J Balvin, the Colombian artist recently received an award as the Afro-Latino Artist of the Year by a nonprofit from the United States, in the African Entertainment Awards. A recent article was published in the Washington Post claiming Balvin’s “flagrant appropriation and constant dodging of meaningful accountability”.
Let me explain why the argument that cultural appropriation is inappropriate is misguided.
The United States is the first modern country, setting the path for all modern democracies by being built on the idea “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” according to the declaration of independence.
Given the diversity of cultures –often stratified by nationality of birth, race, or ethnicity– an idea is often held that a country where all men are created equal is multiculturalism. But this idea is wrong. The goal for such idea of government –where all men are created equal– should not be a multiracial, multicultural society, the aim of a great society shall be the equality of opportunity, the equality emanating from the very simple and powerful idea that we all are born equal to the rest, and in that our believes, knowledge, and integrity, shall be how our contributions to society shall be measured. Although a multiracial and multicultural society would indeed be the outcome of such an idea that all men are created equal, multiculturalism is not per se the basis of a society, multiculturalism is just the evident progression of such a society.
Good ideas can come from anywhere, from a remote village in South Saharan Africa or Harvard University. The limitation of our own race or cultural background shall not be a limitation for using good ideas from anyone, anywhere. Furthermore, limiting an artist to their own cultural background is as wrong as limiting society interactions –by race, culture, or class– because we may not consider proper to go outside the comfort zone of one’s accidental upbringing.
Back to Balvin, what is not cultural appropriation but multiculturalism? What is not cultural appropriation but to use the best of other cultures to create something entirely new? Being the foundation of modern democracies is the idea that all men are created equal, what is not cultural appropriation but the natural progression of a society where all men are created equal?