Halloween Costume Correctness on Campus: Feel Free to Be You, but Not Me

The line constantly shifts. The new yardstick of offensiveness is “cultural appropriation.” This used to be called, in a less sensitive time, “cultural influence.”

Is it OK to dress up as Hitler if your family immigrated from Germany, or if you claim to be George Lincoln Rockwell, a fellow American? Is it permissible to dress up like Shylock if you say your costume is simply an homage to Shakespeare? What if you dress up as Othello?

In another phase of this on-going battle, some scholars and activists claimed that American democracy was rooted in Native American tribal institutions. The point? Not that Native Americans were ripped off by culturally rapacious Europeans, but that a crucial contribution to American history had not been sufficiently recognized.
Should we Jews re-appropriate the Ten Commandments from a globe filled with cultural appropriators, or is it essential to their meaning that the Ten Commandments be a gift to humanity?

Is this kerfuffle all about cultural insensitivity? Sometimes, but not necessarily. Is it about the exercise of cultural power? Perhaps, but sometimes it’s hard to determine who is exercising that power. As with so many issues in life, the crucial factor is how the issue is framed. And sometimes the solution is found in the “re-frame,” the ability to see an issue in a new or different way.

And BTW, I would have thought that this crew from the University of Louisville administration would benefit from the addition of a little color. —Kerry Baker

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/cultural-appropriation-halloween-costumes.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

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