Sharing cultural diversity is good

The criticism of American woman Morgan Bullock for combining Irish dancing with hip hop music is both narrow-minded and unjust. It is good, not bad, when we share the positive aspects of the world’s many cultures.

We should celebrate Morgan, and others who enjoy the wonderful mixture of languages, art, music, sports, and other social practices that we humans have created over the generations, not criticise them for the imaginary crime of “cultural appropriation.”

I’ve always loved musical acts who mix genres, from the Clash’s eclectic classic London Calling to the quirky covers of Postmodern Jukebox and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. David Bowie and Madonna constantly reinvented themselves by adopting other styles.

I grew up in an Ireland dominated by closed cultural minds on both sides of the border. Catholic nationalists in the Republic of Ireland and Protestant Unionists in Northern Ireland both enforced their cultural purity over religious and other minorities.

I escaped that stifling atmosphere by merging my childhood Irishness with that of other cultures. I immersed myself in Wanderly Wagon and Star Trek, Thin Lizzy and Slade, Suzi Quatro and Jean Michel Jarre, and the Bohs, Leeds and Brazil football teams.

As a college student, I was artistically inspired by visiting the Louvre and Pompidou Centre in France. I learned more about the complex cultures of our own island from my late wife Anne Holliday, a civic Irishwoman from a Protestant unionist Limerick family.

Today I work alongside activists from around the world to promote human rights and ethical secularism, where everybody is treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, age, disability, sex, sexuality, gender, religion, or nonreligious beliefs.

Every culture, including our own, whoever we are, has positive and harmful aspects. We should condemn unjust behaviour, wherever it comes from, and we should not allow crimes to hide behind shields of cultural heritage.

But Irish dancing is not a crime, or even unjust. Nor are twerking, wearing dreadlocks, or playing music, eating food, or wearing clothes that you love that are inspired by other cultures. We should celebrate this sharing of cultural diversity, not discourage or condemn it.

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