British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was recently accused of cultural appropriation for selling a pack of 60-second rice.

I’ll let that marinate for a minute.

The dish is called “Punchy Jerk Rice.”

No, it’s not a tasty tribute to Chris Brown. It’s brown rice, but no relation.

On Twitter, someone protested the Caucasian cook’s mining of a trove of blackness for something to eat:

“I’m not in the mood for this @jamieoliver #PunchyJerkRice #Alkindawrong #Stopit now lost all respect for you. WE IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY truly know how to cook OUR food and you take it and disrespect it in such a form. What a disgrace. I’m not surprised though #FakeFood”

He’s not in the mood, everyone — coddle accordingly.

Perhaps the dumbest part of the tweet isn’t its reference to culture theft; there’s nothing more inane than someone claiming to represent everyone of a particular race. “We in the black community.” If I have blue eyes, can I speak for Frank Sinatra? The notion is ridiculous, when done by “MamaSam,” Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or any other ambassadork.

Nonetheless, defending Jamaica from a mean man with a skillet, a hunger drive, and some wacky culinary ideas isn’t a kind of nitwittery limited to goons on Twitter and power-driven American political demagogues; a member of British Parliament also spoke out against Oliver:

“#jamieoliver @jamieoliver #jerk I’m just wondering do you know what #Jamaican #jerk actually is? It’s not just a word you put before stuff to sell products. @levirootsmusic should do a masterclass. Your jerk Rice is not ok. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.”

And this is where we are, looking down the hill at a generation coming for us — one that’s being taught they’re entitled — that things simply belong to them, in so many ways.

And those ways are wrong.

You don’t own my speech. You don’t own my faith. You don’t own my way of combining the two. You don’t own my ability to protect what is mine. You don’t own the right to be comfortable. You don’t own the privilege of being unopposed.

In fact, the only things you own are what you think, what you say, what you do, and what you earn.

You sure don’t own a culture; not even the one that produced you.

What is a culture? It’s a set of ideas and an aesthetic. And it belongs to no one at all.

The Chinese don’t own the chopstick any more than Italians own the fork. The French have no sole possession of the éclair, and Greeks lack exclusive dibs on the wheel (Does “MamaSam” drive a car, bicycle, tricycle, or big wheel? OOPS!)

Culture is the sum total of many individuals’ contributions, combined with the acceptance and participation of many benefactors, over a period of time which greatly exceeds any one individual’s lifespan or involvement. It is something for which no person can take credit.

Even if one makes a significant cultural contribution, their endowment is but a penny in a massive well of other gifts, bestowed by a multitude. And those donations likely came by way of inspiration from influences abroad, in one way or another. Furthermore, a worldview which rigidly separates humanity and its offerings according to race — or manmade property lines — is ridiculous.

So whoever you are, and whatever you’ve done, you don’t own a culture.

Goofballs and Millennials, get over yourselves. The fact that you fart doesn’t mean you own the wind.

 

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