Dear Little Bobby: Big-Hearted, and Culturally Confused Advice for a tired artist, and someone wondering when cultural appropriation is...appropriate

 

Dear Little Bobby - Pyragraph

Got questions for Little Bobby? Send them to dearlittlebobby@pyragraph.com.


Dear Little Bobby,

I’m currently working in the realm of media production, i.e., film and photography for local businesses and artists around town. I love my job! However, that love sometimes seems to cloud the realistic sides of things. Things like, the number of hours in the day and basic human needs like sleep. Often times I take on jobs that I am infinitely passionate about and don’t mind bags under my eyes as a consequence. I find true value in establishing relationships with clients/artists/everyday Joes and the like, even if there is no monetary gain behind it.

However, with the time I’ve allotted to these passion projects, paid or not, I’ve realized I’ve been slipping on other priorities in my life. Sometimes I see others who always watch out for number one and tend to have less genuine relationships with their clients/colleagues/etc, BUT! They get a full night’s sleep and rent paid on the 1st.

I’m wondering if there’s a payoff to having a big heart or if I should switch to more of a business-shark mindset. I know that it’s my choice to engage the way I do with certain things, I just wish I could find a balance. Starving artist? Or striving optimist? Any advice will do.

Signed with little squiggles and hearts for dots on the i’s,

—Big Hearts Are for Breaking?

 

Dear Big Hearts,

Grow that big heart like a garden. Feed it. Nurture it. “Looking out for number one” is NOT the way to accomplish that. Loving others, cherishing others, looking out for THEM is the true source of happiness. Balance that with loving yourself and you will find exactly what you need in order to pursue creative endeavors.

Find that balance by calming your mind on a regular basis through very simple meditative techniques, such as black/white breathingexchanging “self” with others, or other, easy to learn, meditations. Taking care of your mind in this way, along with taking care of your body (eating right, moderate exercise, even just walking on a regular basis) will help you find the balance that you are looking for.

For myself, I try to have frequent, maybe weekly, meditations along with yoga and/or jogging. Even if it’s just an hour here and there, those things REALLY help.

Finding that balance, loving others, nurturing those genuine relationships—these things are payoffs unto themselves. Jobs, well-rested days, tired mornings—those things come and go. Living with a big heart is a life worth living.

Big hearts ARE for breaking…wide open.

—Little Bobby

 


 

Let me start by saying I’m a live-and-let-live type, and I think the more artists—and just people in general—are free to express themselves, the better. I also am an empathetic person and believe in respecting feelings of individuals and communities, even if some folks say they’re being “too sensitive.”

I’m writing because I’m confused about what is cool and what is not cool when it comes to wearing anything “tribal.” I have read so many stories calling out celebrities and hipsters for wearing Native American headdresses—like the whole thing with Wayne Coyne defending his friend who wore a warbonnet, then firing the Flaming Lips drummer who called her out for it, or Pharrell wearing one—but then I’ll stumble across photos of other artists like Thundercat wearing the same kind of headdress and no one seems to care. I also have friends who are part of the tribal belly dance scene, and wear amazing handmade costumes made with feathers, antlers, beads, etc.

My question to you is: When is it okay to wear or adapt culturally significant costumes or make-up, and when is it culturally disrespectful? I’m a mixed-heritage American who is pretty grossed out by the endless blind privilege that White/Euro culture wields thougthlessly. My inclination personally is to avoid any type of dress or whatever that would offend any racial or cultural community. But all these examples of cultural mixing/borrowing/appropriation are leaving me confused about where the line is.

—Non-Native Looking for a Clue

 

Dear Looking for a Clue,

For me, I draw the line exactly where I feel it needs to be, BUT I remind myself that the line is shifting for me and for others. Al Jolson famously made a career out of wearing blackface which at the time was applauded by the ultra-white media and extremely racist culture of his day. Flash forward to the Wayans brothers dressing up like White Chicks (and making a terrible movie of it)—and I feel your confusion. If I dress like Caitlyn Jenner for Halloween this year, am I making fun of trans-gendered folks? Or maybe I am mocking her ridiculous political views (such as being against same-sex marriage)?

I know in my heart that I empathize with the indigenous peoples of the world, including natives of this continent, such as my great-grandmother who was Cherokee. Does that give me the right to wear a warbonnet? Aside from the fact that the Cherokee did not traditionally wear such adornments, and the fact that I am not a Native American chief, I would have to say it is not right for ME to wear such a headdress. Should I judge an “artist” for wearing one? I would rather spend my time observing their actions—maybe they are wearing one out of ignorance, maybe they ARE in fact mocking Native culture OR maybe they are wearing one in solidarity with our Native cousins, or maybe they are making a point about the way Europeans have committed genocide upon the Natives of this continent. We each have to make that judgment for ourselves.

If an artist wants to use an item from another culture, like one of the many Native American tribes, they should be aware of the bloody waters into which they are treading and they should be prepared for a plethora of reactions. European Americans, for the most part, are still in denial concerning the abject mistreatment that has been, and still is being, inflicted upon our Native cousins—just observe the way Columbus Day is used as an excuse to put mattresses on sale.

If Wayne-Coyne’s-friend-what’s-her-name’s wearing of a headdress causes us to discuss this more, then that is a good thing, aside from whether or not her fashion choices are disrespectful or not.

—Little Bobby Tucker, a little Cherokee, but mostly European

Got questions for Little Bobby? Send them to dearlittlebobby@pyragraph.com.

About Little Bobby Tucker

Little Bobby Tucker was born and raised in Waco, Texas by Big Bobby and Bonnie Tucker. Since 2002, he has been the front man/glitter fairy for Shoulder Voices, a band based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which specializes in stuffed animals and glitter. Their newest album, The Life and Death Tragedy/Comedy of the Stuffed Animal Band, was released in the summer of 2016. He has also completed 10 Duke City Marathons and enjoys eating vegetables and spending time meditating at a local Buddhist center.

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