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Appropiating Culture in SL If you're a tattoo maker with ethnic products for sale, please read.


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After much thought, I've decided to make this post because I'd like designers and creators to understand something, and I hope this is the right forum.

I'm an indigenous   -  Māori -  person from Aotearoa, New Zealand, and I've been playing SL off and on since 2007.  I've noticed an incredible flooding on marketplace and tattoo shops in SL of fake and authentic inspired tattoos in the stores - many of them labelled as "Maori".  First of all, do people understand what "Māori" means?  Māori is a term in our language meaning: "natural, normal or common," and it wasn't used until the Europeans colonized our country.  We didn't have a word that existed to describe ourselves as a race of people, as we defined ourselves by hapū  - tribal and sub-tribal groupings.  It would be a good idea to know what the word means before you sell your products in your shops.  XD.

Which brings me to my next point, and I hope people can understand where I am coming from: our traditions, cultural norms, and language - much like indigenous everywhere - are under pressure right now, partly due to ignorance, and partly due to capitalism and globalism.  Our tā moko - tattooing and scarification traditions - attracts enormous interest and enthusiasts all over the world, as do our haka, performing arts, language and spiritual concepts.  Tā moko is a gift passed to us from our ancestors.  They are not just cool designs on the face and body - they connect to genealogy, knowledge, land, tribe - even an individual's achievements was recorded on his face.  The practice nearly died out during the 19th century due to colonization and warring with the British to defend our lands and people.  It was a terrible time, and we lost many of our leaders, prophets, and experts.  I won't go into the whole history here, this can be searched online, but what it means is that the practice of tā moko is a sacred (tapu) practice for the Māori people because it not only speaks to where and who we are, but also that we have survived numerous efforts to kills us off by our colonizers.  We were nearly wiped out at one stage, but now we have come back fiercely, and our population is steadily growing.  The Māori people love the interest and respect shown by people towards our culture, but what isn't cool is appropriation.  Appropriation hurts us in the modern age, and it helps to seed ignorance, and it maintains imperialism.  Ripping a tattoo off google or a history book and making a tattoo from it in PS, and then selling it in your stores isn't cool.  Do a search on MP, most of those tattoos are not even our designs, but people have just casually called them: "Maori".  If they are not our designs, then whose designs are they?  Who's culture do you cancel out by not doing your research?  What about the original artists?  You are making a profit off this, but do you give back to those communities from which you source your designs?  What's your responsibility as a virtual designer and creator?  Millions have passed through SL, economically that signals a lot of dosh for a popular store. Every tā moko that is actually Māori has been designed for a specific individual - they are like resumes or "body/facial history's"  that's been designed for that one individual, and no other.  So if you do manage to source an authentic tattoo, and you upload it to SL and sell it - you're stealing and  commercializing somebody's entire history and genealogy! It's like me taking your identity and family photos and selling it all off to the world!                                                                                        

You might think that this is just a game, and it hurts nobody, and it's just a bit of harmless fun, but even in the virtual world, there are real-life impacts, and this is one of them.  The Māori people are a real culture that exists in the real world.  Currently, there are law suits pending in several countries over intellectual property violations.  My people are attempting to correct misrepresentations of our culture and history - all written by our colonizers up to the 1980s  -  and we face an uphill battle.  Game designers have been appropriating our culture for a while now - the Sims, Apex Legends, Bleeding Edge, Far Cry 3, etc - all do it.   Māori are not vampires or elves existing in a fantasy land - we're real indigenous people who have meaningful lives, and yes, we play Second Life too.  Our culture makes money - this is widely recognized in Aotearoa as we continue the struggle to have our lands returned and sovereignty recognized - and sadly, not much of it comes back to our people, some of whom have lost their lands as well as their entire families, and are poor indeed.     We have the same struggle internationally with companies who use our language, imagery and cultural concepts  to sell their alcohol,   cigarettes, cars, music, games, spiritual self-help techniques etc, and it's NOT okay.  So in conclusion, I'd like to put the karanga (call) out there to creators who support self-agency for indigenous people, and who are respectful of culture:

1) Please research the tattoo you are selling in your store.  First of all, have you attributed it to the correct culture?  I can tell at a glance if a tattoo belongs to our artists or not - and btw, our artists train for years to be able to gift their skills to the receiver, so it's a damn insult to have their designs ripped off in SL or any virtual world.

2) Please cease the practice of ripping off designs off Google.

3) As a consumer, please pause and think BEFORE you buy that cool tattoo inworld.  Do you want to facilitate the destruction of a culture?  That's what you're doing if you buy that cool tattoo.

