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Kids Halloween costumes and race


three4me
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 Is a short pout really too big a price to pay for respecting underrepresented peoples?

 

You can respect underrepresented peoples and dress up as a favorite character. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Do you think the OP whose DD will be dressing as Katherine Johnson is being disrespectful or harmful to underrepresented peoples? If not, then why would dressing up as Tiana or Moana be, assuming similar guidelines the OP is using are followed?

Edited by Word Nerd
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I'll probably get flamed for all of this, but some thoughts on a few things:

 

     Colorblindness:  The argument against this bugs me so. much.  If what moms who are "teaching" their kinds not to "see" race are doing what I do, they're not sweeping anything or anyone under the rug.  They're refusing to set the stage for their kids to see people different from them as "other" by not verbally pointing out very obvious differences.  If they're pointed out for no reason, it ceases to be a normal part of life.  Now it's "other."  Children need to see not "us and them," but just "us."  And they need to be taught to love us in all our beautiful array.  They don't need "other" pointed out like some menagerie they own and live in.

     If there was actual running commentary about how there are no different and/or negative experiences, then that's crazy pants--even if one were talking about twins.  I don't know about the larger social media world, but the things I've seen on this board that were labeled and downed as colorblindness was NOT trying to deny history or experience, but trying to hedge against the still-present tendency of white people in America to think of themselves as some sort of standard, which annoyingly makes its way into casual conversation.  Whether it's a malicious bigot or a fawning patron, both attitudes spring from the same source and I spit on it.

 

 

     Sociologists: they need to be left in their sphere.  Perhaps they are not making value judgments, but media is apparently taking their observations and twisting them into big old Shaming Sticks.  I agree that dispassionately noting and recording historical and current trends is an important task.  But that is not the sphere in which 99% of people operate, and so it really can't be useful beyond legislation and a very, very basic social awareness.  Most of us move through life, barely touching most other people, forming some acquaintances and maybe a few deep friendships.  It may sound unimpressive and even superficial, but this is where we actually expend our energy and where we should focus our efforts and examine our own attitudes.  If we allow our sociology-based assumptions to cloud our interactions with real people in real moments, it's going to gum up the works.  You'll have condescendingly written another's story for them because you read some blog post or peer-reviewed journal.  As you said, bolt., sociologists aren't concerned with individuals and essentially class them into "rule" or "exception."  We as individuals can't do that, because it is dehumanizing.  An academic discipline has to do that to a certain extent, but people can't do that when actually interacting with other people.  We are not binary.  So I stand by my earlier statement--maybe sociologists accomplish something by pigeonholing people and cultures, but we can't live like that if we want unity (do we, though?  I can't tell sometimes).

 

 

     Cultural appropriation:  One thing that has apparently been hijacked from sociology and turned into some kind of flailing weapon with all the furor and damage and none of the structure or aim.  I loved that author's speech that was linked upthread.  I'm going to eat sushi.  Know why?  I like it.  Seriously people.  To say that non-white American (or white non-American, but I'll keep it simple) ethnicity can "appropriate" white culture but white people can't partake of any non-white culture in any way ever not only isolates whites from non-whites, but over time, it will erase non-white cultures because if non-whites blend their own culture with white culture (which happens), the original non-white culture will be watered down, so to speak.  But white culture will be "pure" and well-preserved because they weren't allowed to borrow anything from anyone else.  Does that sound like a good net result??  No?  Didn't think so. 

     Instead, start with a baseline of love and respect for, and a desire to learn from other individuals (both now and in history)--the rest should largely, albeit slowly, work itself out (and do not pat yourself on the back for attaining this baseline).  If you make a faux pas, hope someone can and will kindly correct you--accept it they don't, then sincerely apologize for it, learn from it, and move on.

     I liked happiduck's link, too.  My concern is when the anti-appropriation train goes sideways--saying you can't eat "ethnic" cuisine without permission and other similarly silly things.  See above.  But to the link itself, I'm glad to know a tiny shred more after reading that than I did.  I knew nothing about New Zealand; now I know next to nothing.  :D

     Side note: there's a KFC and a Chinese restaurant (among others) less than 1 km southeast of the Great Pyramid at Giza. 

How's that for jarring your sensibilities?  ;)  

     To me, blackface doesn't fall into the appropriation category because of what it almost exclusively was.  The one exception I often think of is the book mentioned: Black Like Me.  I think this was an educational use for blackface.  There was such a divide at the time that an extreme approach was necessary to really open white people's eyes, and it even did mine when I read it 18 years ago.  I would not recommend it be repeated now; we're in a different place as a nation.  I don't know what I think about different shades of powder for various purposes, so I won't think about it.

 

So there's your mess of stuff to pick apart.  I've spent all morning with this so I'm going to go undirty my house and unignore my kids now.   :leaving:

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I'm not sure this is actually how it work, at least not entirely.

 

It's certainly true that skin colour is very visible.  But I'm not sure it's as much a contrast with your Irish heritage as you think.

 

It was not long ago that Irish heritage, despite being not as visible, was entirely visible enough to make a clear social difference.  And skin colour is significant because we learn it is significant, not because somehow we are born knowing that it is important, whereas something like eye or hair colour, or anything else, isn't.  The context, in both cases, is taught and learned by being encultured, and that is what makes it an affective difference.

 

What this means, I think, is we actually have to think very carefully about what kinds of things tend on the whole to contribute to that perception of it being an affective difference, and what sort of things tend to lead to the difference disappearing in terms of cultural significance, as being Irish has disappeared in North America.  That isn't to say that consideration alone would dictate what we do, but it would suggest a direction and what kind of situation would be weighty enough to make exceptions or use a different approach.

 

I think a big issue a lot of people have that makes them really wary of this kind of divisiveness around ethnicity is that they see it as hardening the situation of ethnicity being culturally significant in a class-value sense, and really without a very weighty reason to balance it, except what some here are calling kindness - but it seems like a rather unkind kindness if it leads to a deterioration of race relations rather than an improvement.

 

My point was that those who try to claim that the Irish were discriminated against and they got over it so people of color should get over it too, ignore the fact that the Irish are white and that their skin color blends in with the majority. It's a lot easier to discriminate against those who very obviously look different.

