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Discussion Starter #1
Hey folks. So...my youngest mentioned dressing up as a calavera for halloween. I thought it was a great idea! He loves the book of the dead, and was recently contemplating if maybe that is something that really does happen after death. I'm an atheist so I encourage them to think and discuss topics like that openly as it isn't against my beliefs (because I have none!).
Then today I saw an article titled along the lines of "white people...you need to stop painting your face like a sugar skull".
I have a lot of feminists in my friend circle (I consider myself one too!) and very pc folks (I would likely be considered one myself in many circles) so cultural appropriation seems to come up a lot in conversations, shared fb links etc. But some differ from my views, specifically in regards to cultural appropriation. Some people feel intent has nothing to do with appropriation, and whether or not it is offensive, but I genuinely do. My 7 year old dressing up as a calavera because he is interested in it and wants to explore it seems much different than say, someone slapping on a sombrero and saying "I'm a dirty sanchez". (that DOES seem a bit off taste to me sorry if that upsets someone...just different humor tastes)
Once for st.paddy's day a friend made a snarky comment in regards to my kids wearing green in a pic I posted because it was cultural appropriation. So this was the first thing to come to my mind.

But...I just don't have the heart to tell my son that he can't dress as someone from a movie he likes because his skin is the wrong color or the luck of his birth draw put him into the "wrong" culture. That just....seems so much more wrong to me than him wanting to explore another aspect of a different culture?

I don't know what to do. :( parenting sucks.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Edited...if it genuinely is absolutely offensive I don't want to do it. I just needed to rant because I feel so conflicted right now.
 

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The "O" word - how often it comes up these days. No matter what you do, you're going to find someone who claims to be offended by it. I don't for a minute believe that they truly are, it's just our attention seeking society at work.
I live in an area that is predominately Hispanic, including my own husband. He had no idea what sugar skulls were until I explained it to him. I'd be willing to bet the same is true for most of the population.
And no one ethnic group can claim the right to dress as a skull - we all have one and they all pretty much look the same.
 

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I wonder about this cultural appropriation thing too with sugar skulls because I really do love them a lot. They're so colorful & beautiful, I don't see how a kid wouldn't love them. Especially through the movie The Book of the Dead, it was a beautiful movie with a great story.

I have a few here & there but I sorta feel like it's not my holiday but I would love it if it were, it seems like a good & sensible way to experience death & to bring some respect to those that have passed & yet to celebrate them too.

I think in this day & age someone that's looking for something to be offended by will find it, & as you said, it's not like he'll be dressing up in a giant sombrero, carrying a taco & a chihuahua dancing the Mexican hat dance in brownface.

Paint him up but let the clothes stay simple & he should be OK.
 

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Parenting IS hard, and I think today people can be quick to be judgmental, which further complicates things sometimes.

I agree with you that "appropriation" can be a fine line, yet I think you are on point with how you are defining it. Showing an interest in a culture & choosing to CELEBRATE that culture is a far cry from using cultural aspects to make a joke or to be inappropriate or even rude. There are some things now that I think clearly cross the line to most rational, polite & kind human beings, but other things are certainly more cloudy & can honestly even be just an individual thing - what might be okay for me is not okay for you, you know?

Anyway, that said... I am torn a bit with your specific scenario. I think that your son wants to do it for the RIGHT reasons, but I do think that it COULD offend someone who may view it as appropriation, because Dia de los Muertos is not "just a form of Halloween". It is a holy day for those that celebrate it, so if we give equal weight to holy days from all religions, you could flip the scenario & ask yourself if you would allow your child to go out for Halloween dressed as a Christian saint or Buddhist monk or similar. If your answer would be "no" in those cases, then I think your answer should be "no" for this one too.

This is a great opportunity for having a teaching moment together. It is not because his skin is the wrong color or he is in the "wrong culture" - ultimately, if your reason is because symbols from Dia de los Muertos represent holy & sacred things to some people, it's not okay for other people to use those symbols to be funny or scary. Ask each other whether people who do celebrate Dia de los Muertos or who were born into that culture would dress up in this way if it weren't actually on their holiday? Perhaps you can find a way to explain it that he would relate to. If you are religious, you could ask how him how he thinks people in your religion would feel if someone dressed up like the Pope, or Jesus or Mohammad or the like. You could talk to your son about other ways to be creative though - he can make art with the symbols or you can check out library books to learn more about the customs or you could even find out if there are people in your area who celebrate in this way & find out if you can participate.

