Photo by Tebben Gill Lopez/The Mirror

When I was 12, I wanted to be Mulan for Halloween. My mom and I picked out a Geisha outfit and I asked her if she could do my makeup so I would look Chinese. I didn’t realize it then, but this is a problem. Many of us dress up for Halloween, but when do we ever consider the consequences of prancing around as a stereotype? I’m sure any Chinese person may have considered my costume offensive.

Take someone going around with a dot on their forehead, saying that they own a 7-Eleven in a fake Indian accent. For me, it’s not only offensive, but it makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I feel pressured to be more “Americanized.” No one wants to see a negative portrayal of themselves.

Similar experiences come from phrases like “that’s so gay,” being thrown around unnecessarily. It only proves our numbness to what’s known as cultural appropriation.

Think of throwing a popular luau-themed party. Sure it’s a fun experience, tiki torches and all, but there’s a culture behind it that no one bothers to note when they’re parading about with grass skirts and coconuts.

Then again, when people throw a Paris-themed party, complete with escargot and berets, do French people get offended? Probably not, but French people were never subjected to American oppression, while African Americans, Native Americans and so many other cultures have been. Almost each stereotype has an origin of oppression, of which society remains negligent.

Regardless of society’s awareness of the controversies between what we say and what we mean, not much has changed, even with ad campaigns and Macklemore’s latest lesson-hit “Same Love.”

Society’s lack of cultural appreciation probably has to do with a lack of global diversity. We spend so much time living with limitations that it may seem impossible to become globally connected unless mandated by a school, for example.

Think about it: You may not be exposed enough to truly diverse and global perspectives in school, leaving you to be, in a way, short-sighted and negligent. If I had learned more about the culture of the Geisha in middle school, then perhaps my appreciation would be greater than only seeing a Chinese woman in a movie. From the perspective of a minority at Fairfield, it’s difficult to agree with how we portray others because our student body has a heavy caucasian population. Lack of diversity means a lack of global exposure. We should aim to be more educated and appreciative.

Living with stereotypes isn’t something we can immediately eliminate. But questioning them is the key to cultural appreciation.

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