Think Cultural appropriation’s bad? Try Cultural misappropriation and see how the hell you feel…

Deb C.
3 min readOct 12, 2022

How “Come by ya” became “Kumbaya” — and other white fuckery

This, is a serious nit I need to pick, more with my Black Fam than white folk (since stealing and distorting our culture often, and even with our help, is the norm — especially these days). But you guys? You non-boulé folk who’ve not been compromised? SOME of you should know, or at least learn better. And the rest of y’all boulé folk — cut this shit out!

“Come By Ya” (in the Gullah patois of my birth) is in NO WAY a feel-good, folk “camp song” born of some African language (well it wasn’t until white folk chose to steal and rework it that way, that is) — nor is it this JOKE of a touchy-feely, white misappropriation they like to throw around, based on their own white fuckery.

Come By Ya” was a F*CKIN’ LAMENT of the enslaved Black folk of the Georgia and South Carolina Sea Islands. It was a pained entreaty, a cry for help — TO.WHITE.JESUS (with whom they’d been deeply indoctrinated) — for spiritual, physical and emotional rescue, from the HORRORS inflicted upon them by those same Bible-thumpin’, so-called Christian, white folk, who’d brought them to Him in the first place!

I’m here to tell you Fam — indoctrination soaked in naked terror really works!

I was born and raised in Charleston, SC 66 seasons ago. My family are Gullah people born & raised on Edisto Island, a Sea Island not far from the city proper. My maternal grandmother and grandfather were born in 1908 and 1913 respectively. And from her Black Methodist church, to his Black Baptist church, I learned this old, Negro spiritual at both their knees, led by the oldest member of the congregation — my entire, damned life!

The last time I heard and sang it, was at my younger, first cousin, Rhonda’s funeral in January 2018. Held at my grandfather’s church on the Island (at which Mother Emanuel’s new pastor, Rev. Eric C.S. Manning spoke), it was appropriately, the Benediction selection because at that moment, we were all “singin’, cryin’ and needin’ rescue and relief from the pain her death wrought. I remember thinking to myself, “These damed folk, with no damned knowledge of how we, the descendants of formerly enslaved people lived and believed, had bastardized something that for us, meant a soothing — a Balm in Gilead.”

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Deb C.

Former Navy Russian linguist, Realtor, Claims Adjuster, OpEd columnist/Features writer at a small, S. Florida newspaper. Since 2007, blogged at “Let’s Be Clear”