I hope my response isn't sounding judgmental because I am suggesting that you don't allow him to do this - I promise it is not. While I do think that society can & does take some things too far, this is a religious issue & I think that helps to make it clear. For Christians, it would be very offensive if someone went around dressed up like someone who had been crucified because that is a holy image in that religion. I think that sugar skulls are a holy image in their own right, so to me, that makes the answer relatively easy.

Hugs to you! I love that your son is interested & hope that you can find a way to discourage him or say no without crushing that interest & you can explain in a way that he understands - if you choose to go that route.

 

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I do want to come back & say that I think there IS a difference from having decorations or cultural items in our homes that we find beautiful or unique versus dressing up in costumes in public. While we ourselves might know that our costume in public comes from a good place, we are going out in public where others may have a different view.

In our homes, we likely only invite those in who already know us & know whether the items in our home are being made fun of or not.

 

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Well, I personally can't stand Day of the Dead decorations in general, but I say let your son dress up as whatever he wants so long as it's not purposely offensive (like dressing up as Hitler, or a racist caricature of a person - these are extreme examples obviously). Someone, somewhere is offended by everything. I'll leave it there so I don't go on a rant about the other stuff.
 

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I think as long as your son understands the meaning behind Dia de los Muertos then it would be ok. There is a difference between learning about a different culture and taking it over. It's gaining more popularity so more people are becoming aware of it. We don't get upset at little girls (or boys!) who happen to be black and dress up as Elsa. Why should we get upset if someone who happens to be white wants to dress as a Calavera?
 

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We don't get upset at little girls (or boys!) who happen to be black and dress up as Elsa. Why should we get upset if someone who happens to be white wants to dress as a Calavera?
Well, I guess I'm playing devil's advocate here, but to answer this, I'd say that Elsa is not a religious symbol to anyone, but one meaning of calavera is as a representative of a religious mindset.

I agree that someone, somewhere, can be offended by anything. But I do think this situation is more nuanced than most, because religion is involved. As I said in my post above, what works for me might not work for anyone else, but I do think that if someone expects respect of their own religion, they should respect other religions in the same way. So, if a person would find it rude if they saw someone dressed up in some way as XYZ religious figure or in some way dressing up like an important religious holiday of their own faith, then it makes sense to me to not do it to another faith, even if it was "meant well".

This is a very interesting topic. I can appreciate that there are different viewpoints, but I will admit that I think it is wise to err on the side of caution, especially when there are not super strong passionate feelings about doing it & it's more of a "oh, this could be fun" decision. If I ever offend anyone, I don't want to do so as an accident or miscommunication because they didn't read my intent right. I'm more inclined to offend someone because I feel strongly about something divisive (like politics) and they hate my opinion but at least I really feel that way. That's kind of rambling, hope it makes sense!



 

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(this post is in reply to Moony_1's original post - I'm not commenting on any other post in this thread at this time)

What a wonderful time we live in, where so much of the worlds information is just a few keystrokes and clicks away, and everyone has the opportunity to find something to complain about.

Cultural appropriation is a thing. It does indeed happen, and in many ways it isn't bad - in some, it's downright despicable (said with Daffy Duck lisp and slobber). Usually, it's a matter of dignity and respect that define the acceptability.

Personally, I'd say let your son go for it. Learn all you can along the way, especially how culturally important and sensitive this concept can be, so that when that time comes when some overly-sensitive soul decides to crap on him (really, that's all that behavior is: poop-flinging), he can stand up for himself with knowledge and respect.

More often than not, the people raising the biggest fuss over cultural appropriation seem to be people outside of the culture being appropriated!
(also, have a look at that article you saw - check the source, and see if they might have some particular agenda they're following. Often, the most argumentative people are just looking to make money off of being loudmouths)
 

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i am a mexican mom ,this is the 1st year that i'm celebrating Day of the dead,i do not attend funerals and lost my dad and grandparents last year so it was more healing making my alter myself i think it will be good for him to dress calavera its a good way too talk to him about death and mexico/aztec/spain there are good you tube video that explain everything and if any one talk bad about what he is wearing let him know Mrs.Hernandez made him a Honorary Mexican!!!
 