4) If you upload a tattoo for personal use for your avatar, and not for sale, can you speak to it with knowledge?  If you meet me inworld, I will put you through your paces, LOL!  Be aware, hahah.

I've been sending tattoo artists inworld little messages since I began playing and noticing the big business models inworld.  Some people get angry and block me from their store and profiles, some are apologetic, and some I never get an answer from.  I don't harrass people, but I'll speak to them once about it, and from there it's up to them what they do.  I can't stop anybody from doing anything - but I'm hoping that my points I've raised today will open a dialogue, and facilitate understanding, because this isn't just happening for the Māori people - it's an issue for indigenous and poc all over the world.

Ngā mihi nui mō tō rongo kī taku pānui.  Kia ora rā.

(Thank you for listening to my message.  Be well, all).

 

 

 

 

Edited by Song Indigo
Spelling, clarifying
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I fully commend you for speaking up about this issue.  It is not different than someone using a registered trade mark belonging to someone else, which is of course against the SL TOS..  Only it is much harder to spot and prove so people are more inclined to get away with it..  

And you are definitely correct about the fact that is is not only your people to whom this is happening..  I fully support what you have written here, and I hope many more will do so as well.

Chii Migwetch!

Thank you!

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Hardly a new issue.

As someone who speaks Chinese/Japanese and lived in East Asia most my life, I facepalm/cringe whenever I see those lame "Kanji" tattoos that are completely nonsense, or "oriental" tattoos that look nothing oriental. I guess people just want things that look "exotic" without giving a ***** about the cultural origins. I could literally go into Photoshop, spend 60sec typing 猪脑子 (pig brains), export it as a PNG, upload that into SL as a tattoo, and idiots will buy it cause "the characters look exotic".

Edited by MelodicRain
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6 minutes ago, MelodicRain said:

I could literally go into Photoshop, spend 60sec typing 猪脑子 (pig brains), export it as a PNG, upload that into SL as a tattoo, and idiots will buy it cause "the characters look exotic".

That is too funny, but at the same time all to true!

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This hardly seems to be an SL problem, people do this in RL. SL is simply a reflection of the poor taste and ignorance of real life people. I am sure you could seel that pig brain tattoo at a real life tattoo place just as easily as in SL,

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I suppose we could also include cornrows and dreadlocks.  But then we'd have to include music too.  Gospel and reggae, the blues.  Can't wear those or play that music unless you're black.  Maybe if we were all more inclusive than exclusive for each culture?  If you choose to use a cultural tattoo, learn before you do.  Then when someone asks, you could explain the origins of it.  To say someone can't because they aren't of that culture is hopeless and only serves to divide people even further.  IMHO

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kia ora Song

i am from the Hokianga. I understand your points and also why you have written as you have

you are right that Maori has become popular internationally in recent years. And a lot of this popular awareness has to do with our own people, who have taken us to the world. Movies as you mention for example. Temuera Morrison, Cliff Curtis, Taika Waititi and others. Weta Workshop, Merata Mita, and so on

then there are maori musicians of international acclaim, past and present, who have done this also. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Inia Te Wiata, Prince Tui Teka, Herbs, Stan Walker and lots of others. And muso from other lands like Ben Harper and Dr Dre who handle it with sensitivity and respect. Jason Momoa also, who deals with things quite sensitively. Dancers like Parris Goebbel as well   

and there are people like Steven Adams who wore Kia Kaha on his OC Thunder basketball jersey. Then also all the college sports teams around the world who perform haka because a child of a maori whanau is attending the school there. Then also of course there is the All Blacks and Black Ferns, and all the other national teams and sports people who perform haka.  

also all the kiwis, both maori and pakeha, overseas who like other migrants of all cultures, their hearts grow fonder for things from home the longer the time they are distant from home

so we ourselves, have contributed to the international awareness. And this awareness is cool

an effect of the international awareness of cool is that it has an impact on our own government and how the elected representatives think about the State's relationship with Maori. Because international cool, we are no longer internationally the hidden people (fairies and elves as you put it) in our own land

an effect that spills over into the mainstream at home also. Like the recent change to local ownership of Stuff media/newspaper group. Some of the section headings are now written in Maori with no english worded sub-heading. I was like wooo! when I saw they had done that. Props to the editorial team for this

so we have all this going on

and we come to the central posit of your post. Which is the exploitative appropriation of other cultures for commercial/pecuniary gain

a way to end this kind of exploitative behaviour is to counter it with the genuine article.  An example of this. Once upon a time when tourists came to Aotearoa then they got a plastic experience. So to counter this maori people themselves began to provide the genuine article/experience. The days of major tourists places only providing mass-produced elsewhere plastic tiki are now well and truly gone

