By: Philip | 05-05-2018 | News
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Baizuo vs. Qipao: The White Left's Burden

When a Utah high schooler Keziah Daum decided to wear a Qipao, a Chinese dress, to her prom the internet predictably exploded. It may have surprised some to hear that the Chinese themselves didn't have a problem with it. Rather, they seemed to celebrate it. The irony is, most of the hubbub being raised was from the "Baizuo" or "White left." The "White Left" are the privileged neo-liberal types who the Chinese refer to derogatorily as "Baizuo."

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<a href="">According to Chenchen Zheng</a> (who holds a PhD in Political Science and Political Theory) the term "has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates." It refers to the idea of a well-meaning, but privileged and out of touch white person who generally considers themselves to be progressive or liberal. It usually comes with a heaping helping of "white savior complex." In general, it's the type who are highly politically correct due to a self-serving sense of ethical and intellectual superiority.

<a href="">Dr. Valerie Steele director of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum</a> evidently doesn't feel that I was culturally appropriating Bruce Lee when I wore a Mandarin style suit to my high school prom:

"My impression over years of studying Chinese fashion and dress in China is that most Chinese people aren't bothered by people buying something with a dragon print or with a Mandarin collar — it's kind of assumed that it's meant as appreciation," says Steele. "It's not so flagrant as, say, Native American headdresses at Coachella, when Native Americans have said for decades they really don't appreciate this and it's not honoring them. They don't want a bunch of drunken idiots wearing clothes taken from them."

South China Morning Post spoke to garment historian Liu Yu from Shanghai's Donghua University about the reasons why China had a different perspective. In the eyes of many Chinese, it's considered cultural appreciation, rather than appropriation.

<blockquote>“But we won’t accuse them of ruining our qipao,” Liu added. “Instead, we are very happy that foreigners are dressed in our traditional clothes at such an important event.

“It demonstrates that Chinese people are confident about our culture. We are not preventing other people adopting it.”</blockquote>

Li even likened it to foreigners attempting to speak Mandarin. Though a handful of the people who expressed their anger over the situation were actually Chinese-Americans, for the most part, it was second-hand rancor for the most part. Elizabeth Tuleja, a Fulbright scholar to China who studies cross-culture research pointed out that social media had done little to make the situation any better, "Unfortunately, rather than having a dialogue or a civil debate, people are just trying to argue or vent their frustrations."

With all the talk about cultural appropriation maybe it's time we start to think about all the outrage appropriated by privileged, white, elitist, bourgeoisie.

Twitter: #Baizuo #qipao #KeziahDaum

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