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Actually plenty of people go as nuns and priests at Halloween, some of them slutty or possessed. So yes, the Christian religion is also used as a joke during Halloween. It doesn't bother me in the least. So I see nothing wrong with sugar skulls. The people most likely to complain are probably the same people that tell me I can't have a scary clown in my yard because they have coulrophobia and don't want to be "triggered". Or that tell me as a blonde hair blue eyed woman I cannot wing my eyeliner.

If anything I would not want to do it, myself, because I find the whole commercialization of sugar skulls to be tired and overplayed. But from a cultural standpoint I fail to see it as offensive, and not just because it is "not my culture and I don't understand". Because by all means if you want to dress up as the Lucky Charms dude and jump around me with a goofy Irish accent I would not be offended either. I'd buy you a Guinness.
 

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This can be a tricky topic but the general rule of thumb is what do the majority of actual people in x group say? In some instances you may find one that says I don't mind but if the majority say please don't then don't. They are the key, you can ask whoever you like but if they aren't from that group then they really don't have an understanding enough to give you a proper answer. Just as I cannot speak for male issues because I am not male. I can have an opinion but I should not be listened to as the authority having not experienced those particular issues. While yes there seems to be a lot of people calling it out that aren't in the group, there is an equal amount of people not in the group saying it's just fine. Neither of those people should be listened to. Do your own research on what the actual group has to say on it.

However in this case your son is dressing up as a movie character and that is fine. It's perfectly ok to dress up as an existing fictional character of another culture or race, as long as you don't do something stupid like darken your skin to make your self that race (that is a whole 'nother can of worms). And you don't behave stupidly and disrespectfully in it. For example dressing up as Germany from Hetalia is ok. Nazi salutes at a holocaust memorial is not (yes some people actually did this smh).

In any case this is a great opportunity for him to learn about Day of the Dead and culture. Definitely take the time read up on it with him. Having an understanding behind particular cultural events is always a very good thing. With that it's very hard to be disrespectful ^^
 

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I would say let him dress up as he wants.......this is a free country and you can dress how you want for whatever reason. I will put it this way.......NOONE can dress up as a vampire unless they are from Romania (namely Transylvania) and NOONE can dress up like a witch unless they are from Massachusetts. Does that sort of put it in a little bit of a better perspective? I mean come on....if people are offended by something they are going to complain or cry about it. They simply need to grow up.
 

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I think it's an important consideration and I think it's good that you're thinking about it.

My personal opinion would be that since he's dressing as a specific character from a movie, it's cosplay not appropriation. This isn't a bevy of white girls painting their faces and wearing flower crowns because it's cute. Book of the Dead is pretty much the exemplar of honoring a culture and its religion, instead of appropriating it.
Will other people automatically know his costume is out of a place of genuine interest and respect? Maybe not. Maybe you'll end up having this conversation IRL with someone who feels that their culture and religion has been turned into a costume. It is a risk. I would suggest trying to make your son's costume a specific character cosplay rather than a general calavera, as well.

And I just want to make a quick note to other commenters- the reason cultural appropriation is 'suddenly' an issue is because people of color increasingly have a platform to make a statement that they've felt for ages, and now there's enough white people also questioning these traditional power structures who are listening and signal boosting these statements. Cultural appropriation is something born out of Western imperialism- conquering other cultures because they were browner and lesser, marginalizing and oppressing those people, and then cherry picking things out of those cultures (like kimonos or bindis) to hold up as beautiful while continuing to denigrate and degrade the cultures and people who made those things.
 

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Nope... don't get this at all.

I have a white friend who makes Day of the Dead art.

I go to an art show he is a part of every year where there are plenty of white/black/mexican/asian people contributing.

His dad is an art professor and runs a Day of the Dead festival at a college in a different town that everyone ... all colors/nationalities contributes to and dresses up for.

There is a Day of the Dead festival in Denton, TX that everyone dresses up and paints their face for.

My very very feminist, athiest, white, pc friend paints her face with extreme detail every year... she's a professional make-up artist.

Go for it.
 

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sigh.

I'm 1/4 Irish, and am offended that you all have culturally appropriated our celebration of Samhain.
Or, I may be upset that Catholics appropriated our holiday and turned it into "All Hallow's Eve". Oh wait... I AM a Catholic! Well, then I'm offending myself!

Look at the mashup that is Christmas...Turkish Saint, German tree, Middle Eastern baby, European/Greek mistletoe, Scandinavian yule log, Mexican poinsettias, etc., etc., etc.

I guess my point is that we are a melting pot here in the US and part of the joy is sampling and sharing in the rites and customs of other groups.
 
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