? For example, should black women be allowed to straighten their hair, dye it blond, or wear wigs that achieve the same affect, given that those hairstyles are more traditionally associated with white culture? Should there be an outcry against blacks who wear Timberland boots and North Face jackets, both of which were initially popularized by whites?

Making these kinds of distinctions can get very confusing for those who complain about cultural appropriation. For example, is a white person not allowed to use a touch-tone phone, caller I.D. and call waiting because they were invented by a black woman? And is a black person then not allowed to use any phone because it was invented by a bunch of white guys, one of whom went on to create the lab in which the aforementioned black woman made her inventions? And would the latter fact negate her inventions because they were made in a lab created by white culture?

Given the world we live in, where cultures have been living together for ages, what makes something truly unique to a given culture? Koreans are believed to have invented pants, so does that mean the rest of us are appropriating Korean culture when we wear them? Should we apologize for our pants?

What makes such things distinct to one culture and not another? Is it because someone from that culture created them, or because someone from that culture borrowed it from another and then popularized it through their own culture? And who do you need to ask permission from before you “appropriate” something? Is it simply a question of acknowledging its origins and respecting them? If so, what exactly constitutes acknowledgement and respect?

Finally, is this really about culture, or is it about race? Are these claims of cultural appropriation nothing more than a backlash against years of deep-seated racism, or a way to reinforce racial stereotypes? Are they intended to be a form of cultural racism, or is that just an unpleasant byproduct of trying to hold onto cultural identity on an increasingly assimilating world?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cultural appropriation. And there don’t seem to be a lot of clear answers to any of them. But perhaps the most poignant question of all is whether or not we want to be drawing more lines between one another.

I, for one, have seen far too much racism, hatred, and bigotry in my lifetime – based on everything from race, religion, culture, and nationality. And it mystifies me why anyone, particularly someone who has likely endured a lifetime of overt and institutional oppression, would want to foster more of that in our society by trying to use something as simple as a hairstyle to build even more boundaries between us.