Halloween’s almost here and you might see the above products in the stores. I know it’s tempting to delve into another person’s shoes for just a night and have a blast, but resist the urge. Dressing your children or yourself as African, Chinese, Asian, and “Indian” is not fun for those who are members of that community.
Whether for a costume or fashion trend, it’s called appropriation. What’s that you say? Someone from one culture wears attire that reinforces stereotypes of that culture, which is usually a marginalized race of people. While the wearer might think it’s fun, do they take time to wonder how their amusement affects that people?
Why is this harmful?
I can’t answer for everyone, but like I said, it reinforces stereotypes…which in many cases aren’t factual and/or are negative. Either way, it’s damaging.
Secondly, marginalized people are INVISIBLE. How many times have you seen a movie or TV show where the character is supposed to be a person of color? Name the movie or show–Go! White actors almost always play Native American, Asian, and Latino roles. Even now, there’s a petition (click to sign petition) to recast a role called for a Japanese character that was whitewashed with the casting of Scarlett Johansson. It’s an adaptation of a Japanese Franchise, Ghost in a Shell (read full and amazing article here), based off of Japanese manga and anime that deals with identity. Yet, when people of color cry for representation we’re told that budgets demand for ticket sales. Or, there’s a backlash of anger at POC being cast in heroic roles, thus furthering visibility. (Rue in The Hunger Games, Idris Elba considered for James Bond, Michael J. Bond in Fantastic Four…etc.) And, even in our beloved kid’s/YA books! (Shout out to We Need Diverse Books, #WNDB) Just last week, award-winning (books turn to movies) author Meg Rosoff said that we don’t need more diverse books because they are thousands of them already. Really? Not sure which library she goes to, but honey, they NOT there! (read entire Facebook exchange here)
This leads me to SILENCED. Meg Rosoff and many others speak out against POC claiming the right to be visible. When POC speak up for themselves, especially about misrepresentation and the lack thereof, then others like her shout louder in opposition. This is why appropriation sucks. POC are not allowed to control their own narratives in the big scope of things and are told not to complain about it. So, when no one listens, stupid stuff happens…like…
We’ll watch advertisers use cultural stereotypes to peddle expensive merchandise and start trends… Then we’ll let our kids wear culturally appropriated costumes. Then, according to news outlets and Google, many won’t find the danger and harm of this style and go to college and do this….
And, some may get invited to events and dress up for fun like this….These harmful, mocking images that were for amusement spreads across the globe and other countries will believe these stereotypes to be truth, like this… (Asian comedy show)And all the while, celebrities will twerk, wear braids, Native American headdresses, and etc., but those who culturally wear similar styles are deemed “ghetto,” “primitive,” “exotic,” or “negative.” Yet, those who appropriate it will get the credit.Through literature, movies, and TV… do you understand now why appropriation is harmful? There are many other reasons, but these are only a few for you to chew on. Here’s on last tidbit. I am a culture. Not a costume.Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?