Is This Costume Racist?

Trying to decipher if your child's costume is cultural appropriation? You have privilege.

Pictured: Brown girl, around 7 years old, dressed up like Moana.


Generally speaking, I don't think people are actually trying to understand cultural appropriation when they are asking about Halloween costumes.

Is it racist if my kid wears this costume?


This question comes up every Halloween. It usually pertains to Disney characters, cartoons, superheroes, and other fictional characters. *Most* white people know by now that racial stereotypes and BIPOC iconic people are not okay for costumes.


Varying answers follow ranging from "it's not okay and we need to be better humans" to "they're just kids and don't ruin their fun".


Generally speaking, I don't think people are actually trying to understand cultural appropriation when they are asking about Halloween costumes. Instead they are asking permission to continue to be racist and just how racist can they be. They are asking how much privilege do they really have to give up and hoping someone will validate for them that it's actually not that much. They are asking for permission to not be inconvenienced. Cause really, when it comes down to it, not allowing my child to wear a costume is just an inconvenience to me.


Let's take the example of Moana. Should non-Polynesian children get to wear Moana costumes? No. The argument that I generally hear FOR them getting to wear it is "but my child loves Moana" or "Moana is a strong female character and good role model, my daughter should be able to dress up like her hero" etc.


To me, what they're really saying is: I don't want to have to say no to my child and be inconvenienced with having to explain why they can't wear the costume and deal with the resulting tears or tantrum that might ensue. Instead, I would rather let my child wear a racist hurtful costume. My child's night of trick or treating and their few hours of fun is more important to me than the damage of colonization, genocide, systemic oppression and systemic racism.


So I think when answering the question "is this costume racist" we don't need to talk about cultural appropriation what we need to talk about is privilege. If you are asking this question you have privilege. If you are actively or passively racist you will let your kid wear the costume. If you're trying to be actively anti-racist, you will give up a small amount of your privilege, inconvenience yourself, and tell your kid to choose something else.


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