Is that really cultural appropriation?

Arne Grette, Staff Writer

Every Halloween, conservatives and liberals don their armor and go to war over whether popular Halloween costumes are a form of cultural appropriation or not. Cultural appropriation is always a fun discussion to have—that is, if you like people getting angry and irrational about what could be a perfectly reasonable dialogue.

In the context of Halloween costumes, people often attack others for their costumes being offensive or culturally appropriating. However, there’s quite a double standard in that regard.

For example, if you tried to attack someone who wasn’t white for dressing up as Elsa or Cinderella, you’d be laughed at. Yet when white girls want to dress up as Pocahontas or Mulan it’s automatically deemed unacceptable because it’s cultural appropriation.

No matter your race, dressing up as Disney princesses is not cultural appropriation. People who attack these kinds of innocent costumes make people less receptive to their argument when there are genuine examples of cultural appropriation occurring, such as someone using blackface as part of a costume.

Opinions begin to divide when defining what cultural appropriation truly is. Many people seem to define it as using anything from a culture that isn’t your own. In reality, if it isn’t intending to mock the culture or misrepresent it, then why shouldn’t it be fair to use?

Usually, it also tends to be non-white cultures that are perceived as being attacked by cultural appropriation. When non-European cultures adopt cultural elements or practices from European nation, critics of cultural appropriation are remarkably silent.

However, there’s a reason that people only attack things they see as appropriating non-white cultures. With the history of racism and xenophobia in the U.S., it’s reasonable to be concerned about minorities being unfairly targeted or mocked. Yet in modern times it is rarely people of the “appropriated” culture that are offended; rather, it is usually people referred to as “social justice warriors”

Protecting the rights and dignities of other groups and cultures is certainly admirable, yet it easily goes too far. At some point, are social justice warriors truly doing it for the “defense” against cultural appropriation of other cultures, or merely to make themselves feel and appear like a good person to other people?

When debating this issue, we should all remember that America has always been a “melting pot” of peoples and traditions. We should celebrate our diversity by sharing it, not by trying to limit others to their own ethnic background.