Essays · Strangers

Sometimes I Get Comments: Princess Post Edition

This is a small website and as such doesn’t elicit many comments. I assume at least 99% of my readers are friends, so when they take issue with something, they just send me a message on WhatsApp. Often they’re pointing out something I’d not taken into consideration, which can even lead me to update a post (see: April Fool’s Day).

Occasionally, however, I get notified that there is a pending post comment. It’s usually a bot telling me how much they liked my take on a topic that was not mentioned anywhere in that particular post; sometimes it’s a bot offering generic writing advice. Occasionally it’s a bot writing in a different language. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

Because of the spam, all comments go into moderation before they show up on my site. Usually I release (or delete) them the same day, but a recent one has been sitting in moderation for a few days now. It was a comment on my most recent advice post, Picking a Disney Princess Costume.

Frank Tucker (Real name? Who knows!) shared this thought:

“Dressing up as a specific Disney character is not cultural appropriation. It is not wrong for a black child to dress up as Sleeping Beauty. It is not wrong for a white child to dress up as Moana. Suggesting that it is only acceptable for a person do to something based solely on the color of their skin stinks of racism. The intent may be good, but the action separates us and hurts us as a society. Segregation is wrong in all forms.”

There’s a lot going on in this comment, including quite a few opinions stated as facts, so instead of just releasing the comment from moderation and moving on, I wanted to address some of the problems I see articulated here. This isn’t an attempt to jump on Mr. Tucker; I think a lot of people share these views. Instead, I see it as a chance to take a discussion a little bit further. So thanks for that, Mr. Tucker!

“Dressing up as a specific Disney character is not cultural appropriation.”

Maybe. But also maybe not. As Jamie C pointed out in her thoughtful comment on the original post, certain Disney character costumes may include real sacred cultural regalia, which is not for anyone outside that culture to wear or use. This means that it’s entirely possible that, by choosing a certain Disney character to dress as, one might in fact be engaging in cultural appropriation.

“It is not wrong for a black child to dress up as Sleeping Beauty.”

You’re right! Not wrong at all for a Black child to dress up as Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, because of Disney’s history of creating mostly white characters, there aren’t many options for a Black child who wants to dress as a character that looks like them.

“It is not wrong for a white child to dress up as Moana.”

This was the crux of this post, and I’d again refer you back to this discussion of the topic to explore this a bit more. How it’s done is extremely important, and just suggesting, without any deeper exploration of the issue, that the family of a white child can just put on whatever culture they like (whether associated with a Disney princess or another person from fiction or from history) shows to me that the person writing this perhaps hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking this topic through.

Of course I could be wrong, but the next sentence in the comment suggests I’m not:

“Suggesting that it is only acceptable for a person do to something based solely on the color of their skin stinks of racism.”

Nope! It “stinks” of at least a basic understanding of what racism and cultural appropriation are. My guess from reading this statement is that Mr. Tucker thinks that racism is any person holding beliefs about someone of a different race, but that’s not the case. A great starting point to interrogate this idea is the essay “Dear White People, Your “Dictionary Definition” Of Racism Is Wrong” from Sebastian Whitaker for Affinity, which includes this quote:

“Racism is systemic.

If we look at the word, ‘racism’, we see that it is made up of ‘race’ and the suffix ‘-ism’. This suffix is used to denote a system which, at least in the western world, is a system of white supremacy.”

This essay is written by a teen who seems to have a better understanding of the problems that arise from assuming racism is the same as prejudice than many adults do. I’d suggest that anyone who holds this belief spend some more time exploring this issue on a deeper level. If you prefer your discussion of racism in comic form, Robot Hugs has this for you!

“The intent may be good, but the action separates us and hurts us as a society.”

Statements like the above one cause me to roll my eyes a bit. Being more intentional and thoughtful in how one explores other cultures hurts us as a society? Really? I strongly disagree.

But beyond that, I’d be interested in hearing more about why Mr. Tucker thinks that is. Is it based in a frustration that perhaps not everything is for white people? Is it based on an idea that the only way we move society forward is to treat everyone exactly the same way, as opposed to providing people the things they need? This graphic shows why that thinking seems right but is actually not great.

And then finally, out of nowhere, we get this:

“Segregation is wrong in all forms.”

The original post can be summed up as “some things just aren’t for white people, for some very specific reasons, and that’s okay.” I *think* I can see maybe why Mr. Tucker would choose to view that as segregation, but that’s a stretch not even Gumby could make without snapping in two.

I doubt Mr. Tucker thought I’d give his comment this much attention, and I don’t want to scare off folks who might disagree with statements I make on this site, but I also feel that I have a responsibility to make sure that the information and opinions shared on HNTBAJW – even in the comments – don’t go unacknowledged and unexplored. It’s one thing to think that my suggestions for how to tell your relative to RSVP to an event are off-base; it’s another to offer up questionable opinions about how race and culture operate in society without some push-back.

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