Culturally Appropriated Halloween

Why your white kid probably shouldn’t dress up as Moana for Halloween

I came across this article on FB and I wanted to call BS on it.

There’s a world of difference between dressing up as a caricature of some racial minority and dressing up as a beloved character from a cartoon who happens to be a member of a racial minority.

Some may argue that Moana is in herself a mocking presentation of Pacific-Islanders, but I think they’re wrong. And I think the child who wants to dress up as a character they love is continuing the effort of love and respect that was put into making Moana.

Dressing up as a character is achieved by taking on specific attributes of the character.  To dress as Moana, you might want a shell necklace, and a skirt and top of a particular color and style. I’d probably want to give my daughter a candy basket that looks like a chicken or a pig, too.  And maybe an oar.  That’s because those things are all references to the specific appearance of the character, Moana.

If you wanted to advance harmful stereotypes of Pacific Islanders, you’d have to go through and pick out characteristics generally associated with the group.  You wouldn’t pay attention to the color of the blouse because the color isn’t what’s important.

I want to be sensitive and respectful to other cultures, and I think I am.

But cultures aren’t fixed, unchanging things.  It’s not possible to steal culture as such.  And we have to make sure we are clear about the difference between individuals of a culture and the culture itself.

When you’re promoting racial stereotypes or mocking a culture, you’re being disrespectful to the culture and a broad swath of people as a whole.

But dressing up as a character has only an incidental connection to a culture by way of that character’s culture, but only insofar as that particular character adheres to the culture in question.

So, no. I don’t buy this one.  If my daughter wants to dress up as one of her heroes and one of her heroes happens to be of a particular culture, we’re going to go for it. We’re going to try to make her as much like the character, not a caricature of the culture, as we can.

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