Edited by Lady Florida.
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My point was that those who try to claim that the Irish were discriminated against and they got over it so people of color should get over it too, ignore the fact that the Irish are white and that their skin color blends in with the majority. It's a lot easier to discriminate against those who very obviously look different.

 

Yes, I knew that was your point.

 

What I am saying is that I don't think it is as simple as that.  The factors that make that blending in happen are not just a more similar skin colour.

 

Which means it becomes important to think about what those factors are, and weather we are helping them or not.  Especially if the physical distinction s more visible, it would be important not to inhibit other forces that would help to wipe out the class effects.

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     Colorblindness:  The argument against this bugs me so. much.  If what moms who are "teaching" their kinds not to "see" race are doing what I do, they're not sweeping anything or anyone under the rug.  They're refusing to set the stage for their kids to see people different from them as "other" by not verbally pointing out very obvious differences.  If they're pointed out for no reason, it ceases to be a normal part of life.  Now it's "other."  Children need to see not "us and them," but just "us."  And they need to be taught to love us in all our beautiful array.  They don't need "other" pointed out like some menagerie they own and live in.

 

The actual research shows that this isn't how it works. When you don't point this out, children come up with the idea that race is some scary taboo subject, and they figure out their own reasons why. Their reasons are not anything you want them thinking.

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Sounds like a great time to have a mini history lesson and tell her the real story of Pocahontas. But IMO, she can still be Pocahontas just like she could dress up as Queen Victoria or Joan of Arc or Leif Erickson or George Washington.

We did talk about Pocahontas. And she didn’t think it was worth pursuing wearing the costume for her own reasons after that discussion. If she wants to be Pocahontas to tell her story like Queen Victoria or Joan of Arc, then we would not choose the Disney version.

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I think that where KJ is a person your dd looks to as a role model this is excellent!!!!

 

(Myself, I'd not even be against some darkening powder make-up for skin tone, so long as it were not a stereotypical wearing of blackface to poke fun at blacks type thing. )

Please don’t. You may want to reconsider wearing make up to darken your skin tone. That can still be construed as “wearing black skin is a part of a costume.â€

 

I think it’s great to be Katherine Johnson. Or Bruno Mars or Prince or Tiana or Moana or any other character or idol of whom you look up to. But do not costume up and purposely change the color of your skin or facial features like slanted eyes to be that person. People deal with grievances that are directly related to their skin color or racial features so it’s kind of insulting when they see people casually wear makeup to mimic their skin tones but get to wash it off the next day and not have to deal with the social repercussions that they would normally otherwise face.

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The actual research shows that this isn't how it works. When you don't point this out, children come up with the idea that race is some scary taboo subject, and they figure out their own reasons why. Their reasons are not anything you want them thinking.

 

I don't think that's what she's saying, and I think people apply that research very broadly and inappropriately.

 

Sure, if you never say anything, kids will have the effect you describe.  They'll probably see racism in some way, but even if they don't, your silence about ethnic differences will be noted.  THat's in our culture.  I a culture where there were different forces at play, it could be totally different.

 

But there isn't only one other way to do things, it's not a binary situation.  There are different ways to approach things depending on the development of the child their environment, and also what do you emphasize and at what point?  Supporting a child noticing differences in physical features or culture is one element - you can bring up certain observations - you can talk about race or ethnicity - you can talk about racism - you can take an identity approach or a universal approach to these questions.  You can wait until the situation comes up in a natural way and be factual, or make a point of having a special conversation.  None of them are not mentioning it and we have no research that tells us that kids in those scenarios will think its a taboo topic.

 

Many people who talk about wanting to teach colourblindness seem to mean that they want their kids to appreciate ethnicity, first and foremost, in a universal sense, not one that is intrinsically divided.  What they are hoping for, ultimately, is a society where ethnicity is not a category for class differences or any other negative connotations, so they see instilling that as the primary viewpoint in young children as much as possible including everybody in their sense of "us".  Children see differences, but they learn how to understand them from the people around them.

 

I think there are reasonable grounds to be cautious in talking about racism with kids who are still very concrete in their thinking - at times external factors mean its necessary, but children that age can really turn ideas around in unexpected ways, take them much more literally than you might think.  How much do ideas like that stick?   And it isn't unheard of for adults to make some pretty odd choices - based on that same research, a women I knew wanted to make sure that attempted geneocide of First Nations peoples was addressed in her sons preschool the week they were focusing on aboriginal culture.  

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So is DD's vintage dress, NASA badge, and a black wig a bad idea? The badge has Katherine Johnson's name and photo.

 

I'm going to go with it being fine, as long as the portrayal is not based on stereotypes. Styling her actual hair would be better than a wig if possible--you might get flack for the wig. But I'd say this is not the kind of thing people are talking about when talking about what is offensive and/or cultural appropriation.

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Yeah, I disagree with the article.  Moana is fine.  Moana is not "mocking someone else's culture" or "reducing it to a stereotype".  I think it's awesome that little girls want to be Moana.  All types of girls.

 

There is a set of people who consider the Disney movie itself to be "mocking someone else's culture." Especially with the way Maui is portrayed. That said, I would fall in the "character? OK. Culture? Not ok camp." So "Moana" is OK, but "Hula dancer" not.

 

And don't alter skin to "look like" a POC character.

Edited by Ravin
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My 4 year old son desperately wants to be Maui from Moana. I decided it would be ok as long as we didn’t try to darken his skin. Well, then I read online about the tattoos and how that also is cultural appropriation. Ugh.

So I told 4 year old no. It’s just not worth it. It’s exhausting. I tried to explain it to him and I even got help from my oldest ds who is a senior anth major. He still doesn’t understand. He said, but I love him, I don’t hate his people...

Completely exhausting. He would have made the cutest little giant. Oh, well.

 

If you're Christian, you might try explaining that it would feel to some people who saw him a lot like if he dressed up as Jesus being crucified, with makeup to make holes in his hands and feet and a crown of thorns and all that. It's not exactly the same (many Polynesians are also Christians, while still wanting respect for their cultural heroes) but might explain the emotional feel other people have.

 

But being 4 he still might not get it.

Edited by Ravin
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I guess I sort of feel like it's more racist to tell a little white girl who wants to be Moana, no you can't be that princess because she's Polynesian, than it would be just to let her be whichever princess she wants and not see the race. It feels like it's teaching the child to think of people by their race or ethnicity and personally I've always taught my kids that people are all the same and have different skin colors just like people have different eye or hair color. I wouldn't teach my kids to discriminate in that way.

I could not agree more!

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If you're Christian, you might try explaining that it would feel to some people who saw him a lot like if he dressed up as Jesus being crucified, with makeup to make holes in his hands and feet and a crown of thorns and all that. It's not exactly the same (many Polynesians are also Christians, while still wanting respect for their cultural heroes) but might explain the emotional feel other people have.

 

But being 4 he still might not get it.

 

I think a Jesus costume like that to be the equivalent of black-face.   But a Jesus costume, I'd have no problem with.   

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I'll probably get flamed for all of this, but some thoughts on a few things:

 

Colorblindness: The argument against this bugs me so. much. If what moms who are "teaching" their kinds not to "see" race are doing what I do, they're not sweeping anything or anyone under the rug. They're refusing to set the stage for their kids to see people different from them as "other" by not verbally pointing out very obvious differences. If they're pointed out for no reason, it ceases to be a normal part of life. Now it's "other." Children need to see not "us and them," but just "us." And they need to be taught to love us in all our beautiful array. They don't need "other" pointed out like some menagerie they own and live in.

If there was actual running commentary about how there are no different and/or negative experiences, then that's crazy pants--even if one were talking about twins. I don't know about the larger social media world, but the things I've seen on this board that were labeled and downed as colorblindness was NOT trying to deny history or experience, but trying to hedge against the still-present tendency of white people in America to think of themselves as some sort of standard, which annoyingly makes its way into casual conversation. Whether it's a malicious bigot or a fawning patron, both attitudes spring from the same source and I spit on it.

 

 

Sociologists: they need to be left in their sphere. Perhaps they are not making value judgments, but media is apparently taking their observations and twisting them into big old Shaming Sticks. I agree that dispassionately noting and recording historical and current trends is an important task. But that is not the sphere in which 99% of people operate, and so it really can't be useful beyond legislation and a very, very basic social awareness. Most of us move through life, barely touching most other people, forming some acquaintances and maybe a few deep friendships. It may sound unimpressive and even superficial, but this is where we actually expend our energy and where we should focus our efforts and examine our own attitudes. If we allow our sociology-based assumptions to cloud our interactions with real people in real moments, it's going to gum up the works. You'll have condescendingly written another's story for them because you read some blog post or peer-reviewed journal. As you said, bolt., sociologists aren't concerned with individuals and essentially class them into "rule" or "exception." We as individuals can't do that, because it is dehumanizing. An academic discipline has to do that to a certain extent, but people can't do that when actually interacting with other people. We are not binary. So I stand by my earlier statement--maybe sociologists accomplish something by pigeonholing people and cultures, but we can't live like that if we want unity (do we, though? I can't tell sometimes).

 

 

Cultural appropriation: One thing that has apparently been hijacked from sociology and turned into some kind of flailing weapon with all the furor and damage and none of the structure or aim. I loved that author's speech that was linked upthread. I'm going to eat sushi. Know why? I like it. Seriously people. To say that non-white American (or white non-American, but I'll keep it simple) ethnicity can "appropriate" white culture but white people can't partake of any non-white culture in any way ever not only isolates whites from non-whites, but over time, it will erase non-white cultures because if non-whites blend their own culture with white culture (which happens), the original non-white culture will be watered down, so to speak. But white culture will be "pure" and well-preserved because they weren't allowed to borrow anything from anyone else. Does that sound like a good net result?? No? Didn't think so.

Instead, start with a baseline of love and respect for, and a desire to learn from other individuals (both now and in history)--the rest should largely, albeit slowly, work itself out (and do not pat yourself on the back for attaining this baseline). If you make a faux pas, hope someone can and will kindly correct you--accept it they don't, then sincerely apologize for it, learn from it, and move on.

I liked happiduck's link, too. My concern is when the anti-appropriation train goes sideways--saying you can't eat "ethnic" cuisine without permission and other similarly silly things. See above. But to the link itself, I'm glad to know a tiny shred more after reading that than I did. I knew nothing about New Zealand; now I know next to nothing. :D

Side note: there's a KFC and a Chinese restaurant (among others) less than 1 km southeast of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

How's that for jarring your sensibilities? ;)

To me, blackface doesn't fall into the appropriation category because of what it almost exclusively was. The one exception I often think of is the book mentioned: Black Like Me. I think this was an educational use for blackface. There was such a divide at the time that an extreme approach was necessary to really open white people's eyes, and it even did mine when I read it 18 years ago. I would not recommend it be repeated now; we're in a different place as a nation. I don't know what I think about different shades of powder for various purposes, so I won't think about it.

 

So there's your mess of stuff to pick apart. I've spent all morning with this so I'm going to go undirty my house and unignore my kids now. :leaving:

I agree with you. No flaming from me.

 

The thing that doesn't make a lick of sense to me about the unwiedling appropriation stick...and I don't mean wearing a Halloween costume that stereotypes Mexicans, Black people and so forth. I think we can all nod in agreement that that is wrong.

 

I am talking about this idea of stealing cultural foods, dressing up as characters (who, I might add, are often ethnic characters written by white people. Anyone upset about that?) It is hurting people. I keep thinking the big hearted people who think they are doing something good are actually helping the white supremacists. One way cultures shift is by adopting other cultures. If people are tired of seeing white culture domination then the quickest way to change that is to weave in various cultures, regions, hairstyles, foods and so forth. Over time those cultures become one and that signifies true equality, true oneness. Not sameness but oneness.

 

By boxing cultural fashions, colors foods, characters etc into segregated boxes, what happens over time is white people wear their stuff, and everyone else wears their stuff or white people's stuff. As more people adopt white culture (because white people aren't aloud to adopt other cultures) then over time more and more white culture takes over in each progressive generation of youth in that family. Pretty soon their symbols and their beautiful culture is a picture in a museum, or on grandma's fireplace.

 

Let people embrace what they think is beautiful. Why can't a white girl wear dreads? Why not let that become a point of pride for those who contributed that piece of the culture. Why wouldn't they want to look out at a sea of people in their own country and know that even though their story in this country started as a horrific one, now they can hold their heads high with their contributions in changing our culture towards more inclusivity.

 

Isn't it also stealing culture to learn a foreign language? What about a white woman teaching Spanish in a high school? Where will this stop or the line be drawn?

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I think that there needs to be a distinction between dressing up for fun (Halloween) and dressing up for a play (or something similar).

 

I saw a news article where some store/manufacturer had pulled an Anne Frank costume that someone thought would be a good option for Halloween.  I don't really think that dressing up as Anne Frank "for fun" is a good idea, no matter what the girl's race is.  Dressing up for a play or a movie I think would be OK.

 

Respect is the key.

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I agree with you. No flaming from me.

 

The thing that doesn't make a lick of sense to me about the unwiedling appropriation stick...and I don't mean wearing a Halloween costume that stereotypes Mexicans, Black people and so forth. I think we can all nod in agreement that that is wrong.

 

I am talking about this idea of stealing cultural foods, dressing up as characters (who, I might add, are often ethnic characters written by white people. Anyone upset about that?) It is hurting people. I keep thinking the big hearted people who think they are doing something good are actually helping the white supremacists. One way cultures shift is by adopting other cultures. If people are tired of seeing white culture domination then the quickest way to change that is to weave in various cultures, regions, hairstyles, foods and so forth. Over time those cultures become one and that signifies true equality, true oneness. Not sameness but oneness.

 

By boxing cultural fashions, colors foods, characters etc into segregated boxes, what happens over time is white people wear their stuff, and everyone else wears their stuff or white people's stuff. As more people adopt white culture (because white people aren't aloud to adopt other cultures) then over time more and more white culture takes over in each progressive generation of youth in that family. Pretty soon their symbols and their beautiful culture is a picture in a museum, or on grandma's fireplace.

 

Let people embrace what they think is beautiful. Why can't a white girl wear dreads? Why not let that become a point of pride for those who contributed that piece of the culture. Why wouldn't they want to look out at a sea of people in their own country and know that even though their story in this country started as a horrific one, now they can hold their heads high with their contributions in changing our culture towards more inclusivity.

 

Isn't it also stealing culture to learn a foreign language? What about a white woman teaching Spanish in a high school? Where will this stop or the line be drawn?

I was talking about cultural appropriation in the specific context of Halloween. A dominant culture takes symbols or elements of a minority culture to use for their own benefit of a costume. This can apply to anyone, regardless of race. I do admit, there are no hard and fast rules here because the line being crossed is always changing as social norms change. I’ll just try to be cognizant as much as I can.

 

I also agree with you that it’s wonderful to embrace other cultures. This is more of cultural appreciation. Distinctly different. You take the time to learn about a different culture, you experience it yourself, and then integrate or express it into your own culture. It just seems more thoughtful and beyond a costume. I think you can be respectful about not overstepping cultural appropriation boundaries and at the same time be able to show and enjoy elements from another culture. It is inevitable that we get a cultural mish mash when such a diverse group of people are living together (hello, Tex-Mex! Hello, Korean tacos!). We should enjoy each other’s company.

Edited by Hammfried
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Just to clarify, Hammfried...the cultural appropriation topic was expanded beyond costumes because it's generally floating around out in the ether and because of a linked speech from an author on the subject.  I personally was responding to the sort of outcry against cultural appropriation the author related in her speech.  The one person she quoted essentially said we can't eat ethnic food without permission.  OT, I know.  I'm sorry.

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I think that telling kids they cannot dress up as characters they admire because of those characters' race is likely to encourage exactly the opposite effect desired: people who see race as a barrier, who most easily sympathize with and identify primarily with others who look like them, and who judge on appearance before character.

 

I want my children to want to be characters of strength and interest and good qualities, regardless of their race or ethnicity.  I want them to see someone do something awesome, and say, "I want to be just like her!" without a second's hesitation that maybe they are just too different to be like her.  I want them to immerse themselves in rich, imaginary adventures where they get to try out being people they admire with different strengths, different situations, different experiences.  If my kid wants to emulate their hero who comes from a different culture or race or background, more power to them.

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Well when you think about it, anyone participating in Halloween is committing cultural appropriation unless they are from the culture(s) that Halloween is derived from.

 

Maybe we just rename it "cultural appropriation eve" and call it good.  :P

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In my case, DD asked specifically why she couldn’t have blue eyes and that she wanted me to get her blue eyes. I had to explain to her that she was born with brown eyes and that she could still be Cinderella (or whatever character) she wanted. I don’t refute that’s Disney Cinderella has blue eyes. I was bothered because she was asking to change something she was born with to, in her mind, fit an ideal.

 

At least with my experience with little kids and not even such little kids, with girls at least, they want to always look like someone else.  One of mine wanted to have 'ball hair', her term for an afro and since her her was very straight and still is, that wouldn't have worked.  The other wanted to have black hair.  I am happy that as an adult she hasn't wanted to do that.

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I was talking about cultural appropriation in the specific context of Halloween. A dominant culture takes symbols or elements of a minority culture to use for their own benefit of a costume. This can apply to anyone, regardless of race. I do admit, there are no hard and fast rules here because the line being crossed is always changing as social norms change. I’ll just try to be cognizant as much as I can.

 

I also agree with you that it’s wonderful to embrace other cultures. This is more of cultural appreciation. Distinctly different. You take the time to learn about a different culture, you experience it yourself, and then integrate or express it into your own culture. It just seems more thoughtful and beyond a costume. I think you can be respectful about not overstepping cultural appropriation boundaries and at the same time be able to show and enjoy elements from another culture. It is inevitable that we get a cultural mish mash when such a diverse group of people are living together (hello, Tex-Mex! Hello, Korean tacos!). We should enjoy each other’s company.

 

The question of cultural appropriation is so fraught now.

 

There was a controversy, maybe about a year ago here - a local writer wrote a play that had been inspired by watching classical Chinese theatre.  Anyway, this play was being produced, and neither he nor any of the cast were Chinese.  (Which wasn't odd demographically, we have a pretty small Chinese population being on the east coast.)

 

Anyway, he was totally called out for cultural appropriation, and the play was pulled.  And he seemed willing for that to happen, he was suitably contrite and all that, said it was great to have more awareness of this issue.

 

I thought it was horrible.  How can art work if we can't be inspired by the things we see in the world around us?  Many of the richest artistic movements came from just that kind of thing.  And it takes nothing away from what inspired it - that's the nature of art and ideas, they don't become less, they have a kind of infinite separability.

 

So while people may feel like costumes for fun are a smaller, simpler issue, ideas that they hold about them around cultural appropriation aren't totally separate - it's going to form how people think about it more generally.

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When my dad was growing up they would throw a watermelon in the creek, and when they were done swimming it would be nice and cold for them to eat.

 

I had one tell me I was appropriating collards and watermelon. Huge lack of understanding about what po' folks of all cultures in my gp's region grew and et before refrigeration, and after the Great Depression. I am not giving up my heritage.

 

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The question of cultural appropriation is so fraught now.

 

There was a controversy, maybe about a year ago here - a local writer wrote a play that had been inspired by watching classical Chinese theatre. Anyway, this play was being produced, and neither he nor any of the cast were Chinese. (Which wasn't odd demographically, we have a pretty small Chinese population being on the east coast.)

 

Anyway, he was totally called out for cultural appropriation, and the play was pulled. And he seemed willing for that to happen, he was suitably contrite and all that, said it was great to have more awareness of this issue.

 

I thought it was horrible. How can art work if we can't be inspired by the things we see in the world around us? Many of the richest artistic movements came from just that kind of thing. And it takes nothing away from what inspired it - that's the nature of art and ideas, they don't become less, they have a kind of infinite separability.

 

So while people may feel like costumes for fun are a smaller, simpler issue, ideas that they hold about them around cultural appropriation aren't totally separate - it's going to form how people think about it more generally.

OP, I’m sorry if it seems like overtaking your thread. This was addressed to me so I intend to answer it.

 

Bluegoat, are we talking about the Dartmouth play? If so, I actually can see why some people said it was cultural appropriation. I don’t know the context of his play because it never came to fruition but I did see one promo photo of an actress dressed in full make up and costume. Minorities who are mainly POC, are largely underrepresented in American film and acting. I understand why some people felt compelled to speak up and ask why he still proceeded with casting a play about Chinese people with no Chinese actors, and then have them look the way he presented them. Some may not have been bothered by it but some were. He could have ignored the outraged and carried on with production. Or he could still continue to seek out actors of Chinese descent and come to a middle ground (he can still do this, unless there is something truly in play that would make him hesitate). He chose instead to just put the play on the shelf.

 

Why do you think it was so important for Disney to specifically seek out actors of Polynesian descent to voice over characters for Moana? Or for them to seek out Hispanic and Latinx descended actors for Elena? Was this just a way to a way to deprive white actors of a job? After all, we don’t see the real person voicing an animation so their race shouldn’t matter right? No. They recognized that they wanted to share specific cultural stories from demographic gaps that had yet to be fulfilled. And they asked people from said demographic groups to be representatives to tell the stories. It’s like Disney saying, “We want to share YOUR cultural story AND we want YOU to be able to tell it.†And it was presented in a digestible way that many people across a broad spectrum of races have been able to appreciate and adore it. The minority culture gets exposure, the minority group gets to represent themselves, and other groups get to enjoy and emulate them.

 

Here, I offer this example. A long time ago, women were not allowed to be actors in European theatre. All female roles were performed by boys and young men. Any woman who actually was associated with the theatre was considered promiscuous or had negative connotations. Women were the minorities and men were in power in this dynamic. And this wasn’t a matter of a separate boys and girls club. Women weren’t allowed to act in theatre period. After all, young men and boys could already play all the female roles, who needs the actual women. After the play was over, the male actors could just wash off their makeup and remove their costumes and resume having privileges of being a male (reading, voting, etc.). Meanwhile, women still were not allowed to read, vote, act, etc. Was it wrong for women to want to be represented in theatre? Was it wrong for women to want to be the actual actors portraying themselves? Was it unfair to the men to only be limited to playing male roles and not female once women were allowed to act? Was it a deprivation to men to allow women to enter the theatrical ring? Ideally, you (Generally speaking) would want that men and women could play either female or male roles interchangeably just like kids of all racial backgrounds could dress up in any costume, no?

 

Yes, cultural appropriation is fluidly changing. There are no rules set in stone. There are fuzzy areas and there is always going to be someone who is offended or someone who absolutely doesn’t care. It is exhausting to try to be socially correct at all times. But that doesn’t mean to remove all decency off the table. You can still pause to be thoughtful and respectful if and when people ask it of you.

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The question of cultural appropriation is so fraught now.

 

There was a controversy, maybe about a year ago here - a local writer wrote a play that had been inspired by watching classical Chinese theatre.  Anyway, this play was being produced, and neither he nor any of the cast were Chinese.  (Which wasn't odd demographically, we have a pretty small Chinese population being on the east coast.)

 

Anyway, he was totally called out for cultural appropriation, and the play was pulled.  And he seemed willing for that to happen, he was suitably contrite and all that, said it was great to have more awareness of this issue.

 

I thought it was horrible.  How can art work if we can't be inspired by the things we see in the world around us?  Many of the richest artistic movements came from just that kind of thing.  And it takes nothing away from what inspired it - that's the nature of art and ideas, they don't become less, they have a kind of infinite separability.

 

So while people may feel like costumes for fun are a smaller, simpler issue, ideas that they hold about them around cultural appropriation aren't totally separate - it's going to form how people think about it more generally.

 

This is also bollocks for several reasons. 1. We have never been an imperial power over China. 2. Imitative art is normative in China. I doubt you'd find any actual Chinese people (as opposed to a small subset of Chinese-Americans) getting their knickers in a twist over such a thing. As long as credit is given and the work is transformative...where is the problem???

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Please don’t. You may want to reconsider wearing make up to darken your skin tone. That can still be construed as “wearing black skin is a part of a costume.â€

 

I think it’s great to be Katherine Johnson. Or Bruno Mars or Prince or Tiana or Moana or any other character or idol of whom you look up to. But do not costume up and purposely change the color of your skin or facial features like slanted eyes to be that person. People deal with grievances that are directly related to their skin color or racial features so it’s kind of insulting when they see people casually wear makeup to mimic their skin tones but get to wash it off the next day and not have to deal with the social repercussions that they would normally otherwise face.

 

 

I think it would be very positive to have a black woman mathematician / scientist so honored as to be a role model of a 21st century girl of any race.

 

 

To me it seems like totally the opposite idea of something like blackface white actors in Birth of a Nation or a comic minstrel show. 

 

 

It might, however, be better to not dress up as Katherine Johnson at all, if people are going to be likely to take that wrong.

 

 

No child, black, white, or other can be the NASA Katherine Johnson.  It would only be dressing up as her.  And all the dress up, whatever it is, would come off next day--or later that same evening more likely.

 

Maybe it would be safer to be dressed as a generic, white looking, NASA employee so as to give no offense.  (And no particular honor either.)

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This is also bollocks for several reasons. 1. We have never been an imperial power over China. 2. Imitative art is normative in China. I doubt you'd find any actual Chinese people (as opposed to a small subset of Chinese-Americans) getting their knickers in a twist over such a thing. As long as credit is given and the work is transformative...where is the problem???

 

Well, it was Chinese people here who complained.  Though I suspect people in China would not have the same attitude for the reasons you mention - the attitude about cultural borrowing is very different.

 

The west did have some very negative interactions with China that could cause hard feelings, but really I think that isn't the point.

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OP, I’m sorry if it seems like overtaking your thread. This was addressed to me so I intend to answer it.

 

Bluegoat, are we talking about the Dartmouth play? If so, I actually can see why some people said it was cultural appropriation. I don’t know the context of his play because it never came to fruition but I did see one promo photo of an actress dressed in full make up and costume. Minorities who are mainly POC, are largely underrepresented in American film and acting. I understand why some people felt compelled to speak up and ask why he still proceeded with casting a play about Chinese people with no Chinese actors, and then have them look the way he presented them. Some may not have been bothered by it but some were. He could have ignored the outraged and carried on with production. Or he could still continue to seek out actors of Chinese descent and come to a middle ground (he can still do this, unless there is something truly in play that would make him hesitate). He chose instead to just put the play on the shelf.

 

Why do you think it was so important for Disney to specifically seek out actors of Polynesian descent to voice over characters for Moana? Or for them to seek out Hispanic and Latinx descended actors for Elena? Was this just a way to a way to deprive white actors of a job? After all, we don’t see the real person voicing an animation so their race shouldn’t matter right? No. They recognized that they wanted to share specific cultural stories from demographic gaps that had yet to be fulfilled. And they asked people from said demographic groups to be representatives to tell the stories. It’s like Disney saying, “We want to share YOUR cultural story AND we want YOU to be able to tell it.†And it was presented in a digestible way that many people across a broad spectrum of races have been able to appreciate and adore it. The minority culture gets exposure, the minority group gets to represent themselves, and other groups get to enjoy and emulate them.

 

Here, I offer this example. A long time ago, women were not allowed to be actors in European theatre. All female roles were performed by boys and young men. Any woman who actually was associated with the theatre was considered promiscuous or had negative connotations. Women were the minorities and men were in power in this dynamic. And this wasn’t a matter of a separate boys and girls club. Women weren’t allowed to act in theatre period. After all, young men and boys could already play all the female roles, who needs the actual women. After the play was over, the male actors could just wash off their makeup and remove their costumes and resume having privileges of being a male (reading, voting, etc.). Meanwhile, women still were not allowed to read, vote, act, etc. Was it wrong for women to want to be represented in theatre? Was it wrong for women to want to be the actual actors portraying themselves? Was it unfair to the men to only be limited to playing male roles and not female once women were allowed to act? Was it a deprivation to men to allow women to enter the theatrical ring? Ideally, you (Generally speaking) would want that men and women could play either female or male roles interchangeably just like kids of all racial backgrounds could dress up in any costume, no?

 

Yes, cultural appropriation is fluidly changing. There are no rules set in stone. There are fuzzy areas and there is always going to be someone who is offended or someone who absolutely doesn’t care. It is exhausting to try to be socially correct at all times. But that doesn’t mean to remove all decency off the table. You can still pause to be thoughtful and respectful if and when people ask it of you.

 

Yes, that was the play.

 

I can see why some people said it - I think, as Ravin suggested, it's bollocks.  I think the idea that you cannot borrow stories, design, music, etc, from other people, from other cultures, from other artists, is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of ideas in general, and art in particular.  Artists, especially, should know that no art happens without this process, and it is impossible to purify the products of the artist from this kind of exchange and influence.

 

I think it's precisely this commodification of artistic thinking, that artists should speak out against forcefully.  People I'm sure are trying to be sensitive, they feel there is a real problem.  But I don't think this is an area where it will serve people to go along for the sake of being nice.  You can nicely say that you think they are wrong.

 

There is some reason to be cautious about casting of ethnic actors in an appropriate way.  I don't think this is in fact intrinsic to the craft of acting, or even about creating some kind of artistic representation - you can't represent artistically on someone's behalf in that way.  It's more a matter of being conscious of the problems non-white actors have in getting roles - if even the casting of roles that share their ethnicity go to others, it leaves little.  But an even better idea might be for directors to case a lot more ethnic actors in non-ethnic roles.  I think the actors might appreciate that more as well - I think it gets tiring having only certain kinds of roles - often ones where you have to pretend to be from a culture your ancestors lived in rather than the one you live in.

 

I don't think Disney cares who voices their films, so long as they make money and they avoid social criticism - that's what they considered in their casting.  If I want to see a film that tells a story of the Polynesian people, I'll probably look elsewhere.

 

As for the play - it wasn't a Chinese play.  Any more than something like The Mikado is Japanese, really (it's English Victoriana.)  I don't have any reason to think that the director in this case avoided casting Chinese actors, but I don't think there was a great requirement to do so.  It also in no way prevents a Chinese writer, director, or actors, from writing a new play from their own perspective, or staging a traditional one.

