On Cultural Appropriation at Halloween...and Why I'm All For It

I grew up in rural Canada in a time when the only black people anyone saw were on American television or in National Geographic. I was an anomaly, to say the least; a blight, to say the worst. The only people who ever thought of me as “pretty” were related to me (thanks, Mom!). I never had a boyfriend, was never asked on a date, and the only “compliment” any other girl ever gave me was that they wished they could tan to my complexion.


In other words, my race made me the ugly duckling.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I more than made up for it all when I left Canada for good and began my journey toward American citizenship. All I can say is – thank God there was no Facebook when I was in college!

I tell you all this to say that there was a significant period in my life where I felt invisible and inferior, as I suppose is the entire point of racism.

This Halloween we’re all getting the lectures from privileged millennials in coastal city apartments (often subsidized by mom and dad) about how we costume ourselves and our kids and what is appropriate or inappropriate appropriation. This season the particular admonishment is, “If you’re not of Asian-Pacific descent don’t dress your kid as Moana!”

Perspective is a vital part of wisdom, and many on the extreme left are lacking that very thing.

Here’s the thing: as a woman of color who lives in a majority white society where white women are held up in pop culture as the “beauty standard,” I find it gratifying that other girls would look at my daughter and say, “She’s beautiful. I want to look like her.” I love that young white girls and Asian girls and black girls look up to a beautifully brown, brave girl like Moana and say, “I want to be like her!”


And what does being “like her” mean at Halloween? It means putting on those stupid costumes and scratchy wigs and pretending to be someone you’re not. It means being in someone else’s skin for a night, and having fun doing it.

Sure, these little non-brown girls will go back to their non-brown lives the next day. But for a moment they stepped into the shoes of my own little girl, who isn’t generally looked at as a “typical American beauty.” For a moment they will have been a bit envious of her hair texture, her caramel skin, her curves. For a moment they have appreciated that beauty and laid aside that “privilege” the left loves to tout so much. For a moment they get to be a different kind of beautiful.

If those girls wanted to pull a Rachael Dolezal or a Shaun King then yes, that is cultural appropriation.

If they just want to be pretty and strong for a night, why would we discourage any young girl from that? As someone who has had to reconcile my race with my beauty and value in the face of cruel bigotry, I find it utterly flattering and, frankly, a relief to see that we have progressed far enough that little white girls can look at girls and women of color and say, “I want to be like her!”


Not brown, not black, not “tan”…strong and beautiful. And now we’re going to complain that those people are somehow disrespecting our identity?

Not me. I’m happy for anyone to look at my skin, my culture, my race and say “I wish I could be that beautiful.”

And at the end of the day, it’s just Halloween. Everyone can just get over themselves for one night.


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