Culture and Property

Over break, I re-read a prompt that Dr. McCoy provided for us that talks about culture and how it relates to property. I’ve talked before about Bernice Johnson Reagon and her ideas about how church is the black community’s property. Recently in class, we have been talking about how the concept of culture can be a kind of property. In Pat Parker’s poem, “For the white person who wants to be my friend”, she expresses how blackness can be seen as a property, but not just property as an object, rather property as an idea.

In the prompt that was given to us, Reagon talks about how culture can be expressed in many ways, “Perhaps it is just a feeling that cultural products are used as substitutes for sustained and meaningful contact between people.” She is expressing the idea that the cultural products are being used to connect cultures, but it can be seen as a form of property that makes it one’s own idea. This is shown when she expresses the idea that “Send me something from where you are, but don’t come here.” She is expressing that their culture is commodifying and that this is still their property. The idea that one thing is linked to a black culture is showing that it’s their property like fashions, languages, etc.

Parker is also expressing this idea but, in another way, she uses her poem to express that ‘my blackness is my property but doesn’t make it everyone else’s property. She is expressing that everyone has a property of their cultural identity. She starts the poem with the lines “The first thing you do is forget that i’m Black. / Second, you must never forget that I’m Black.” This is furthermore expressing that her blackness is her property, but she should be treated as equal. She is expressing that our property of our culture is power, and we all want equal power, but it is not distributed equally. One stanza in Parker’s poem that stood out to me is the fourth stanza, it reads, “And if some Black person insults you, / mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you, / rips your house or is just being an ass— / please, do not apologize to me / for wanting to do them bodily harm. / It makes me wonder if you are foolish.” In this stanza, Parker is portraying that just because she is black, it doesn’t excuse another person’s blackness. She is showing that everyone has their own property and that not everyone is the same. Property doesn’t have to be an object or a building, it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be your idea, culture, passion; you as a person can choose what you want your property to be.

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