WW Jr. and I have had several conversations about cultural appropriation and costuming. I didn’t dress up for Halloween this year, but I saw a how-to video on some amazing Dia de los Muertos style makeup, so I mentioned to WW Jr. that if I dressed up next year, I would love to do that makeup.

She maintains that this is cultural appropriation as I have not a drop of Latin@ blood. What do my Latin@ Clashtalker brethren think? I understand cultural appropriation to be a manner of dressing (or celebrating, or whatevering) that stereotypes and demeans a culture, creating a cartoonish depiction thereof. Bandidos with mustaches and ammo belts, blackface with bones in the nose and Afro wigs, etc. Or situations that trivialize a sacred rite or costume, and maybe Dia de los Muertos falls into this category. I really don’t know for sure. I fully realize that this is a complex issue with many layers. I wouldn’t, for example, wear a Native American headdress, no matter how respectfully, because I know that that specifically is a sacred item that is not to be worn by just anybody, specifically not a non-Native American.

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Is the Dia de los Muertos motif a sacred one that should only be worn by believing Latinos celebrating the event? I want to say that it’s beautiful and cool-looking and therefore I want to honor the artistry by wearing it. Is that wrong? I can totally accept it if it is. WW Jr and I have had this conversation several times. She always brings it back to a geisha costume, saying that no one who isn’t Japanese should wear it. I agree wholeheartedly that no one should make themselves appear ethnically Asian if they’re not (tantamount to blackface), but if someone has a beautiful kimono and obi, is it wrong to wear it and appreciate it, without trying to depict a race that is not one’s own?

I’m confused.