Edited by Bluegoat
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This is also bollocks for several reasons. 1. We have never been an imperial power over China. 2. Imitative art is normative in China. I doubt you'd find any actual Chinese people (as opposed to a small subset of Chinese-Americans) getting their knickers in a twist over such a thing. As long as credit is given and the work is transformative...where is the problem???

 

Canada may never had been and imperial power over China, but (White) Canada did treat its Chinese immigrants very badly for a very long time.   They were treated as a cheap and disposable labour source in the building of the railways, then a nuisance "not fit for citizenship".  Head tax.  Anti-asian riots.  Organized anti-asiatic league.   Denied citizenship.  Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited practically stopped all Chinese immigration 1923- 1947.  Limits on immigration not lifted until 1967.  There is still plenty of anti-asian racism in Canada.  Particularly noticeable in areas with low Asian population densities - this I know because my family lives it.  I can absolutely understand why local the Chinese community may have found this upsetting.

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I think it would be very positive to have a black woman mathematician / scientist so honored as to be a role model of a 21st century girl of any race.

 

 

To me it seems like totally the opposite idea of something like blackface white actors in Birth of a Nation or a comic minstrel show.

 

 

It might, however, be better to not dress up as Katherine Johnson at all, if people are going to be likely to take that wrong.

 

 

No child, black, white, or other can be the NASA Katherine Johnson. It would only be dressing up as her. And all the dress up, whatever it is, would come off next day--or later that same evening more likely.

 

Maybe it would be safer to be dressed as a generic, white looking, NASA employee so as to give no offense. (And no particular honor either.)

I see the suggestion to be a generic NASA person as a lost opportunity to introduce the neighbors to someone new and great. I think it wonderful for a child to have to explain her costume, "I'm Katherine Johnson. She's an amazing African American mathematician who helped advance NASA, and she's my hero!"

 

I would be thrilled if my child dressed as someone they admire rather than a princess or cowboy or ninja.

 

ETA: not saying a child can't admire a fictitious character, but I think admiring a real person is pretty special.

Edited by Homebody2
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The funny thing is that what some schools do is to have kids dress as historical figures, which avoids scary (and, potentially, sexy) costumes. So yeah, there probably are a lot of kids dressing as historical figures they admire who aren't of their ethnicity. And Anne Frank or Katherine Johnson would be very reasonable. I'd also imagine at least some parents strongly encourage their kids to use such costumes for Trick or Treating (just like I used to require DD to come up with a Halloween costume that used part of a dance costume-because we had spent so much money on the things, she might as well get more wear out of them!).

 

Personally, I'd rather see Anne Frank at my door-and a child who can talk about her-than the umpteen zillion Pennywise the Clowns I expect to see. I'm not clown phobic, but those costumes creep me out.

 

 

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I think it's more like "People admit that these things were always offensive, and some other people are offended because don't want to use good manners."

 

Nobody is saying "Don't dress up like Tiana or Moana". They're saying "Do it without blackface" and "Oh, and seriously, those tattoos are not okay to steal".

 

As far as the tattoos go, it's the difference between "dressing up like a soldier" and "stealing Grandpa's Purple Heart to dress up like a soldier".

 

Not stealing Grandpa's Purple Heart. But I've seen soldier costumes where a purple heart was manufactured as part of the costume. Didn't bother me.

 

When you play a character in their dress uniform, you need to have the medals that person earned as well.

 

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I think that there needs to be a distinction between dressing up for fun (Halloween) and dressing up for a play (or something similar).

 

I saw a news article where some store/manufacturer had pulled an Anne Frank costume that someone thought would be a good option for Halloween.  I don't really think that dressing up as Anne Frank "for fun" is a good idea, no matter what the girl's race is.  Dressing up for a play or a movie I think would be OK.

 

Respect is the key.

 

So its okay to dress up as Katherine Johnson or Laura Ingalls, but not Anne Frank? Why not?  Because she died horrifically?  Does that mean it'd be okay to dress up as Corrie Ten Boom, but not her sister Betsy?

 

I did tell my son one year that dressing up as Jesus was not a great idea. (He chose Paul instead) But it would not bother me to see other kids doing the same.

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I only mentioned the Anne Frank costume because it had received backlash and was pulled.

 

We don't celebrate Halloween and yes, I would much prefer Anne Frank on my doorstep than zombies or scary clowns.  I just don't know that trick-or-treat is the right platform for such a costume.  At a Halloween party or at school where the costume could be discussed?  That might be a better outlet.

 

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I don't have a reason for finding Anne Frank off, really, it's a very intuitive thing.

 

It does seem different than naming someone after her.

 

I once was going to send my son and daughter out as the Babes in the Woods, who are buried a few blocks from my house.  I didn't in the end because it seemed a little off somehow.

 

Onething I find a little funny about Halloween, is it ends up being rather difficult to put one's finger on what the sense of the costumes is meant to be.  Is it what is cute or anything fun to pretend?  Is it meant to be scary or dark, connected with death?  Is it people you admire?

 

People do all these things of course, but sometimes it's odd if you aren't sure what category a costume is in.  Is the Anne Frank there because the kid admires her?  Because she is dead in a tragic way?  Because it is somehow funny?  

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I see the suggestion to be a generic NASA person as a lost opportunity to introduce the neighbors to someone new and great. I think it wonderful for a child to have to explain her costume, "I'm Katherine Johnson. She's an amazing African American mathematician who helped advance NASA, and she's my hero!"

 

I would be thrilled if my child dressed as someone they admire rather than a princess or cowboy or ninja.

 

ETA: not saying a child can't admire a fictitious character, but I think admiring a real person is pretty special.

 

 

 

I agree!

 

But it looks like it would be all too easy for someone to end up feeling dissed instead of respected.   Sad.

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Bluegoat, I think part of your discomfort is that Halloween is sometimes, for some kids, about dressing up as what they'd like to imitate - a princess, or a superhero, or an animal they really like, or whatever.  For others, it's about being scary - monster, zombie, etc.  For others, there is an element of comedy.  Zombie Ann Frank would be the comedy.

