Apparently, for some little while now, white people have been having ethnic themed parties. Some are Asian, some are “Ghetto” (really, I’ve seen the word casually attached to posts about such parties) some are Indian (both East Indian and Native American) and some just a hodge-podge of ethnic stereotypes. I have to say, before getting too far, I was unsure which feature I should attach this post. Much of what you are going to read is very much a Cashing Checks sort of rant, on the other hand, there is much to learn and be celebrated, so perhaps it belongs here in Creating Mosaics. Obviously I opted for the latter. This Tumblr post inspired me to write about the issue.
The wonderfully titled Ms. Blaspheming Bitch does a good job of cutting right to the point, which is that the other woman totally misses the point. No one is calling out parties that legitimately celebrate another culture. The parties she, and others including myself, find so offensive are the ones that make light of the stereotypes foisted on those groups. Black face is not funny, I do not care how ironic you think you are being. That is not okay. Indulging your kid’s desire to actually learn about somebody else is another matter, to a point.
I qualify that for a reason. No matter what, to a degree, it is still objectifying an entire people for your own purposes. Simply exposing your children to other cultures, beliefs and ethnic groups for the sake of doing so is empty and insulting. It reduces others to a “thing” to be studied. It implies that their history, their experiences, and everything else about them, exists for your pleasure. Without context what you are doing is little different from some hipster kid in a kimono knocking back a PBR (and oh how that is a whole different post.)
With context though, maybe you can make a difference. Take the opportunity to teach your kids about why these other groups are even in a position to be treated as different, rare and worth learning about. Talk to them about their privilege, how the road to where they sit now was paved with others’ loss. Do not do this to make them feel guilty, do it so they want to make the world a better place and appreciate the gifts that have been rained down on them and how as bad as life might seem sometimes, they could have it far worse. If a member of the group in question takes offense still, I would strongly recommend both apologizing and changing the party’s theme. It is not all about you.
There is plenty of room for understanding in here. Take the time and actually learn and don’t gloss over the ugly parts. The ugly parts are truth and truth can only make you stronger, even if it is uncomfortable to face.