my suggestion is that we don't waste our efforts on dissuading people from doing the wrong thing. We spend our time on providing the genuine article. People on SL are no different to people everywhere else. They do want the actual real thing. When the real thing is not available then people make do with whatever else there is in the shop. Buy plastic because that's all there is

how might our customers know they are getting the real thing. The profile of the creator is a good place to start. Then with each product can be a notecard or texture which explains the story behind the imagery of what the customer sees. Nobody, not steeped in maori culture, can fake these tellings no matter how well the imagery (art work) is executed or copied

a thing to consider.  Ta moko (as a technical practice) is not exclusive to Maori. Many cultures, even europeans historically, practice ta moko. What is exclusive to each culture is the tellings. And it is the tellings that maori crafters understand and act on when crafting their products

Nga mihi
    

 

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14 hours ago, MelodicRain said:

Hardly a new issue.

As someone who speaks Chinese/Japanese and lived in East Asia most my life, I facepalm/cringe whenever I see those lame "Kanji" tattoos that are completely nonsense, or "oriental" tattoos that look nothing oriental. I guess people just want things that look "exotic" without giving a ***** about the cultural origins. I could literally go into Photoshop, spend 60sec typing 猪脑子 (pig brains), export it as a PNG, upload that into SL as a tattoo, and idiots will buy it cause "the characters look exotic".

You should put that up for sale on MP for kicks and giggles.  It'll be like a RL tattoo artist punking the ignorant when they request a tattoo in a language they don't speak.  Lemon chicken would also be another good suggestion ;)

 

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You're right. Nobody should have anything from another culture, or have the opportunity to learn about it.

We should lecture and belittle anyone that tries to show representation of other peoples and cultures. Everyone should be separate and have separate things. That always works out for everyone, right?

52fca7f412c3628e890eb3afe8d5812e.gif

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1 hour ago, Paul Hexem said:

You're right. Nobody should have anything from another culture, or have the opportunity to learn about it.

We should lecture and belittle anyone that tries to show representation of other peoples and cultures. Everyone should be separate and have separate things. That always works out for everyone, right?

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Well yeah.  No one wants to hurt anyone else's feelings.

I fully understand people wanting to keep what is of their culture pure but the fact is, we live in a global society.  People are more able to see things from other cultures than ever before and honestly, I think that's a good thing.  But to think everyone is going to take the time to learn about it before they appropriate it is kind of naive. It would be nice if they did, though.

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If it came to an rl tattoo I'd invest the time to research thoroughly but honestly, for sl... I wouldn't care if I wore a tattoo that said ham and cheese in a foreign language. I don't take sl too seriously. I'm not going to bend over backwards to make sure my sl is all perfect.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is the type of crap I'm talking about where people thinks "kanji looks cool", so they literally just google a bunch of kanji, paste them into Photoshop and call it a day, with absolute zero idea what the characters even mean:

image.thumb.png.d7fd21f32164724744e7ba62b94e4702.png

"Hey look at me I'm so cool and/or exotic wearing shorts with oriental hieroglyphs thingiemajigs on it!" 

What does it mean?

"Who cares?"

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no more jeans unless you'r a cowboy
no more boot unless you'r working in mud or fisher
no more fur unless you live in the artice area
no more cotton shirts unless you'r from egypt or other cottonproducing country
only mcdonalds for americans ...
fried chicken for californians

and so on...

Stop wearing make up, dye your hair and don't dare to go to a hairdresser anymore... it's all fake

the most humorous thread in ages.

 

51 minutes ago, MelodicRain said:

"Who cares?"

indeed.

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   Did you just culturally appropriate the Latin alphabet to whinge about cultural appropriation of your native writing system?

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If we follow the "cultural appropriation" thing,then you also need to do the following: 

You can't wear anything plaid, unless you are Scottish or Scottish descent.

You can't wear anything that could be classified as Celtic knotwork, unless you are Celtic or of Celtic descent.

You can't wear a Thor's hammer unless you identify with the old Norse religion, are Norse or of Norse descent. 

If you're going to make/wear a "Viking" tattoo or costume, you  need to be of said descent.  It's not "cosplay", it's "cultural appropriation". 

 

These are just a few examples. If you are going to make this a requirement on some things, you need to do it for everything, as everyone has a cultural background.  Basically, it's being made to be " if you aren't X culture, stay in your lane."

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13 hours ago, Orwar said:

   Did you just culturally appropriate the Latin alphabet to whinge about cultural appropriation of your native writing system?