 

Zombie Ann Frank is a little gruesome, and just on the edge (for me) of aaahhh, this is kind of funny and I'm laughing but I think it's probably funny because it's slightly socially transgressive in a way.

 

Hard to describe the kind of humor I mean, so I'll give another example (unrelated, but same kind of humor).  when I was at teacher's college in New Zealand, I'd just arrived in the country a few days before the first formal social intake event at the university.  In New Zealand they have a native (nativish, anyway) population called the Maori - they're Polynesian, was my understanding.  So the first major social event is a formal one based on a Maori tradition - most government institutions sort of adopt a fair number of Maori traditions, it's very different than with Native Americans here in the US or with our other minority populations.  So we're at this formal Maori introduction welcome thing, although 98% of us are white of course, and we (the new students for this year) are standing in the back waiting to go into the thing, whatever it was.  We're talking about the event, and during the course of the conversation I mispronounced Maori - I said it, evidently, in a way that made it sound something like Moriori.  I knew nothing about anyone called Moriori, but it caused a lot of stifled, sort of somewhat uncomfortable laughter (but a lot of the laughter).  Turns out there's a sort of weird cultural thing going on where, A. The Maori were cannibals, but it's pretty socially taboo to mention this, especially for kids and young people; B. The Moriori were maybe a tribe of people who lived in NZ before the Maori (although the theory is discredited, it's still a popular idea at least among teacher's school students of age 20-23 in Canterbury, NZ), whom the Maori ate.

 

So referring, even obliquely and unintentionally as I did, to the Moriori, was to them kind of hilarious and embarrassing and transgressive.  But the thing it was transgressing (a taboo on talking about or referring to, in a joking or irreverent manner, the idea that the Maori ate people) was something people were not necessarily unhappy to see transgressed - I got a sense (and some concrete statements) that the taboo was not perceived as wholly worthwhile or necessary, to this generation of kids. 

 

So anyway, I think something similar goes on with Ann Frank.  She's venerated, revered, etc. - but it's been a while, and some people, especially I think younger people, don't really feel the need for the veneration, or even as much of the sorrow as we're expected to feel.  The horror of the Holocaust is pushed constantly in school, or was when I was a kid, and while I agree that it is horrible, at some point it becomes less immediate, and you rebel against the insistence on the holiness of the sadness of the Holocaust and the holiness of the sadness of Ann Frank with a sort of transgressive humor.

 

 

This is in contrast to other things that are not pushed as hard - say the extermination of intellectuals under Pol Pot, or people who were killed in the Rwandan genocide, or survivors of the nuclear bombs - none of those would be humorous to bring back as Halloween costumes, even in a transgressive humor sort of way.

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Racism is a one way street -- it absolutely never "goes both ways" -- it only works one way: from people who have greater power to people who have lesser power.

 

On the one hand, Moana may be an exception because she is a character, not a race... but she has a race, so I can see the issue. I'm not sure if she is an exception or not.

 

However, in general, this is his you identify whether a costume is offensive in terms of racism or cultural appropreation.

 

1. Name the two people groups involved. One is the simple visual identification of the character, the other is the simple visual identification of the person who intends to dress as that character.

 

2. Ask if either group does now, or ever has, asserted superiority over the other group.

 

A: if there is no people-group relationship that can be ready my identified, it's all good

 

B: If the real person is in the group who has/is asserting superiority that person may not appropriate the cultural look that they were thinking about. To do so is mimicking a culture that they have already actually injured for amusement purposes. It adds insult to injury.

 

C: if the real person is in the 'weaker' position of a current or historic relationship with the people that they intend to dress up as, that is ok because they aren't taking advantage of a group that they have already wounded.

 

Therefore apparently white children must have greater sensitivity, but apparently white characters are open to children of all ethnicities.

Upon first reading, I thought this was satire. 😂 Really, though, all this over a Halloween costume. 😵
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I agree!

 

But it looks like it would be all too easy for someone to end up feeling dissed instead of respected.   Sad.

 

I highly doubt it. The OP has thoughtfully considered how to do this respectfully, and the vast majority of people would recognize that—if they even paid any attention to the costume at all. That isn't a given even though for the purposes of this thread, it's assumed that all costumes are carefully, meticulously scrutinized and most people care about what costume a child is wearing for more than the 30 seconds it takes to answer the door and pass out treats.

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The actual research shows that this isn't how it works. When you don't point this out, children come up with the idea that race is some scary taboo subject, and they figure out their own reasons why. Their reasons are not anything you want them thinking.

 

Well, I don't know about the research, but my kids have been taught that we all have the same color blood, but God has created us in a variety of beautiful skin tones and have diversified into many different cultures around the world.  My DDs have never been intimidated or scared by race; they don't really think about it at all.  To them, people are just that -- people.

 

Someone up thread has a little boy who wants to be Moana's(?) friend, but some on here say he can't.  I say that's baloney.  Let him be the "character" he wants to be, however, tell him that tattoos have special meaning to the one who wears them.  Tell him he can have fake tattoos, but they can't be the same ones.  Let him choose some "special" tattoos that mean something to him.  Problem solved.

 

We spend so much time discussing skin pigment and get so concerned about what's taboo and what's not that I can't keep up and, frankly, I think it promotes racism rather than the opposite. I think, at this day and age, we should be able to acknowledge one simple fact that renders the whole discussion mute: We're all human and belong to the only extant Homo species - Homo sapiens! One group; one race.

 

Flame away, but that's how I feel. Going to go cook dinner now and thank God that I no longer have to worry about costumes for my DDs. 

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On a somewhat unrelated note (because it isn't related to race, but gender), I find this entire problem odd considering many of the same in my circle who do frequently assert that white people shouldn't dress in costumes that depict people of other races, because of systemic racism... are the same people who openly encourage their boy children to dress as girl characters for halloween. Because there's no history at all of men being considered superior to, and holding power over, women? 

 

I mean, if it isn't okay for my daughter to dress as a black character because white people have historically held power over black people, then why isn't the same true for my son if he wants to dress as a princess with a wig, dress, etc.?

 

ETA: This is a sincere question -- not snark. I have legitimately scratched my head over this.

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