By now everyone has heard of Columbusing, the act of “discovering” something that has already existed forever, named after the explorer credited with finding the “New World.” Culprits of Columbusing include Elvis Presley, celebrated blues pioneer; middle-class white Americans who insist on drinking Mexican Coca-Cola; and the organizers of the Color Run, which sprays its participants with the brightly colored powders used at Holi, the spring Indian festival of love and colors.
Critics of Columbusing call it “cultural appropriation,” while others defend Columbusing as “cultural appreciation.” Regardless of where you stand on the issue, Columbusing will surely continue. Here are my predictions for The Next Big Thing (that has already existed forever) to hit mainstream white America.
Chinese New Year: If you’ve failed at your New Year’s resolutions, why not cut yourself a break and start over on the lunar calendar? Chinese New Year (which falls later this week!) is your chance to partake in some ancient rituals, the most important of which is returning to your ancestral home to spend time with your family. Instead of Gong Hey Fat Choy, how about we wish each other Heureux Nouvel An Chinois? Because everything sounds better in French, non?
Badminton: Huge in Asia, but practically nonexistent as a recreational sport in the U.S., other than in Asian immigrant communities. Like ping-pong and bocce ball, something about badminton feels inherently foreign and retro (a confluence irresistible to white hipsters). Can’t you imagine the Wes Anderson character, accessorized in matching head and wrist bands, infiltrating his local Chinatown badminton league? Soon, Brooklynites will take up the sport in Prospect Park and set up courts at outdoor patio bars, forming teams with names that pun on “shuttlecocks” (jokes that are definitely in no way homophobic, because they’re ironic). PBR will sponsor a badminton tournament, at which point the whole sport will be declared “so over.”
Mariachi Bands: Given the attire — sombreros, and dramatic charro suits adorned in paillettes and embroidery — mariachi bands, a musical staple at Mexican celebratory events, are almost begging to be Columbused by your local group of trumpet-blowing, guitar-strumming white people who have decided that ska, reggae, and jazz are all blasé (all having been previously Columbused). Check out their website: “100% Authentic Mariachi Entertainment. ¡Book us for your wedding or birthday party! Also available for pumpkin festivals, clam bakes, barge parties on the lake.”
One-Sheet Beauty Masks: Soaking your face with a cotton mask with holes cut out for eyes, nostrils, and mouth is part of the skincare regimen for many women in East Asia. Why hasn’t this beauty trend been Columbused by an American beauty conglomerate? Maybe because putting one on makes you look like Michael Myers, the killer from the Halloween slasher flicks? Not to worry! It’s nothing an endorsement from Gwyneth or Blake can’t solve. Market research cites that celebrity blonde locks + (anything) = $$$.
Huge Emoticons: If you’ve ever texted using KakaoTalk or Line, two messaging apps developed in Asia, you’re familiar with these next-level emoticons. Actually, I sincerely hope this does get Columbused by Apple, because sometimes I really want to iMessage my friend something that can only be illustrated with a cartoon rabbit farting with a no-fucks-given expression on its face, and the dead-eyed bunnies on the current iOS just aren’t cutting it.
Stepping: 2015’s hot new fitness trend is here. Forget your Bikram yoga and Soul Cycle, word on the street (Abbott Kinney; the Hamptons) is that you have to try Stepping. Over gluten-free lunches, white women who’ve tried Stepping will endorse their beloved new dance/exercise: Let me tell you, when I’m sweating and stomping in that studio, girl, it’s like I’m unleashing the fierce woman I always knew was buried deep inside me! I woke up like this! Bow down, bitches!
Indian-Themed Weddings: In an effort to outdo their best friend’s rustic hipster barn wedding, brides will go to new lengths to add whimsy to their big day. What better way than an “authentic” Indian-themed wedding? No one will remember all those “funny-sounding names” for the various events comprising the lavish multi-day affair, but they won’t soon forget the elephants, mehndi, gold jewelry, and saris. Anyone who doesn’t “get it” is just a racist.
Jean Ho is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She is an alum of the UNLV MFA in Creative Writing and the VONA/Voices Workshop for writers of color, and is a board member at Kaya Press.