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Culturally appropriate latin alphabet? Lol. You might want to first google what cultural appropriation means. You do realize the reason I type in English is because, oh idk, I know how to write in English and I have an understanding of the words I'm using? Do you see me typing in Greek or German?

Also imagine being ignorant enough to think alphabet equals words. You do realize there's no "alphabet" in Kanji/Hanzi? It's not some "pattern" you slap onto a shirt like the Coach logo. It's essentially the equivalent of putting random English words on a shirt and calling it a day. Though if you're fine with wearing a shirt filled with a repeating pattern of "toilet keyboard water pork beans face" then we're clearly not on the same page.

Maybe you should develop a basic understanding of basic English concepts like cultural appropriation or other languages first before attempting (and completely failing) to sound like a smartass, cause ignorance and idiocy is all I see from your post.

It's quite sad and funny how many people in this thread have no idea what "cultural appropriation" means and thinks something retarded like eating burgers if you're not American = cultural appropriation (imagine thinking McDonald's or "wearing fur" = culture, lmao). Classic western ignorance, not really surprised. Seems like OP opened a can of worms. This forum is better off discussing topics like memes or stereotypes, topics that require less brain cells.

Edited by MelodicRain
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46 minutes ago, MelodicRain said:

Culturally appropriate latin alphabet? Lol. You might want to first google what cultural appropriation means. You do realize the reason I type in English is because, oh idk, I know how to write in English and I have an understanding of the words I'm using? Do you see me typing in Greek or German?

Also imagine being ignorant enough to think alphabet equals words. You do realize there's no "alphabet" in Kanji/Hanzi? It's not some "pattern" you slap onto a shirt like the Coach logo. It's essentially the equivalent of putting random English words on a shirt and calling it a day. Though if you're fine with wearing a shirt filled with a repeating pattern of "toilet keyboard water pork beans face" then we're clearly not on the same page.

Maybe you should develop a basic understanding of basic English concepts like cultural appropriation or other languages first before attempting (and completely failing) to sound like a smartass, cause ignorance and idiocy is all I see from your post.

It's quite sad and funny how many people in this thread have no idea what "cultural appropriation" means and thinks something retarded like eating burgers if you're not American = cultural appropriation (imagine thinking McDonald's or "wearing fur" = culture, lmao). Classic western ignorance, not really surprised. Seems like OP opened a can of worms. This forum is better off discussing topics like memes or stereotypes, topics that require less brain cells.

A lot of things have been appropriated from African culture over the centuries.  They're stupid ugly shorts.  No one cares.

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1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

Culturally appropriate latin alphabet? Lol. You might want to first google what cultural appropriation means.

   Yes, it's a made-up term employed identity political morons who thinks that inclusivity is a one-way street.

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

You do realize the reason I type in English is because, oh idk, I know how to write in English and I have an understanding of the words I'm using? Do you see me typing in Greek or German?

   No. Do you? Should you? I don't know what your nationality or native language is - nor do I care - as was implied by my rather obviously sarcastic response, I perceive the entire concept as bogus; that you expect me to follow the convention that I just explicitly disagreed with strikes me as rather peculiar. 

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

Also imagine being ignorant enough to think alphabet equals words.

   Yes, imagine that. And imagine being so fired up that you conjure up crazy statements to attribute to those you disagree with.

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

You do realize there's no "alphabet" in Kanji/Hanzi?

   Nor did I call it an 'alphabet'. I called it a writing system. Actually I didn't call Kanji nor Hanzi anything, as those weren't what the OP was whinging about.

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

It's not some "pattern" you slap onto a shirt like the Coach logo. It's essentially the equivalent of putting random English words on a shirt and calling it a day. Though if you're fine with wearing a shirt filled with a repeating pattern of "toilet keyboard water pork beans face" then we're clearly not on the same page.

   I don't personally see the appeal of the concept of slapping random words on stuff, or having any form of type on your apparel. But that's just me, and irregardless of my personal taste, reality suggests your statement is wrong.

White-Mens-Denim-Jeans-Straight-New-Bran

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

Maybe you should develop a basic understanding of basic English concepts like cultural appropriation or other languages first before attempting (and completely failing) to sound like a smartass, cause ignorance and idiocy is all I see from your post.

   I'm sorry to hear that your perception is so narrow. But, your presumptuousness isn't my burden to bear - in fact, if you don't mind, I think I'll glance back to it on occasion to have a giggle at your expense. 

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

It's quite sad and funny how many people in this thread have no idea what "cultural appropriation" means and thinks something retarded like eating burgers if you're not American = cultural appropriation (imagine thinking McDonald's or "wearing fur" = culture, lmao).

