In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m VERY protective of Rachel, especially when it comes to anticipating and dealing with difficult issues I know she is going to face because we are an adoptive, transracial family.
This weekend, as I was waking up my little sleepy-head, her eyes barely open and her voice still in sleepy kitten mode, she said:
“Mommy, why is everybody else’s skin peach and mine isn’t?”
They just hit you out of nowhere, don’t they?
Of course, I pointed out that’s not true … there are plenty other skin colors in her world. But there’s no denying that “peach” is the most prevalent, even though our community is pretty diverse, as is our group of friends.
So, I have a sneaky feeling that the next question along these lines is sure to come up at Halloween.
I know at least two girls who are planning on wearing, as their Halloween costumes, a Japanese/Chinese outfit, complete with Asian style dress and headgear. Probably not as bad as the adult at Rachel’s school whose Halloween costume last year was a “China Girl” (as she informed a group of children, including Rachel) — complete with yellow face paint, eyes made up to look slanted and a coolie hat.
I know that Halloween isn’t necessarily about scary costumes and that lots of children, especially girls, like to dress up in pretty, flowy costumes. (At six, you just can’t get enough of the princess-style gear).
And Rachel is no exception — she wants to be Jasmine for Halloween.
So here’s my question — is there a difference between an Asian girl wanting to dress up in the outfit of a pretend Asian-Disney princess and children of non-Asian races wanting to wear a “costume” of real, traditional Asian garb?
One the one hand, if there is no malice behind wearing the costume (or ignorance as with the adult costume), is it OK? Or does it send a hurtful subliminal message to Rachel and others like her that, on Halloween, it’s OK to make a costume out of someone else’s heritage?
I keep going back and forth on this one. How would I feel if I saw a non-African-American child dressing up in traditional African garb? Or a non-Native American dressed with a big feathered headress? (Clearly, the Washington Redskins don’t have a problem with that, but that’s another story).
She may not ask on Halloween or even the day after, but I know how things percolate and ruminate in her little head, so I’m sure she’ll get around to asking sometime soon, “Mommy, why did ____ dress up like a China girl?”
I don’t know yet what I’ going to say, but I know I’d better think fast.