On Halloween, The Daily Mississippian published a column written by Lauren Moses titled “Cultural appropriation is a joke.” Here’s my response.
To blatantly take only desired aspects of another culture for a costume and use it to parade around bars and house parties for hours is a flagrant disregard for the people who are actually living or have lived that life. It shows a willingness to turn a blind eye to history. People do it every year; they seem to be competing with one another on who can wear the most insensitive costume in the name of humor. Cultural appropriation is never okay.
Yes, it is acceptable to celebrate other cultures. Borrowing parts from another culture is a spectrum, and the line is drawn when you begin to ignore and disregard the moral quality of respect. Societies regularly takes a little piece of each other’s culture –– whether it be carrying a hand-stitched purse from Mexico or even using a French press coffee maker.
This is not “cultural appropriation,” but instead, it is the respectful borrowing and honoring of simple things from other culture’s achievements that make our everyday lives a little bit easier. However, the issue arises when you take a piece of someone’s culture, one that represents a deep part of history, and use it for mockery or fun.
So, in theory, carrying a hand-stitched purse from Mexico is a lot different than wearing blackface or a sombrero to a Halloween party. The problem of racial insensitivity is not confined to costumes. Once you say it is okay to wear whatever you please on Halloween, you are opening a floodgate for inconsiderate and racist thoughts and ideas. Where do you draw the line? It seems to me that the columnist thinks one does not even exist.
By saying “cultural appropriation is a joke,” you are saying that you are okay with ignoring the nasty parts of our history. America’s history is deep and rich, but you cannot argue that this country does not come with a considerably dark past. As a country, it is our duty to maintain a varied perspective.
By citing a right-wing YouTube channel as the main source, the columnist is telling me and the rest of the University of Mississippi that she only has one perspective — one that oppresses thought. She does not have the authority to tell people –– especially people of color who have had so much stolen from them –– what they can and cannot be offended by.
When she says that this is a “joke,” she is not only implying that she is misinformed on current events, but she is also implying that she is unaware of the severity of race issues in our own country.
Do not ignore history. It is happening right in front of us even to this day. Pay attention. Learn from it. Take the time to educate yourself on the issue of racial insensitivity, and let me know if you still think it’s “cute” to wear a Native American headdress or a sombrero.
No, the label “cultural appropriation” does not divide us. I think it is quite the opposite. Being respectful to one another’s history and learning to observe other cultures in a manner that does not overstep boundaries is not divisive. It is mature. America is filled with many wonderful ideas, cultures and history that should be celebrated. It is how we celebrate it that truly shows how informed and aware we are.
So for Halloween, yes, please be a vampire, a clown — even a cat. But do not think that you have the right to dress up as whatever you please. Be smart and respectful. Cultures are not costumes.
Sophia Meruvia is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Philadelphia, Mississippi.