   I find it rather sad when someone tries to make a point which they start with an appeal to emotion, in that it supposedly 'makes them sad', when they themselves apparently only understand one perspective of the meaning of the topic, and calls people ignorant for having an opposing opinion. See, that's not a constructive form of communication, it's merely destructive and polarising. Perhaps I'm a backward conservative, but I just think that an argument is more fun when people employ rhetoric and diplomacy to attempt to persuade each other, or at the very least inform each other of their perspectives, rather than throwing a temper tantrum and hoping that people will shut up to avoid being verbally reprimanded through the art of acting hysterical.

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

Classic western ignorance, not really surprised.

   Classic 'look at me, I'm a minority so I can generalise about white people and get away with it because they don't have a racist-card up their sleeve'. Not particularly surprised, myself.

1 hour ago, MelodicRain said:

Seems like OP opened a can of worms. This forum is better off discussing topics like memes or stereotypes, topics that require less brain cells.

   I wholeheartedly agree. The OP shouldn't have made the topic, as it's based on a faulty concept that serves a polarising agenda that is unhealthy for the plebeian masses that lack any individual ability of reasoning and critical thinking. I for one choose not to approach any such discussions with any form of sincerity as they are fundamentally stupid to begin with, hence my satirical response which, unfortunately, appears to have gone over your head.

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On 10/16/2020 at 2:40 PM, Alwin Alcott said:

fried chicken for californians

Wait shouldn't that be Kentuckians?

Oh and if people are going to get all butt hurt over me wearing clothing with oriental writing on it I will just stick with my own cultural symbols like the Confederate battleflag and see how that makes them feel.

 

Edited by Talligurl
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4 hours ago, Talligurl said:

Oh and if people are going to get all butt hurt over me wearing clothing with oriental writing on it I will just stick with my own cultural symbols like the Confederate battleflag and see how that makes them feel.

 

o.o  :)  LL might remove those items... they don't like that... you'll end this way
0c6bde86fd02c9704c23b13e7b636432.png

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Telling people "Don't steal use the sacred symbolism of MY culture" is an entirely different thing from telling people "Don't use symbolism of any other culture besides your own."

While some cultures do object to it (such as the Maori in the OP, as well as several Native American Nations), not all cultures do, it's certainly not a "one-rule-fits-all" situation.

And frankly, telling a person that only their own cultural symbolism is acceptable/good enough kinda smells a bit like racism in itself. 

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Ancient statues of the mother Goddess have been unearthed in Europe and the Isles from over 30,000 years ago with corn row braids. Can we please stop saying that Africans own a hairstyle that was used world wide? Dreds as well. Good gods, of all the things people get pissed at, hairstyles?!?! Really? 

This is SL. If you really go around harassing people for their tatts, you need to get out and enjoy the real world more. You have no idea who is behind that av. And they owe you ZERO response. Leave people alone to enjoy their SL. Try doing so yourself. 

How far are we going to go? If you have a dark skin tone you better not have blond or red hair unless you have a back story that includes a white person in your ancestry. Ancient Celts dyed their hair with various plant and mineral extracts, so unless you have Celtic background you better have a normal hair color. 

Please, stop the insanity. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

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27 minutes ago, Drake1 Nightfire said:

Ancient statues of the mother Goddess have been unearthed in Europe and the Isles from over 30,000 years ago with corn row braids. Can we please stop saying that Africans own a hairstyle that was used world wide? Dreds as well. Good gods, of all the things people get pissed at, hairstyles?!?! Really? 

This is SL. If you really go around harassing people for their tatts, you need to get out and enjoy the real world more. You have no idea who is behind that av. And they owe you ZERO response. Leave people alone to enjoy their SL. Try doing so yourself. 

How far are we going to go? If you have a dark skin tone you better not have blond or red hair unless you have a back story that includes a white person in your ancestry. Ancient Celts dyed their hair with various plant and mineral extracts, so unless you have Celtic background you better have a normal hair color. 

Please, stop the insanity. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

I was actually saying it with sarcasm.  I have absolutely no problem with people who wear cornrows or dreads or an afro if they choose.  I think it's better to include rather than exclude people from your culture.  People will always find reasons to be offended by someone or something.  If what you do doesn't effect me, personally, do it.  

P.S.  The French didn't invent the french braid either.  🙂

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5 minutes ago, RowanMinx said:

I was actually saying it with sarcasm.  I have absolutely no problem with people who wear cornrows or dreads or an afro if they choose.  I think it's better to include rather than exclude people from your culture.  People will always find reasons to be offended by someone or something.  If what you do doesn't effect me, personally, do it.  

P.S.  The French didn't invent the french braid either.  🙂

French Fries were created in Greece... ;)

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