Monthly Archives: March 2017

Ralph Linton puts cultural appropriation in perspective

Jonathan Zimmerman unearths a classic piece by Ralph Linton that nicely illustrates the absurdity of obsessing over cultural appropriation:

Our solid American citizen… slips into his moccasins, invented by the Indians of the Eastern woodlands… He takes off his pajamas, a garment invented in India, and washes with soap invented by the ancient Gauls…

puts on shoes made from skins tanned by a process invented in ancient Egypt and cut to a pattern derived from the classical civilizations of the Mediterranean…

His plate is made of a form of pottery invented in China. His knife is of steel, an alloy first made in southern India, his fork a medieval Italian invention, and his spoon a derivative of a Roman original…

waffles, cakes made by a Scandinavian technique from wheat domesticated in Asia Minor. Over these he pours maple syrup, invented by the Indians of Eastern woodlands…

he settles back to smoke, an American Indian habit, consuming a plant domesticated in Brazil in either a pipe, derived from the Indians of Virginia, or a cigarette, derived from Mexico

he reads the news of the day, imprinted in characters invented by the Semites upon a material invented in China by a process invented in Germany. As he absorbs the account of foreign troubles he will, if he is a good conservative citizen, thank a Hebrew deity in a Indo-European language that he is 100 percent American.

Lisa Servon on predatory check cashing services

Lisa Servon via Alex Morrell:

The prevailing wisdom from bankers and policy makers went like this: People who used alternative financial services — like check cashers and payday lenders — were making expensive and unwise decisions…

But Servon, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania and a former dean at the New School, spent 20 years studying low-income communities, and to her, that picture didn’t add up…

“The implication of that… was these people were making poor decisions,” Servon recently told Business Insider. “I knew that the people I had worked with closely who don’t have very much money know where every penny goes. They budget things. They know where to get the best deals on things. And so it struck me that if they were using check cashers, there must be a good reason for that.”…

Servon recounts her journey in her new book, “The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives,”…

Over and over, Servon heard and observed that check cashers often met customers’ needs better than banks did.

She discovered there were three main reasons people used these services instead of banks: cost, transparency, and service.

This is a great example of the value of how familiarity with target population can yield better research. Prior to this, I had always thought these types of services were overpriced relative to a traditional bank, but I was not a good judge of that because I never really need the services they provide, so I naturally discounted their value to those that do need them.