I have met the enemy of All Hallows’ Eve enjoyment.
And it is a small but very judgmental, vociferous group.
For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve declared intellectual war on those who aim to quash our freedom of expression. Much of my recent Twitter activity has been devoted to battling the idea that people, in particular white people, are banned from wearing costumes that exhibit a culture they don’t belong to. At least, that’s the sentiment expressed by those who have abolishing innocuous buffoonery in their sights.
Horseshit, I say. Complete and utter horseshit.
People in an enlightened society like ours have the capacity to differentiate between harmless charades and genuine racial hatred, I declare with a raised fist and puffed chest. Let’s encourage them to exercise it.
No, they say, with closed minds and blaring mouths. It’s insensitive. The feelings of a few must come before the pleasure of the majority.
Because the tyranny of dressing up as something scandalous is so oppressive to certain groups that have been historically marginalized, Halloween is now an acceptable casualty on the quest for a more just and humane future for all.
And the weapon that’s used to bludgeon the carefree masses into ideological submission every Halloween?
Specifically, accusations of cultural appropriation.
In the Woke Folk Lexicon, cultural appropriation is generally defined as the act of adopting aspects of one culture by members of another culture. While not inherently heinous, the term takes on a more poisonous connotation in cases when members of a culture considered “privileged” adopt elements from a culture considered “marginalized”.
To be fair, there is a modicum of validity to the concept; most people would agree that trivializing facets of another culture in a way that’s offensive or perpetuates negative stereotypes of it should be frowned upon. And perhaps there is some risk of a cherished custom becoming diluted when others begin to embrace it in different ways.
However, accusations of cultural appropriation are now far too numerous, with many innocent displays of affection from members of one culture to another being thrust into the same division of bigotry, right alongside acts that would make the most fanatical Klan member blush.
This may be because the intent of offenders no longer matters; it’s the cultural crime that matters.
If you’re white and you wear a sombrero and drink margaritas and partake in Cinco de Mayo festivities because your friends invited you out for a good time, then you better have an apology prepared for when your social sin is shared with the general public.
Another reason why cultural-appropriation-as-an-evil should be met with fierce scrutiny is the fact that we wouldn’t have most of the comforts of modern civilization if it weren’t for cultural appropriation. Sublime works of art, music, film and other forms have birthed from the marriage of various components of disparate cultures, along with written language, math, science, technology, philosophy, etc.
Yes, even Halloween as we know it came from cultural appropriation; ancient Celtic harvest festivals, in particular the Gaelic festival Samhain, are generally believed to be the source of today’s Halloween practices.
Because Halloween is largely based on people pretending to be something they’re not for a day, those who participate in the tradition are, of course, prime targets of those with porcelain sensibilities, loud opinions, and too many Twitter followers.
Halloween is the one time of year where we can all act edgier, scarier, and more sensual than we usually are.
It’s when we can shed our inhibitions, let our creativity run wild, break some taboos, and practice our freedom to shock, gleefully sticking up our middle fingers to the shackles of political correctness and polite society.
And yet a deafening — albeit, microscopic — cultural splinter group has made it their mission to slaughter any joy that can be had while temporarily assuming the identity of another in the name of whimsy. Despite this group’s diminutive size, there’s no denying that they’re the ones with the social megaphone, declaring their rigid idea of kindness on the rest of us without thought or remorse for its ramifications on even the most trivial aspects of our daily lives.
By placing such Victorian dictates on what we can wear, this group removes the fun, magic, and mystery of a holiday that, in many ways, is about embracing the darkness and laughing at death.
If we can briefly put away our fears of the Great Unknown, then surely we can briefly put away our insecurities about race and culture?
Halloween must return to what made it so diverting and seductive. We as a collective — not fragmented — culture must raise our tolerance for offense and give people the benefit of the doubt; if you see someone donning a costume that’s influenced by your culture, ask yourself this: “Is that person displaying their hatred of my people, or do they just want to quit being themselves for a while?”
It’s most likely the latter.
What Woke Folk call “appropriation”, I call “exchange”, “preservation”, and “openness”.
Adherents of cultural-appropriation-as-an-evil don’t understand that by inviting others to participate in your culture, you’re reducing the boundaries that divide us. When I as a Mexican tell white people that they’re not allowed to dress up as a bandito for Halloween or engage in Día de Muertos festivities, do you really think I’m promoting racial tolerance?
One of the great things about cultural appropriation is that it gives us an opportunity to share, enjoy, and expand each others’ cultures. By treating the customs and traditions of our respective cultures as dynamic and malleable, and welcoming outsiders interested in exploring them and celebrating in their own way, we can only gain more friends and supporters.
And what better time to encourage such social fluidity than the holiday that encourages us to turn off our restraint and scoff at the hang-ups of life?
I’m not proposing that everyone should adorn themselves in the worst, distasteful costumes they can. And certainly some forms of extremely racially charged attire should be discouraged.
What I AM proposing is that we should think twice before calling out a complete stranger for wearing something that upsets us in order to win social points, and take a moment to recognize that that person probably just wants to have some breezy entertainment.
This Halloween, let’s stop allowing our desire to provoke, frighten, and arouse be held hostage by an authoritarian few, and revel in the forbidden fun that comes with exchanging our identities for something more outrageous, the beau monde’s edicts be damned.
For culture is a dish, like Halloween candy, that’s best shared with everyone.
If you want some humor with your horror, check out my publication: