Racism in a Costume

26 Sep

If you haven’t heard about it already, Disney has a new movie coming out (Moana), featuring Maui – a revered figure in Polynesian culture.

That’s a topic all of it’s own; that a company will take culturally significant figure (particularly an Indigenous one) and make a movie with it. But that’s a post for when the movie comes out – because in addition, they chose to make a costume for kids to wear at Halloween.

Here’s the problem:

Think about the history of colonization, genocide and racism with regard to Indigenous people worldwide (past and present).

Then think about what it might mean to have a North American company (read: white) take one of the most meaningful Polynesian Indigenous figures, and make a movie about them.

And then, sell a costume so that kids all over the world can dress up like someone Indigenous Polynesians consider a key figure in the history of their culture (and an ancestor for some).

I’m trying to think of an equivalent that might help this hit home. Maybe if people dressed up like Jesus? Or maybe Moses? But it’s a moot point, because those are revered figures that are known in mainstream culture and therefore wouldn’t be messed with. Period. But somehow it’s ok to do this with a revered figure from an Indigenous culture.

It’s called racism.

But it’s worse.
The costume wasn’t just an outfit – there is a costume that is Moana’s outfit. Sigh – Maui’s costume included tattooed brown skin!!

Hold on.
Yes. You read correctly.
Brown material meant to be skin, for your arms and legs.
With tattooes that are sacred.

For kids to wear so they can look like a revered ancestral figure in Polynesian Indigenous culture!!!! In what reality is that ok?!

I’m so mad, I’m speechless.

Thankfully there was backlash, and the costume has been pulled.
But someone thought it was ok to put it out there in the first place.

It’s another example of the way we disregard and disrespect ways of being that aren’t ours – Indigenous cultures in particular.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion


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One Response to “Racism in a Costume”

  1. kim scaravelli September 27, 2016 at 4:19 am #

    And think of how many levels of management approved this? How many folks thought “great. This will be a delightful new addition to our children’s costuming section.” arghh.

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