“We need to treat people with the dignity that they deserve, the way we want to be treated. If it’s something that [you] have the privilege to wear safely, where others would be persecuted if they wore it, do not wear it,”
If your first thought when you read the title was to roll your eyes so hard that you could almost see out the back of your head, then CONGRATULATIONS!! This post is for you!
That’s because more than likely you are part of the millions of people who don’t care that you allow your child to appropriate another person’s culture for Halloween, and you do so under the guise of “oh it’s just a holiday” or “just let kids be kids”. Don’t worry this isn’t an attack on everyone’s favorite Pagan holiday, this also goes for festivals in which there are thrones of young women who decide to stick a feather in their hair and throw on moccasins like that’s such a great fashion statement to make.
Besides the fact that you just don’t care, my guess that you don’t understand what cultural appropriation is, and how it actually harms marginalized groups in society.
How wonderful must it be to wear a costume from another culture, and then take it off and go about your business, because well..it’s not like you actually have to live like them right? You can easily dress up as a Native American and not actually have to worry about the atrocities that they faced (don’t worry, I will wait for the usual “my great-great grandmother was a Cherokee princess” line, because you know, grandma or someone was always a princess).
Or better yet…
Throw a blackface party and then head home and wipe off, knowing that you never have to live one day as an African American. But I’m sure it’s cool because you have black friends, right?
Let’s start by what CA is NOT:
A black child dressing up as Cinderella or Snow White is not cultural appropriation.
A Latino child dressing an Ana or Elsa is not cultural appropriation.
A white child dressing as Tiana is not cultural appropriation.
An Asian child dressing up as English police office is not cultural appropriation.
You got that??
What is “Cultural Appropriation?”
“In a nutshell, it is the use of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, regalia, or behavior from one culture by another. The person appropriating often has no knowledge of the significance of the icons or regalia or any understanding of the significance or history behind the cultural traditions.” (via Lakota Children’s Enrichment)
Just because you “claim” that your child admires a culture, you can still teach them to appreciate someone’s culture without actually imitating it.
Nine times out of ten when people purchase those cheap costumes for their kids to wear for one day so they can go door to door and get candy, they don’t stop and think how it makes persons from those actual cultures feel.
“It’s very mocking,” a member of the Baa’oogeedí of the Navajo Nation told me in a conversation about the Halloween costume. “We don’t consider those outfits costumes. They’re symbolic and blessed. They have a spirit to them. They’re viewed with the same beauty and symbolism they represent-Washington Post
If you wouldn’t allow your child to go full blackface in a Tiana costume for Halloween, why is it okay to allow them to dress as Geisha or Native American (if you still refer to NA or First Nations people as ‘Indians’ that alone tells me where you stand on this). Plus let’s not forget Pocohantas was a 14-year-old rape victim, who was kidnapped from her home and taken to another country. I love Disney just as much as the next person, but why on earth would you want your child to dress up as her for Halloween? Am I missing something here?
This is not about policing anyone’s parenting or telling them what they can or should do with their kids, however, it’s the hope that the parents who do these kinds of things will actually examine why they think it’s cute, and how it makes persons from that culture feel to be mocked.
If you want to support these cultures, then teach your children about them in other ways. Learn their history, if you want to purchase something for your child to have because they do admire the culture, purchase something authentic from someone who is part of that culture to show that you actually do care.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.