Law professor and conservative/libertarian blogger Eugene Volokh has an excellent takedown of the noxious racism of one Randa Jarrar. The Palestinian-American writer published a screed at the left-wing online magazine Salon [see screen capture here] on Tuesday entitled, "Why I can’t stand white belly dancers." The long and short of it is that Ms. Jarrar views as "unwittingly racist" the practice of say a woman of European descent "appropriating" belly dancing by, well, belly-dancing at say an Arab restaurant (presumably for tips). Ms. Jarrar compared such a thing to both to drag queen performances -- wait, isn't that comparison "homophobic"? -- and the long-discredited practice of white performances doing a blackface routine.
Enter Mr. Volokh, who thoroughly eviscerated Ms. Jarrar's claims while slamming the hypocrisy of a liberal publication proudly printing such racist garbage, when they wouldn't dream of -- and rightly so -- printing someone denouncing say an Asian person performing a classical music piece (emphasis mine):
Appropriation — the horror! People treating artistic genres as if they were great ideas that are part of the common stock of humanity, available for all humanity to use, rather than the exclusive property of some particular race or ethnic group. What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? East Asian cellists? Swedish chess players? The Japanese putting on Shakespeare? Jews playing Christians’ Christian music, such as Mozart’s masses? Arriviste Jewish physicists using work done for centuries by Christians? Russian Jews writing about Anglo-American law? Indians writing computer programs, using languages and concepts pioneered by Americans and Europeans? Japanese companies selling the most delicious custard cream puffs? Shame, shame, shame.
But, wait: Maybe — and I know this is a radical thought — artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in. Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came.
Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.”
What Mr. Volokh upholds, and what Ms. Jarrar [depicted below, image via her Twitter page] by contrast denigrates, is the great classically liberal tradition as goes the arts and letters. It's a heck of a lot more enticing than Ms. Jarrar's idea of imprisoning and ossifying certain cultural expressions by demanding they be chained inexorably to their origins. It's not merely racist, it's anti-intellectual and fundamentally anti-humanist.
For the rest of Volokh's excellent piece, click here.